Ever since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early months of 2020, the world as we know it has changed forever. With strict lockdown administered in many countries worldwide, industries and economies have been hit hard and low during the first wave as well as the second wave. Among the many industries that have been hit the hardest is the Food and Beverage sector. With a huge dependency on customers to dine in for any business flow, many restaurants, hotels, and eateries incurred huge losses or shut down.
However, in the small corner of Meghalaya at Darechikgre village, West Garo Hills, a food entrepreneur is showing the way to stay afloat with his delightful innovations. Hendri G Momin launched Aman A•Song Cafe (Mother Earth Cafe) at Darechikgre village, West Garo Hills in August 2019. The cafe was set up as part of the Mei-Ramew Cafe initiatives that NESFAS has developed with some of its partner communities.
With an innovative menu serving traditional cuisines with the use of locally available ingredients, Aman A•Song Cafe has continued to function smoothly even amidst the pandemic. Hendri’s method of bringing together the pleasure of taste alluded to local cuisine diversity, culture and identity have been the riding factor for the cafe’s popularity among and across the community even amidst the pandemic.
A food entrepreneur and innovator, Hendri created his own baking recipes during the pandemic using locally sourced ingredients. One of his many innovative items, the tapioca cake, was a hit among the community people for its economic viability. On top of the existing menu of his cafe, he has been baking bread buns and cakes by using simple ingredients like refined flour, local eggs, butter, oil, and sugar. While most of the baked products are sold alongside other dishes in the cafe, a large number of bulk orders for bread and cakes were continuously placed from the community.
Aside from working in the cafe and baking, Hendri also developed value-added products like wine made of wild fruits (blood fruits, Indian wild pear, and cane fruit) as well as cultivated fruits (peach, pear, star-fruits, strawberries, oranges, lime, jackfruit, and plums). With high demands for these beverages coming from outside his community, most of his wines have been procured by people from Tura where wine is in huge demand.
Hendri has also been able to come up with a few exciting cuisines that capture and preserve the taste and essence of seasonal ingredients. This, he says, is to provide customers with their favourite food even during the off-season. Some of these exciting dishes that play with time include tapioca fritters, tapioca bhujia, and flatbreads with wild edible curries.
“I would like to expand my café to welcome each and every one. I want to show through my dishes that indigenous or local food can be made modern with a little touch of advanced recipes”, he expressed.
Whilst the ongoing pandemic has disrupted many small businesses and economies, Hendri’s innovations and his family’s adept management have helped his business go up a notch.