Thursday, March 17, 2016

Introducing "The Chaunk", Our Store is Live, And Our Indian Spice Kit Now Available Online.

                                            photo by Phil Jimcosky                                                                                               
   When I served an Indian lunch last fall to Steve Sando, Paula Wolfert, and Alice Medrich  at our house in Sonoma, the last thing Alan and I ever expected was to get into the Indian spice business. We earn our living as screenwriters and most of the spice involved with that has been trying to keep things on a PG13 level (most but not all ) of the time.

   I started my journey into the world of Indian food 26 years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was a vegetarian at the time (yeah, I know) and while having chemo I decided to up the game to macrobiotics. What I actually did was cut out most of the vegetables that I loved following very strict rules. It was getting harder and harder to find something that made me want to eat, since it's tough taking an Italian away from the "deadly nightshades" aka, tomatoes, eggplants  etc. When my oncologist at Cedars Sinai asked me why I wasn't eating, I went into this long explanation about chemo, macro food, and the evils of deadly nightshades. I finally admitted I hated what I was eating, I was starving for something tasty.

   He said,"Well, why not eat a more ayurvedic diet"

   "Huh, what's that????"

   "Indian food. Do you like Indian food? That's a good healthy food"

   "I love Indian food... but cook it myself??? Can I do that???" That quickly became "Why not cook it myself?" " I can do that!".
   I started the learning process. It helped that Alan had traveled and stayed with friends in India quite a bit, and that his big sister, my sis-in-law is an Indologist and had worked and lived in India and studied Indian cooking.  She came out from NY, helped get me set up and I was off to the races. I began to seek out Indian markets in Los Angeles. One in particular, where at the time I was the only non-Indian shopper. Remember, this was 26 years ago. The Indian ladies I met there I think were amused that I was poking around, asking questions, and into everything. When I kept coming back, buying more stuff, asking more questions, they finally started talking to me, showing me things, making suggestions, giving me things to taste. I became a regular. I wanted to try doing and making everything I could.

   I cooked every day and over the course of 3 years basically cooked my way through Lord Krishnas Cuisine the bible (for me at least) of Indian vegetarian cooking. Alan always says that for those 3 years he had something different practically every day....all from the same cookbook. It was sort of a Julie and Julia experience... only Indian. As I cooked I expanded my repertoire to include non vegetarian food. I started canning my own chutney, grinding my own spices. In short I turned our Santa Monica house into a mini-Indian restaurant. I cooked for friends, and word got out and I started get asked to cook for others. You can read my bio to see who some of my diners have been.
   Healthy Indian food became a passion, something I loved to share with anyone interested. When we moved to Sonoma aka Foodie Heaven, I started growing a lot of my own produce. In 2009 I started this blog as a way of sharing the food that captured my heart. Alan started photographing the food and cooking process in order to show how to proceed. In the midst of our writing work it's always been my passion project. The thing that relaxes me, and gives me instant gratification. I learned that if I want to be happy, I have to make people laugh, and I also have to feed them. That's what The Chaunk is all about, passing along the adventure of Indian food and giving people the tools to start cooking it themselves.

   So when Paula, and Alice told me I needed to do something with my Indian cooking and Steve Sando suggested perhaps spices would be a good way to start, we put together this spice kit. This box contains all the hard to find "stuff" that makes first time Indian cooks tempted to chuck it all and just order out. These are the spices you won't find in your common garden variety  Supermarket which are found in nearly all Indian dishes.

   The recipe cards are simple, and easy to follow. In this case they're  vegetarian dishes that have been popular at our house with family and friends. They're quick to prepare without a lot of fussing and they can be served as part of a more ambitious Indian meal or will also work well on a plate with any meat, fish, or rice. There's nothing too difficult to master. This is one of the recipes: Peanut stuffed Chilies.

Here's an excerpt about from the current issue of  Craft By Under My Host :
by Erin Jimcosky

     If there is one thing that Kathy Gori, blogger behind The Colors Of Indian Cooking knows, it is her way around an Indian kitchen. So when she and her husband (and food photographer) Alan Berger decided to start a spice company, American foodies cried "Huzzah". One of the biggest difficulties people find when trying to learn to cook Indian food is simply in finding the ingredients. The Chaunk has turned a daunting task into a breeze. The kit comes with eight ridiculously fresh and fragrant spices and recipes to help you use them. I love the adorable spice containers that are pretty enough to reuse, and as it happens they sell refills, so you’ll be sure to keep them in use.  Follow along on Instagram as I cook and share recipes from The Chaunk. To find out more about The Chaunk and the diversity of Indian spices, look for my Indian Spice Lexicon in this issue. The spices included in the kit are as follows: garam masala, black mustard seed, kalonji, kashmiri chili powder, methi leaves, amchur powder, cinnamon sticks and dried red chiles.

   There are more products and a cookbook in the works, but "The Chaunk" seemed a great place for us to start. So, pay us a visit at our online shop and follow us on Twitter @TheChaunk check out the Instagram pictures at thechaunk and when you start cooking Indian food, visit us at Pinterest  and  share your pictures with us.  I hope you'll join me in exploring the world of Indian Cuisine, even after 26 years for me there is still so much to learn.


  1. I am so glad Jenny Hartin of The Cookbook Junkies posted about this site!

    1. Thanks Robin,
      I'm so glad Jenny is sharing The Chaunk and The Colors of Indian Cooking with everyone!

  2. I agree with Robin! I have happily made another discovery thank to Jenny Hartin! And you are in Sonoma! Very near where I live!

  3. I had the pleasure of winning the chaunk from Jenny Hartin's Cookbook Junkie blog. I want to thank you for the amazing spices. I will be visiting here often for inspiration in cooking with them.

    1. Congrats Joan! There are a lot of dishes on my site..about 7 years worth! Have fun cooking and look for our new product..The Chaunk Flavors and Rubs coming soon...just in time for summer grilling season



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