"Nothing Beats the Euphoria of Having Food From Local Shops." - Hungry Cochin

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1. Tell us about your background and journey.

I (Ajay) am presently pursuing Imca in SCMS and Fazil has completed his BCom from UCC. We met as students in Vidhyadhiraja.

We started out as young students with a huge appetite for diverse food. We would go out to different hotels and cafes and grow a detailed taste. We were most often made fun of for our inane passion. That was when we were approached by our seniors. 

They presented us with the idea of starting a food blog. It was the 3rd of March 2018. That was when the journey of Hungry Cochin began. There weren't many food blogs in Kochi when we started out and we instantly gained a lot of followers. We hit 1000 within the first week. 

We focused mainly on the best and affordable food in Kochi. The first week of Hungry Cochin passed by pretty easily. We had hoarded a lot of content over the years. But this lasted for about three months and we hit a wall. That was when we received a call from Novotel. 

They wanted us to come in for a tasting session for their two new burgers. We were new to the whole food scene in Kochi and did not know how blogging worked. But we gained recognition from the chef in Novotel and we were really motivated by the same. 

Our page saw considerable growth over the following months and so did our invitations to tasting sessions. We had faced a lot of challenges but thanks to the people we met along our journey and our experiences, we were able to dodge them all. 

2. Which is your favorite cuisine and dish?

I can't really pinpoint a particular cuisine as my favorite but if I'd have to say, it would be American. And the dish would be burgers(obviously). Cafe hopping, eating different burgers is heaven for me. 

Burgraphy from Grill lab, Oklahoma style patty burgers, Dark Knight, and Hell boy from tbj and pull pork burger from the cocoa tree are among the top in my favorite list. 

As for Fazil, he loves South Indian, traditional food. Nothing beats the euphoria of having food from local shops. Coconut beef fry remains his all-time favorite.

Besides these, we would both go crazy for Arabic food, specifically shawarmas. Trying out different versions of shawarmas around the town have grown into a habit. They're delicious and moreover pocket friendly.

3. Should food blogging be just a passion or can it become a regular career?

The answer to this question is individualistic. It can both be a passion and a career. As for me, at the moment I wouldn't venture into food blogging as a career. I don't believe I possess enough knowledge about the industry. I have merely dipped my toes in the pool. 

It would take advanced knowledge about food culture and history of cuisines combined with a passion for hunting down authentic flavors to turn this into a career. I think the restaurant consultancy is the next level of refined food experience. 

But that would take years of experience and a detailed palate, not to mention creativity, the ability to present one's ideas clearly, and a clear knowledge of how a restaurant works and what happens in the kitchen. Mirnal and food travel tech are some examples of people pursuing food blogging as a career. 

Though I don't have much hope of this growing into a career, we would continue blogging as long as we can and possibly cover as many restaurants and cafes as we can.

4. Which restaurants/food joints(any) would you recommend to food lovers?

This one's a bit tricky. There isn't one particular food joint I'd like to recommend because Kochi is a city of vast options and varieties and the taste of each person varies. 

But there are a few restaurants that capture the essence of Kochi. Chicken biryani from Kayees, Mutton biryani from B4 biryani, Square porotta from Balanchettan's shop are a must-try classics in Kochi. 

Besides these, there are some restaurants that came into the scene later on but captured the hearts (and palates) of the diners. Jeff biriyani and Meen biriyani from Pandaris are notable among these. Kashi and Quissa have people flocking over their delicious chocolate cake. 

This does not conclude the list of the must-tries in Kochi. There are new food joints popping up everyday with remarkable food and even more remarkable innovations. I haven't quite yet explored all of Kochi's diverse food culture and I'm sure I must've missed out a lot. 

But one thing's for sure, Kochi wouldn't have been Kochi without these signature dishes.

5. What makes you appreciate a particular dish or a restaurant and talk about it on your blog?

Quoting from Usthad Hotel "Anyone can fill the stomachs of the diners. It takes innate talent to state the souls of the diners". There are many factors that contribute to the perfection of a dish, the most important being the time used to prepare it. 

The freshness of the ingredients is also a key factor. It defines the quality of the dining experience. The cleanliness of the cutlery and crockery is also salient. I would say what really makes a restaurant stand out would be the quality of the food as well as the customer service. 

Dealing the customers even on the busiest of days is an art. Another thing would be the authenticity of the dishes. I believe an unchanged recipe, followed down to the dot with the exact ingredients and methods of cooking can make the food sensational. 

Although, replication of authentic non-indigenous food would take a lot of skill, practice, knowledge, and requirement of fresh ingredients that can't be locally sourced and is nearly impossible. Moreover, my domain mostly rests in Kochi and it is difficult to evaluate the authenticity of the same. 

I feel like a lot of restaurants stress a little too much on the ambiance. Although it is important, I believe that the true standard of the restaurant lies with the quality of the food they serve rather than how the place looks.

6. Is there a dish you particularly associate yourself with? 

Growing up I favored non-vegetarian food much more than vegetarian. My mother's Kerala fish curry with tuna and grinded red chilies still remains my favorite and I don't think any food I've ever had or will have would knock the crown away from it. 

Another favorite would be prawns fry. Nothing beats the ecstasy of having freshly fried prawns. The outer crispiness and the tender flesh inside is just heavenly. One other dish that holds my heart would be Al faham. Like any other resident of Aluva, I had my first bite of Al faham from the cafe. 

Besides these I would say the food from Grand Hotel, Aluva was something I looked forward to as a child. Their food cannot be explained as anything but a burst of flavors.

As for Fazil, growing up in a Muslim family, he had a lot of Malabari dishes, mostly Beef Biriyani. Mutton and chicken weren't very popular in his household, they favored beef dishes much more. Moreover, his grandmother and mother were insanely good at the art of cooking. 

His grandmother's signature dish was prawns fry with chopped onions and crushed chili and to date, he swears he's never had anything as delicious. Eating pathiri with coconut milk and his mother's coconut beef roast was the origin of the foodie in Fazil. 

I recall him saying that he'd help around the kitchen and toss the pithiris while his mother cooks. His mother's family used to be settled in North India and she'd cook authentic North Indian food, much tastier than anything ever served here. His mother would also cook really good Aloo parathas. 

After a while, he was pretty tired of eating Keralite food (tho he really loves it). That was when he had his first burger from McDonald's. His father worked in UAE and on returning back home he brought a burger from McDonald's UAE. Back then, the burgers here were mostly just a bun and a cutlet. 

This was his first experience having a real burger. Soon after that, he went to Hyderabad and while he was there, he had a Happy Meal and with it, he got a TMNT action figure (something he still adores very much). That was his first time being in McDonald's (they hadn't yet opened an outlet here). He describes it as "a turning point in my life". 

Later on, when we were in about 8th grade, Lulu started functioning in Kochi and with it, McDonald's was introduced here. Fazil and I would catch a bus every weekend to Edapally just for a burger and a float. Later on, they introduced Maharaja Mac and it quickly went up on our favorite list. 

It used to cost around 90-100 and was really filling. We would have it every weekend yet never got tired of it. This was pretty much the start of our foodie life.

- Ajay and Fazil
  IG: hungrycochin

- Interviewed By: Amruta Liz Binoy 

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