Chitra Agrawal’s Key Ingredient for Home-Cooked Indian Meals


We’re celebrating remarkable women in the worlds of food and design throughout Women Are Amazing Month (aka Women’s History Month, Food52-style). Is there a woman we should be profiling? Let us know.

As a child of parents from very different regions of India—a mother who hails from Bangalore, in the south, and a dad from Delhi, to the north—Chitra Agrawal soaked in two distinct culinary traditions growing up. She dabbled in South Asian cooking early in her career, leading classes, blogging, and hosting pop-up dinners, but it wasn’t until she published her cookbook, Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn, that she made the switch to working in food full-time. Together with her husband, who has a background in food packaging design, she channeled her passion and knowledge of India’s foodways into a line of premium Indian pantry staples you’ve probably seen on your supermarket shelves: Brooklyn Delhi. Founded in 2014, her brand now includes 10 products, from Indian pickles, or achaar, to vegan simmer sauces to chutneys. Now, her brand is set to expand even further this summer, when she branches into ready-to-eat meals. Here, she shares her inspiration for making high-quality Indian food accessible and easy to prepare at home.

How has being a woman impacted your work?

Chitra: Being a woman has affected my work, I think especially being a mother, because I’m always thinking about how we can make things easier for moms (and dads!) who want to have a quick meal on the table for their kids. That’s why I made our simmer sauces all mild. I feed those simmer sauces to my kids, but I also have my condiments, which layer on more heat if you want it. [Being a mom inspired me to think] about how you could have a meal that can be easily modified and that can feed a family quickly.

Who is the most inspiring woman in your industry?

Jing Gao, the founder of Fly by Jing. She is a visionary and gives her all to the products she puts out from the flavor, packaging, and branding. She is also an extremely giving friend who is always willing to share her knowledge.

What’s the most difficult part of having a creative career?

I have way too many ideas and I want to pursue them all at once, so it makes it hard to focus sometimes!

What are you most proud of?

What I’m really proud of with Brooklyn Deli is that I’m bringing the Indian flavors that I grew up loving to a wider audience and also celebrating South Asian culture and its people with our brand.

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