This post was originally published on our partner websiteIndia.com.
Spicy, milky chai has become popular the world over, and is no longer resigned to Eastern tea drinkers alone. In particular, the American culinary industry has spawned spin-offs of our beloved drink, using spices commonly found in chai to infuse and punctuate numerous pastries.
Below, we share three of our favorite chai-inspired recipes which promise to take your chai-making and baking to the next level!
Makes: Six “3/4 cups” servings of custard
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
8 whole cardamom pods, crushed
6 whole cloves
3 1/4-inch-thick rounds of peeled fresh ginger
freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons loose Orange Pekoe tea
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
How to Throw Down:
Place whipping cream, whole milk, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, crushed cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and add tea leaves. Cover and steep for 5 minutes to develop flavor. Strain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Place six 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins in a big enough metal baking pan that will comfortably hold all. Set aside.
Place egg yolks and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk. Gradually whisk in the cream-chai mixture to make the custard. Evenly distribute custard amongst 6 cups/ramekins.
To make a water bath for the baking process, pour hot water into baking pan; make sure it comes halfway up sides of cups/ramekins. Cover the baking pan with foil; pierce the foil in several places with a skewer to allow steam to escape.
Bake custard until softly set, about 30 minutes.
Remove custards from water. Cool on rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Makes: One 10-inch pie
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon ginger powder
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (1/2 pint) whipping cream
3 green cardamoms, crushed
1 small cinnamon stick, crushed
6 black tea bags
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
¼ teaspoon clove powder
3 large eggs
How to Throw Down:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 10-inch pan. Wrap the OUTSIDE of the pan’s bottom with foil to prevent any leaking. Spray the inside bottom and side of pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon powder, ginger powder, and butter and mix. Press mixture into the bottom of the pan, packing tightly. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Cool crust completely.
Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium heat, bring whipping cream, cardamom, and cinnamon to a boil; place tea bags in pot, remove from heat/flame and steep for 5 to 6 minutes. Cool completely, leaving teabags in.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, cardamom powder, and clove powder until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended.
Remove tea bags from cream and squeeze extra liquid from tea bags; discard bags. Strain cream of cardamom and cinnamon pieces and add to the cream cheese mixture until well blended. Pour filling over crust.
Bake at 300°F for 1 hour. Turn off oven. Leave cheesecake in oven for 30 minutes thereafter.
Run small metal spatula around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Cool in pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or for best results, overnight.
To serve, cut pie into even pieces and garnish with a cocoa and cinnamon powder and a dollop whipped cream.
1 stick or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1/8 teaspoon fennel powder
2/3 cups whole milk
1/2 tablespoon finely minced or grated ginger (squeeze juice and use as well)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/8 teaspoon ginger powder
12 candied ginger pieces OR cinnamon sticks (optional)
How to Throw Down:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare muffin tin/cups with paper lining. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, combine dry items: flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder, salt, nutmeg powder, and fennel powder.
Gradually add dry mixture to creamed mixture; add milk and ginger and mix.
Fill lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 24-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Note: Do NOT apply frosting until cupcakes are completely cooled!)
For the frosting: Using a stand or hand mixer, beat butter until fluffy; mix in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, cinnamon powder, and ginger powder and beat to combine. (Note: Do NOT add all the milk at once. Add 1 tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency.)
Pipe frosting over cupcakes. Garnish with candied ginger or cinnamon (optional).
Soni Satpathy-Singh is a recipe writer and developer who resides in Manhattan. She is either always cooking or eating be it for work or simply because she loves to! She is currently working on her own comic cookbook.To see more of Sketchy Desi’s work, visit facebook.com/sketchydesi/ or stay tuned for upcoming posts on Brown Girl Magazine.
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a time for joy, togetherness, and celebration. As we come together with family and friends to honor the victory of light over darkness and hope over despair, we also exchange heartfelt gifts to show love and to honor those we hold dear. It’s a time to clean and brighten up our homes, dazzle in festive fashion, share and pass down customs we choose to honor with our kids, and savor delectable treats with loved ones. The essence of Diwali lies in the thoughtful exchange of gifts that symbolize affection, appreciation, and blessings. Now, let’s explore our carefully selected brands to help you find the perfect Diwali gifts and beyond (so be sure to bookmark for many desi-centric holidays).
Blume’s vegan, certified clean, climate-neutral, and plastic-neutral range allows you to look and feel good, thanks to its all-natural ingredients. Their TikTok-trending product, the Meltdown Gel Cream with Ceramides, is in our cart — how about yours?
If you’re looking to indulge in some sonu (gold) this festive season, check out Sonu Company for their fine jewelry. As seen on the latest season of “Indian Matchmaking,” they even offer bespoke engagement rings to help you drop a hint to that special someone. This brand is 100% Seema Aunty approved!
RAGA reimagines classic silhouettes with vibrant textiles and beautiful bohemian prints, inspiring authentic self-expression. Whether you’re looking for options for menswear or womenswear, they have something for everyone.
Kulture Khazana’s products are sure to make Diwali a memorable occasion for your kids. Their interactive and engaging products aim to share Indian cultural stories with children through play activities.
As we celebrate Diwali and exchange gifts symbolizing affection and blessings, let’s also remember the importance of mindful giving. Supporting smaller South Asian businesses during this festive season is a wonderful way to strengthen communities. However, let’s buy thoughtfully, within our means, and prioritize meaningful gifts over extravagance. The essence of Diwali lies in love and togetherness, and by doing what works best for you, we can keep that spirit alive.
Dashing through the aisles, in a festive shopping spree, in the air, there’s a feeling of glee! The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and what better way to spread joy than by curating a gift guide that celebrates diversity and creativity. Jingle bell, jingle bell, it’s time to share the cheer! Join us on a sleigh ride through the realms of home, fashion, beauty, food, and kids, as we showcase the brilliance of South Asian and minority-owned brands. The holiday season is more than just tinsel and lights; it’s a time to embrace the spirit of giving.
Dive into a world of premium artisan dried fruit-based products, seamlessly combining gourmet excellence with a commitment to a healthy lifestyle — 100% natural, preservative-free, and without added cane sugar. Elevate your festivities with these exquisite, guilt-free indulgences.
Explore the culinary magic of ‘The Chutney Life Cookbook‘ this season, a perfect gift for busy moms and curious cooks alike. A culinary treasure trove filled with anecdotes, love notes, and time-saving tips. Share the joy of flavorful journeys inspired by travels and Indian-American cooking traditions.
Savor the joy of the season with the ‘Milk and Cardamom’ cookbook — infusing every occasion with bold, unforgettable desserts inspired by Indian-American heritage. From Ginger–Chai Chocolate Pot de Crème to Gulab Jamun Bundt Cake, each bite is a celebration worth sharing. Get it here!
Bring home the flavors of India with The Cumin Club’s ready-to-eat meals — a diaspora-inspired solution, crafted by expert chefs using regional ingredients for an authentic taste of comfort; perfect for the busy holiday season.
If you’re craving authentic chai that tastes just like what you’d get back in India, check out Kolkata Chai Co at either of two city New York City location or order from their online store. Their “Aunty Approved” masala chai is a must-try!
Sip the spirit of the season with Kola Goodies’ teas — crafted from high-quality, directly sourced ingredients that not only bring freshness to your cup but also empower the communities they hail from. Share the warmth of conscious sipping this festive holiday.
Are you a chai lover? If so, you need to check out The Chai Box’s fantastic tea blends! From the aromatic Masala Chai to soothing Green Tea, each hand-crafted blend takes you on a flavorful journey through the diverse regions of India.
Fuel your day with Transcendence Coffee, a brew that breaks free from traditional limits, merging specialty beans and all-natural flavors for a truly unique and exotic coffee experience. It’s not just coffee; it’s a flavorful journey connecting cultures and countries worldwide, starting with the founders’ roots in India and Algeria.
Embrace the sunshine spirit with a 7-year-old rum from the Philippines. Infused with tropical vibes, it boasts flavors of sweet pineapple, a hint of vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt — here’s some island bliss for the holidays.
Ignite your holiday celebrations with Naagin Sauce — an authentic tribute to India’s spice culture. Free from purees and high fructose corn syrup, these hot sauces are a versatile, high-quality blend, perfect for the true Indian palate. Bring the warmth and flavor of India to your festive table.
Sip into the holidays with Vahdam Teas, a favorite of icons like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. Indulge in premium teas sourced directly from India, elegantly delivered to your doorstep, making for the perfect gift or personal treat this festive season.
Delight in the holidays with Madhu Chocolate, a small-batch, award-winning chocolatier crafting unique Indian-inspired flavors. Indulge in handcrafted chocolate made with cacao from India and Colombia. Support a 100% LGBTQ+ and 50% BIPOC minority-owned business from Austin, Texas, making for a sweet and inclusive holiday treat.
Spice up your festive season with Diaspora Co. — bringing you the freshest, heirloom, and single-origin spices directly from South Asian farmers. Elevate your holiday cooking and add a touch of authentic flavor to your celebrations.
Wake up to the holidays with Ministry of Kaapi! This woman-owned, wildlife-friendly coffee haven is all about fine Indian coffee. Sourced, imported, and roasted with love — their super slow-drip Decoction proves that good things, especially coffee, take time. Cheers to festive sips!
Savor divine indulgence with Theobroma —’ Food of the Gods.’ From brownies to breads, their heavenly treats spread smiles nationwide. If you find yourself in India this holiday season, don’t miss the joy at Theobroma Patisseries!
Add some noise to your holiday cooking with Omsom, a Vietnamese phrase for noisy and riotous, just like our unruly childhood car rides. Crafted by two first-gen Vietnamese sisters, Omsom brings delicious sauces and saucy noodles in collaboration with iconic Asian chefs. Get ready for a flavorful riot!
Up the ante in your kitchen with Our Place, where kitchen essentials meet connections made across the table. Begin your culinary journey today with their Heirloom dinnerware, creating moments that last.
Bask in the golden goodness of Brightland — consciously crafted extra virgin olive oils and vinegar from California, containing nothing but fruit, love, and sunshine. Explore their mini bottles, the perfect stocking stuffers that bring a taste of the Golden State to your holiday season.
Awaken your taste buds with Driftaway Coffee — offering personalized, farmer-focused, and eco-friendly subscriptions, delivering a unique tasting experience. Keep an eye out for their Indian-origin coffee, adding a touch of warmth and flavor to your holiday sips.
Elevate your hydration game with Urja — 100% real coconut water straight from Kerala. Cold-crafted to retain all the nutrients and flavor, URJA is your go-to for pure refreshment. Stay hydrated and refreshed this holiday season!
Snack guilt-free with Asha Pops — offering healthy, vegan, and paleo low-calorie treats made from popped water lily seeds, known as makhana. These plant-based delights are not just low in calories but also delicious.
Elevate your well-being with Spicewell’s clean and delicious pantry essentials, blending ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern science. Their commitment to non-GMO, vegan ingredients ensures a guilt-free indulgence.
South Asian-American fusion snacks made with guilt-free ingredients? Yes, please. Their holiday box comes with their staple offerings: Black Truffle Masala, Chili Chaat Popcorn, Mint Chaat Popcorn, and a bag of their Black Truffle Masala-Oven Roasted Peanuts and Chili Chaat Oven-Roasted Peanuts.
A slow fashion handmade brand that brings timeless elegance to your holiday season. Crafted using traditional methods, their durable sandals are inspired by the classic Kohlapuris’ blending of conventional and modern designs for a unique touch.
The pioneers of Desi food-inspired jewelry — from jalebis to pani puri — their quirky-themed earrings make the perfect holiday gift for co-workers or your secret Santa group. Add a sprinkle of fun and flavor to your festivities!
A small batch, Indo-Western swimwear boutique bringing you unique, desi-inspired designs crafted for beach comfort. Make a splash this holiday season with distinctive swimwear that stands out on the shore.
Tia Bhuva is a pioneer in game-changing saree silhouettes that offer maximum comfort, efficiency, and effortlessness. Beyond sarees, they curate great ethnic options with the intention of helping you look and feel your best, hassle-free.
Houston-based slow fashion studio merging South Asian art with contemporary design to create bold and beautiful garments. Seize the opportunity to add their unique pieces to your collection this holiday season!
Wrap yourself in the warmth of State Cashmere — crafted with generations of expertise from Inner Mongolia’s cashmere heritage. Improve your winter style with luxurious pieces that bring comfort and sophistication to your holiday season!
Founded by three in 2013, Dagne Dover creates problem-solving bags – for all the problem-solving humans out there. An eco-friendly brand, Dagne Dover bags keep up, stay organized, and look good doing it.
Dive into the unique world of Warp, a Pakistani-made contemporary brand reshaping fashion norms with high-quality, abstract forms, and minimalist accessories. Discover non-conformist aesthetics and support the reinvention of leather craftsmanship.
A Los Angeles-based brand, intricately weaving traditional Indian textile techniques. Crafted in Gujarat by local artisans, their designs are not just stylish but also embody fair labor practices, time-honored craftsmanship, and a touch of holiday flair!
An innovative brand founded by a mother-son duo, seamlessly blending traditional craftsmanship with modern technology. Morni’s subscription-based platform revolutionizes the fashion landscape, promoting supply chain transparency and radical self-expression.
Explore the intersection of sustainability and luxury with Gundi Studios, a brand redefining the connection between traditional Indian textile techniques and contemporary silhouettes. Crafted by women for non-traditional women,.
This is a brand that epitomizes contemporary chic with a touch of traditional elegance. Gift the joy of bold prints and fashion-forward designs to your loved ones, encapsulating the spirit of celebration in every outfit. And calling all brides-to-be, don’t miss out on exploring Masaba’s first-ever bridal collection that debuted this fall — a blend of modern sophistication and timeless charm for your special day!
If you’re looking to indulge in some sonu (gold) this holiday season, check out Sonu Company for fine jewelry. As seen on the latest season of “Indian Matchmaking,” this brand is 100% Seema Aunty-approved!
A Jaipur-based fashion haven enriched with the essence of rural India’s historical textile techniques, HARAGO seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. By crafting contemporary clothing, this brand contributes to the preservation of ancient crafts, empowering traditional artisans to share their legacy with a global audience.
A brand crafted with a vision to amplify the artistry of South Asian craftsmanship — and operating between the vibrant streets of Delhi, India, and North Carolina — Sani brings to life clothing and accessories inspired by the rich cultural tapestry of South Asia.
Get ready to chill in style with Monday Chill! They’re all about bringing you the comfiest bamboo loungewear that’s both budget-friendly and downright luxurious. Say hello to effortless everyday coolness!
Add a cozy touch to your space with House of Amu’s exquisite cushions. Plus, enjoy a free 30-minute consult to discover the perfect pillow combination that suits your style and elevates your home decor.
If you’re feet are constantly cold, The Kushie keeps you warm year-round.Available in picture worthy prints like plaid, chenille, rose and blush, you can be sure to find one for you or someone you love.
Celebrate the season with Nayana Design Studio, where each hand-illustrated pattern is a whimsical blend of global inspiration and Indian tradition. Gift joy, magic, and meaning with their unique and vibrant creations.
Unwrap the essence of South Asian culture with Shop Kishmish’s hand-poured candles and thoughtfully designed paper goods. Each product preserves the charms of tradition, offering relatable and nostalgic delights for the festive season.
Toast to the festive season in style with Rayt’s vibrant glassware, adding a pop of color to your celebrations. Crafted with high-quality materials, these glasses are perfect for clinking in joyous moments that last a lifetime.
Your ultimate online plant shop, catering to plant enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you’re a budding plant parent or searching for the perfect green gift, The Sill has you covered with a variety of plants, resources, and delightful merchandise!
Dive into the world of cultural crafts with Hamesha Project’s enchanting kits. Each kit is a celebration of slow regional crafts from South Asia, offering a mindful and joyful crafting experience for kids and beyond.
Founded by the sister duo Taran and Bunny, the brand was created to make self care easier and healthier, while destigmatizing normal things like acne, puberty, periods and sex ed. We’re here to protect and nurture, and shift the narrative away from perfect skin and towards healthy skin.
Powered by science, backed by tradition, AAVRANI honors the founder Rooshy Roy’s beauty and celebrates her duality by uniting my worlds: clinically-proven, modern-day routine and ancient, all-natural rituals.
Spice up your holiday gifts with Teak Beauty’s lip products, a nod to the beauty of South Asian traditions. Crafted by Telugu sisters Nupoora and Pooja Reddy, these lip essentials bring a touch of glamour inspired by the intricate Teak wood doors of our homes. Perfect for adding a pop of color and culture to your festive season!
Treat yourself — or a loved one — to the beauty of Ayurveda with Forest Essentials. Indulge in organic facial, body, and hair care for a truly rejuvenating holiday pampering. Stock up on these cult favorites for a luxurious and wellness-filled season.
Your mother’s wisdom comes to life in Ghlee’s products, harnessing the goodness of ghee. Their lip balms are a godsend, especially during harsh winters, and make for the perfect gift. Not to mention, they smell divine!!
Transform your skincare routine with Ranavat, uniting luxury and Ayurvedic wisdom. With a cult following, their Mini Rituals Set is the perfect gift for a skincare enthusiast, promising indulgence and radiant results this holiday season.
Discover thoughtful beauty crafted with deep understanding and care for diverse skin types. With a goal of promoting healthy skin for all, Sachi Skin brings you skincare solutions that cater to your unique needs.
Indulge in the goodness from the Indian forest with Soma Ayurveda. As featured in VOGUE, ALLURE, and VANITY FAIR, their products offer an intimate way to experience fragrance and embrace each season with skin that shines.
Experience inside-out nourishment with Kanya. Their products, rooted in ancient yogic Chakra Balancing and Aromatherapy, go beyond skincare. They leave your skin supple, hydrate your body, elevate your mood, and work on internal imbalances through distinct chakra-focused essential oil blends.
Immerse yourself in the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda with Pure Alchemy Beauty. Rooted in this 5,000-year-old Indian healing system, their handcrafted products embrace every Ayurvedic principle, ensuring a holistic approach to skincare.
Redefining beauty standards, Mudita Earth is on a mission to bring clean beauty to women of color. Embrace skincare that empowers without compromise, providing a toxin-free path to glowing, confident skin.
Ever wondered how to make your daily skincare routine more exciting? Enter Nopalera! Their body products, infused with prickly pear and cactus, add a touch of Mexican freshness to your self-care game. give it a try!
Seeking a skincare routine that caters to diverse skin needs? Plantkos has got you covered! Their clinically-inclusive range addresses common concerns, ensuring effective results for all skin types and tones.
A South Asian haircare brand that needs to find a spot on your beauty shelf ASAP! Their Back To Your Roots Scalp and Hair Pre-wash offers all the benefits of a deep hair oil massage without the hassle of greasy strands.
On a mission to bring the wisdom of her foremothers, the secrets they held dear, and the natural ingredients they trusted, each tube of Aks Ubtan is a testament to this legacy. Enriched with Ayurveda’s power, their skin polish is a harmonious blend of nature’s most potent ingredients, such as Turmeric, Honey, Lactic Acid, and Jasmine Flowers.
Celebrate your unique beauty with Smart Melanin™ Beauty! Created by women of color, for women of color, Eadem offers science-backed, inclusive skincare that embraces, rather than alters, your natural tone. Redefine beauty standards with skincare made just for you.
Let’s make this season merrier by supporting these unique businesses and delighting our loved ones with thoughtful treasures that reflect the rich tapestry of our world. Happy holidays, and may your festivities be as bright and beautiful as the gifts you give!
Passion is something many claim to have, but few truly possess. Whether it’s hobbies, professions or romances, it’s the secret ingredient we all crave but is quite difficult to come by. But on meeting Chef Devan Rajkumar — aka Chef Dev — it takes just a few moments to understand true passion. For the Indo Guyanese chef from Toronto, passion has always been food and its power to connect, nourish, excite and represent.
Whatever the outlet, Rajkumar feeds his mission to bean ambassador for modern, West and East Indian cuisine. I recently sat down with him to talk about this and the experience of bringing Indo Caribbean flavors to South Asia and beyond.
Feeding a passion for food
“The sights, the sounds, the aromatics. The excitement of the kitchen has just always appealed to me,” he began. “Food moves me in a certain way. I want to nurture and nourish. I’ve just always wanted to do for others.”
As he sat back in a ‘Guyana vs. the world’ tank top, Rajkumar’s energy was palpable.
“I’ve always lived and breathed food, all day, all night. Like I’m talking about food right now. I’m constantly talking about food.”
To Rajkumar, food is education — one of the best (and most enjoyable) ways to learn, teach and explore the world — and he credits his older brother Jai for inspiring this mindset. Jai was the first to introduce him to different cuisines, teach him to be curious about the world and show him how to challenge the norms of a “typical brown kid.”
Despite this encouragement, however, a culinary career wasn’t Rajkumar’s first instinct. The son of a businessman, he initially jumped around universities and career paths. He also struggled with substance abuse and grief after Jai’s passing. Through all the challenges, food remained a constant, and the sense of community it created was a powerful draw.
“At a very young age, I recognized how food made me feel if I was in a bad mood and how it made others feel,” he shared.
He’s always looked forward to sitting around a table with friends and family, enjoying a nice meal, and how everybody could share their stories or just forget their troubles.
“Food is a very powerful vehicle for transporting someone.”
In 2009, Rajkumar finally followed his passion and joined a culinary school. He realized he had a knack for creating this experience for others.
“I realized I had the power and the gift to nourish and nurture someone else in this way,” and it became irresistible.
A cook with no boundaries, Rajkumar didn’t want to limit the number of people he reached to just those in Canada.
For many, success in the culinary world is having a thriving restaurant, but after spending six months opening one with The Food Dudes in 2015, Rajkumar realized this route wasn’t for him.
“I wanted more culture,” he explained. “I wanted to learn and not so much get my ass kicked, but to be a sponge. I knew I needed to travel to broaden my horizons.”
So he did. Rajkumar spent months cooking in India, London, Peru and Dubai. He shared his experiences on social media and people back home took note.
“When I returned to Toronto,” he continued, “that trip had established me as a cook who had no boundaries. As someone who wasn’t afraid to explore and get out of their comfort zone.”
And get out of his comfort zone he did.
“From catering to a pop-up abroad to filming ‘Cityline’ and speaking engagements, every day is different,” he explained. “I’ve had my bouts with imposter syndrome, but ultimately, I’ve gotten to make more of an impact than just opening a restaurant.”
That impact has especially been prominent in South Asia.
Rajkumar embraces not only his Caribbean culture, but his South Asian roots as well.
The temple he grew up in was a blend of Guyanese and East Indians, so he knew foods from a typical Guyanese household like alu curry and saijan but also East Indian favorites like dhokla and malai kofta.
“Ultimately, we came from India,” he declared. “I embrace the culture and I am very comfortable leaning back and forth into it. It’s in me. It’s who I am.”
In fact, Rajkumar noted his career became much more defined and successful when he really began to identify as not just a chef, but as an Indo Guyanese Canadian chef.
Hearing this, it was no surprise that Guyana, India and Pakistan stand out as some of his favorite destinations.
“Guyana is hugely impactful for me,” he shared, having visited his parents’ homeland frequently. “As soon as that door opens [at the airport], you smell Guyana. You smell the sugarcane burning from rum factories. I have all these wonderful sights, sounds, smells and flavors from those trips.”
His sentiments for India are similar.
“Incredible India is incredible India,” he referred to the country’s tourism slogan. “Every 100-200 kilometers, the menus can change completely. I can live in India for the rest of my life and never see it all.”
Rajkumar’s first trip in 2020 was only nine days long, but its impact stayed with him.
He couldn’t have been more excited to return for a month, earlier this year, and host what his friends there dubbed the “Mad Love Pop-Up,” after one of his signature sayings.
He filled the menu for the 18-day event with global dishes like ceviche and scotch eggs but infused them with West and East Indian flavors like masala, jerk and cassareep — a rich extract of the bitter cassava native to Guyana. Before he left, he even prepared Guyana’s national dish of pepper pot, a hearty meat stew, for the staff meal.
“My whole thought process was ‘let me give these people — my family there — an experience they’ve never had before,” he detailed. “Any time I give someone pepper pot or cassareep, they’re just so shocked. It’s so unique.”
Rajkumar is always excited to share the flavors and culture of Guyana with new people, but with his roots in South Asia, bringing them to Pakistan was that much more profound.
“In India, maybe it’s different, but in Lahore, most people don’t know about Guyana or where it is. That’s another reason why I did this. That’s why I do all the things I do. That’s why I’m wearing this tank top — to raise awareness about my culture and how beautiful it is,” he said.
Time in South Asia has also helped Rajkumar gain a deeper appreciation for the origins of many Indo Caribbean dishes and reinforced his love for them.
“Guyanese cuisine doesn’t just have Indian influence, but so many dishes in some way, shape, or form come from there. Like when I’m eating sada roti, I can tie it back to which type of flatbread it came from in India. I feel like a better-equipped chef at the end of the day. I’m more connected to my Guyanese roots and to the culture overall.”
Rajkumar wants to foster a deeper understanding and relationship between both heritages. He wants his food to build connections, not disparity.
Bringing the world back home
Rajkumar has visited over 20 countries, but Pakistan remains one place he’ll cherish his entire life. He is grateful not only for the opportunities he’s had there, but also for the chance to offer a fresh, alternative view of the country from what is often shown by the media.
“When people saw me posting content from Lahore, they were like, ‘Oh my God, this is Pakistan?’ This is not what we expected. This is not what we thought we’d see.’ They were shocked at how beautiful, kind, and welcoming everyone was.”
Reactions like these are Rajkumar’s ultimate goal.
A cookbook is due next year. He has aspirations of launching merchandise and cookware, traveling to South East Asia, and continuing his pop-ups, but ultimately, he concludes,
“I just want to stand for something. I want to continue to learn, remain humble, represent my Western and Eastern cultures and spread mad love. I want to be an ambassador to that world and be someone who’s dedicated to his craft, bettering himself and those around him.”
“I just want to continue to grow as a person,” he added with sincerity as he touched on his sobriety and what it’s taught him about achieving your goals.
“That might sound cliche, but it’s new to me. I’ve spent the last two years learning about myself and being vulnerable about how I feel, my healing journey and what I’m going through. If I excel and continue to invest time and discipline in that arena, everything else around me will flourish. I believe that goes for anyone.”
Rajkumar is going far literally and figuratively, but no matter where he lands, you can be sure he’ll bring something back for his supporters, whether it be a new view of the world or a concoction like a ceviche pani puri on one of his menus.
“That’s my travels to India, Pakistan and Peru all in one bite!” he exclaimed.
Chef Dev’s journey has not always been an easy one, but it’s a powerful example of the success one can taste with hard work, embracing authenticity and following true passion.