Peace, Love & Paratha – A Mobile Indian Supper Club is Creating Community Through Flatbread

Peace, Love & Paratha – A Mobile Indian Supper Club is Creating Community Through Flatbread

Peace, Love & Paratha is a new, mobile Indian supper club delivering home-cooked Indian food to central Brooklyn residents. It’s also the creation of two women — Lily Dasgupta and Christina Das — who developed a lasting friendship over good food.

Das (left) and Dasgupta. Courtesy of Christina Das.

The pair met at a community meeting a couple of years ago, and quickly realized how much they had in common.

“We’re similar in age and background and mindset,” Das explained. “We’re both very strong women that are always trying to step up and advocate for other women.”

Das is a recent law school graduate, and the recently-elected president of the Brooklyn Young Democrats. Dasgupta is the Chairperson of the Neighborhood Advisory Board for the New York Department of Youth and Community Development. Both are intensely involved in civic activism; Das is an avid voting rights advocate, and has volunteered extensively with groups like Flatbush Mutual Aid as well as with human rights organizations in New Delhi. Dasgupta is the vice president of a nonprofit organization called HMDG Foundation, based in her home state of Haryana in North India, which fights issues like socioeconomic and gender inequality.

Dough ready to be turned into paratha. Courtesy of Christina Das.

Das and Dasgupta also share a particular passion for Indian food. Dasgupta immigrated to the United States, by way of the U.K., from Haryana. Das was born in Queens, but her parents come from Kolkata – anglicized as Calcutta – in the state of West Bengal, further east. The two regions boast incredibly distinct cultures and cuisines, and yet Das and Dasgupta found themselves coming together often for meals.

“When Lily and I first bonded, we went to Jackson Heights, we had dinner,” said Das.

Das also took particular pleasure in eating Dasgupta’s food, which she said reminds her of her grandmother’s cooking. During the early days of COVID-19, the two started sharing home-cooked meals with each other — dropped off at a distance — as a way to keep each other going. Now, they’re sharing those meals with all of Central Brooklyn.

Tear into one of Dasgupta’s flaky parathas – layered flatbreads, common to North India – and you might find cauliflower, dal (lentils), or potatoes, or perhaps even pomegranate seeds. Invariably, though, they’ll be hot, having just come off the tawa, or griddle, and rushed to your home by a delivery person — Das’ partner.

Clockwise from bottom left: saag paneer; paratha; vegetable samosa; ‘Indian baba ganoush;’ and chole. At left, a tea drink spiked with cardamom and cinnamon. Courtesy of Lily Dasgupta.

Peace, Love & Paratha, which the pair launched last month, is a passion project, Das explained — not a business.

“We really don’t make a profit if you count like the ten hours we spend marinating and cooking.”

Before the city shut down in March, the plan was to launch a supper club – the kind of invite-based event where guests would gather at someone’s house for a special, multi-course meal. Das said they had imagined teaching guests about the origin of dishes like paratha while they ate, as well as the culture, dress, and music from different regions of India. Like so many others, Dasgupta and Das were forced to adapt.

“During COVID we were like, well, people are trapped in their homes, and they still want, like, fun, exciting food that’s homemade,’ said Das.

For South Asian immigrants with no time to cook — like busy Indian moms, or university students — it was a way of providing food that tasted like home cooking. For those who have never tasted home-cooked Indian food, it was a way of showing them what it could be like.

Vegetarian malai kofta. Courtesy of Christina Das.

“It just came out of nowhere,” Dasgupta said. “You know, why not share this meal, this healthy, vegan, vegetarian meal, with our community.”

The food customers receive from Peace, Love, & Paratha, Das explained, isn’t extravagant like much of the Indian restaurant food one might eat in the city. There’s not much heavy cream, or oil, or white rice. Instead, Das and Dasgupta make abundant use of fresh fruits and vegetables, which they source locally, from fruit stands and bodegas on Avenue O and Newkirk Plaza. For the spices, and some harder-to-find items, they make regular pilgrimages into Jackson Heights — a neighborhood Das often visited as a child — and particularly to the iconic Indian grocery store, Patel Brothers, where these items are available in huge quantities.

“To Lily and I, it’s important to support other immigrant businesses,” Das explained.

Health, Dasgupta said, is as important to them as flavor, and Dasgupta works hard to balance the two.

“It takes a lot of research,” said Dasgupta. “How can I use dry mango powder? How can I use pomegranate seeds in the paratha?” Her sweet dishes are often based off of fresh fruits like plum, and she incorporates plenty of spices like turmeric. Most of it is vegetarian or vegan.

Clockwise from bottom left: dal tadka; chole; basmati rice.

All of the food Das and Dasgupta cook, including the paratha – the heart of the operation – is made entirely from scratch, and the menu changes weekly based on what looks good at the store, or what Das and Dasgupta themselves feel like eating. The cooking, which all happens in Dasgupta’s own kitchen, takes many hours.

“That’s why we do [it] only once in a week — so we can just do [it] for our hobby and passion,” said Dasgupta.

Their delivery zone is limited to central Brooklyn, where the two live. To go further, Das explained, would diminish the quality of the meals, and place too much of a burden on Das’ partner. They welcome pickups which, Das said, gives them a chance to meet their neighbors, many of whom come from places like Pakistan and Malaysia, as well as India. They’ve grown so popular that they once received fifty orders in one week, Das said. The feedback, so far, has been immense.

Paratha and chole. Courtesy of Christina Das.

“A neighbor of mine said that our saag paneer was like the best he’s ever had in his life,” said Das.

Das posts the new week’s menu and order form on the Ditmas Park, Ditmas Park Families, Kensington, Windsor Terrace, East Flatbush Friends & Neighbors, and Coney Island Ave Neighbors Facebook pages every Monday or Tuesday. Order this week’s menu here. Both pickup and delivery options are available.