It wasn’t until I got married two years ago that I really began cooking—dals, different kinds of sabzis and rotis—for daily sustenance. Everyday cooking with greens and veggies like bhindi, lauki and gobi, was so routine, anyone could do it, I thought.
And so, I convinced my mother to allow me to cook the specials—sambar, paneer, biryani—dishes that are prepared rarely enough to garner appreciation, but not so infrequently that I completely forgot the process.
The same was the case with the husband.
But when we moved to Bengaluru, we received calls from our families every day, asking us what we had cooked and consumed. Were we surviving on Maggi? What culinary catastrophes did we experience that day? Had we burned down the house or chopped off our fingers?
Thankfully, helping my mother and aunts in the kitchen all these years was not for nothing. And of course, the internet with its sheer quantity of helpful material, came to my rescue.
One of the many resources I turned to was Hebbar’s Kitchen, a food blog started by Archana Hebbar, a software testing professional living in Australia.
Her blog became my culinary search engine. Peeking into the offerings from her channel, I could satiate the families with pictures of a new dish each day.
Archana moved to Australia with her husband after she got married. Without any local experience, it was quite difficult for her to find a job there. So, she decided to pursue her hobby—cooking.
Blogging was quite a popular activity at the time, so Archana created a free WordPress account.
“Hebbar is my husband’s surname, and a common one in Udupi, Karnataka,” she begins. “When I was thinking of names for my blog, I decided to use it because it’s a part of my identity and also helps me connect with vegetarians.”
On this blog, she posted a few basic recipes along with photos that outlined each step. Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos were gaining popularity at the time, but she couldn’t find many channels that catered to the Indian palette.
“I thought of making shorter videos for Facebook, and the response was amazing,” she tells me.
In videos lasting 120 seconds, Hebbar’s Kitchen enables you to cook up a storm for each meal of the day from breakfast to dessert, masala powders to chutneys, side dishes to beverages.
If you’re looking for vegan alternatives, don’t fret, Hebbar’s Kitchen has all the answers. If you prefer your food “no onion, no garlic”, have a junk food craving, or need to tend to your gluten allergies, Archana offers a plethora of tutorials. For these, and much more.
“What I like about the videos is how short they are! In two minutes, with the most basic ingredients, I can learn recipes that food-shows teach in half an hour!” my colleague, Saiqua Sultan, gushes.
Archana points out that content creation is not a one-day job. From sourcing the ingredients and preparing the dishes to shooting and editing the videos—a lot of time, effort, and planning go into the making of that two-minute video.
“My husband and I plan the entire week’s schedule well in advance. We include recipes from different categories which helps users try them in their daily routines,” shares Archana.
She continues, “It is not just preparing the dish. It also involves showing how the dish can be prepared in a simple way.”
As regards the video creation, it depends on the “complexity” of the dish. For instance, creating the video of a chutney takes about two hours, but a cake or dessert would take a few hours.
One of the residents in my neighbourhood, Anujna Bhat, used to run a kitchen, offering nutritious, homely meals to neighbours. She tells me that it was watching videos put up by the Hebbars that inspired her. The short video recipes came in handy when she was managing the kitchen along with her work.
Anujna says, “Rava dosa and Neer dosa were always disasters when I made them before I had help from Hebbar’s recipes. But not anymore. Even the chutneys I now make are from her book!”
It was an incredible coincidence that Anujna Bhat and Archana Hebbar were childhood friends! It goes on to prove that the bonds we make over the shared love and appreciation of food are simple, yet last long, across locations.
A small team runs Hebbar’s Kitchen—the Hebbars in Australia and their friend, Shreeprada in Mumbai. While Sudarshan, her husband, focuses on his work during the weekdays, he assists his wife post-work and during weekends.
Archana uses a customised tripod to shoot in different locations and edits her videos. Shreeprada handles communication on the Facebook page and other social media; she also writes articles about tips, tricks and health benefits of ingredients readily available in Indian kitchens.
With a presence on every social media platform, Hebbar’s Kitchen is determined to encourage Indians across age and region hone this life skill. Apart from the website which clearly presents the different categories of edibles, they are also popular on Facebook (with 9.3 million followers), YouTube (1.9 million subscribers), and Instagram (726,000 followers).
“It is good to diversify. I like to explore new platforms as there are higher chances to be in touch with new generations,” Archana states.
She admits that there were fewer competitors when they began in 2016. But with the growth of the segment, they have had to strive hard to retain their flavours.
Is the space getting crowded, I ask her. She agrees, “I believe there will be a small place for me, which is more than sufficient. We try to post videos every day, and give online support in solving queries via Facebook messenger and e-mail.”
You can believe her when she says this because one reviewer, Manmita Kulkarni, left the following comment on the app last October.
“Love you Archana Hebbar for making my life so easy! Thank You! Also I would like to suggest you to add one more segment in your recipes – ‘Indian Tiffin Box.’ I am always wondering what to cook for my husband early in the morning for his tiffin.”
A quick search on the website now brings up the ‘tiffin box’ category with several healthy and tasty options that are easy to replicate.
Apart from requests like these, viewers often share encouraging responses.
Archana says, “It is really nice to receive messages from parents about their kids trying recipes from my kitchen. They thank us for helping their kids develop an interest in cooking.”
Archana’s work also inspires another segment of the youth–those living in hostels or working away from home. The feeling of missing and craving home food is a singular one, best satiated with the successful attempt at recreating whatever it is that makes your taste buds sing.
Kevin Ronith Kumar says, “Her recipes teach me how to cook dishes that my mom used to prepare for me—not only the ones that I grew up eating, but also some that I’ve heard about. Dhaba style, street foods or even traditional Kerala style palappams, these videos have helped me become a culinary expert in my own circles!”
Although she empowers modern foodies with recipes for fast and junk foods, it is the traditional ones that she looks out for. “I keep referring to cookbooks that showcase regional recipes like voggarene dabbi and kadambila saraswathi,” she reveals.
A connoisseur of the art of cooking, I ask her if there are any ingredients she cannot do without. She answers, “We start and end any South Indian dish with tempering. Being an Indian, and a typical South Indian, my kitchen is incomplete without the spice box.”
In teaching and learning new recipes, Archana thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to explore—new places, various traditions, different cuisines—with memories to savour for a lifetime.
She concludes, “Hebbar’s Kitchen began as a hobby. It became my passion, and is now my profession. I was always interested in cooking, but never thought it would take me so far!”
I’ve now learnt that it may be easier to make biryani because you can only eat it so often. The real challenge is to cook simple fares for the daily grub. And Hebbar’s Kitchen enables that.
We hope that they continue to delight and motivate food lovers to try their hands at humble everyday fares as well as gourmet specials not only in India, but all over the world!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
To know more about Hebbar’s Kitchen, get in touch with the Hebbars on their Facebook page.