The story of how chef Meherwan Irani established ‘Chai Pani’ in Asheville, USA, is nothing short of fascinating.

Having moved to the US in 1990, Meherwan often missed the street food of India.

In 2009, the management professional was one of the many who faced the effects of the economic meltdown coupled with deep recession.

Deeply troubled for his future, he arrived at this idea late one night.

“I was desperate for a viable career switch. It was the middle of the night and I just seemed to have the vision for my future restaurant, Chai Pani, all planned out in my head.”

He wanted to introduce America to the Indian street food that he had grown up eating and loving.

In the span of 45 days, he and his wife Molly managed to raise $75,000. Chai Pani was opened the same year. So loved was Chai Pani that it went on to win the 2022 James Beard Award for America’s ‘Outstanding Restaurant’.

On Chai Pani’s menu, there are Indian snacks and food you’d typically find on the streets here, being sold at affordable prices.

While the sev batata dahi puri and vada pav have a dedicated fan following, the most popular dish — as you may have guessed — is pani puri.

What sets Chai Pani apart is that they incorporate the true taste of India, with their desi tadkas. Meanwhile, Meherwan says he has accomplished the dream.

“To me, there is no other food that captures the essence of India like street food — chaotic, colourful, innovative, vibrant, joyful, complex, and of course, delicious.”