by guest blogger Katie Lutzker,
It is quiet inside Mukesh Wacher’s small kitchen. Even though he is busy cooking, there are no sounds of foods sautéing, searing or frying.
On the stove top is a stainless steel cylinder, designed and built by Mukesh, with an open bottom and slits along the top to rest skewers. He turns the stove on, places a diffuser over the flame, and places a lid atop the cylinder while the temperature gauge increases.
At almost 400°F, Mukesh takes vegetables and lean meat that has been marinating overnight in all sorts of Indian spices, like turmeric, ginger, coriander, cumin, and threads them through skewers. He lays the skewers in the slits on the cylinder and lets the food cook in the diffused heat of the gas stove. There is no direct contact between the food and the fire. And there is no fat used to cook the food.
This is air cooking. Mukesh has been a chef for over thirty years both here and in his native India, but a few years ago he dreamt of creating a method for people to cook food in a clay pot right in their homes on their gas stove. He designed the pots and began air cooking.
To Mukesh, this is a healthier and cleaner way to cook. There is no fat, no red chili, and the food is cooked slowly. The marinade is loaded with spices that are healing to the body.
The Khichdi, an Indian staple, for example, has red lentils, mung beans, mung split lentils, spinach, kale, carrots, rice and healing spices like turmeric. Creamy, comforting and clean, it is the most popular item Mukesh makes. “It is a meal in itself. It can give you everything your body is looking for,” he says.
Transforming the Grub Shack
Several years ago, Organnons Natural Market in Wrightstown set up a stationary food truck and dubbed it the “Grub Shack,” serving up healthy sandwiches and light fare. But staffing was difficult and the Shack eventually closed.
Now the truck sits outside Organnons in the open air seating area at Carousel Village (right outside Owowcow Ice Cream). Here Mukesh creates his healthy and delicate Indian dishes, available in Organnons at a hot buffet.
Mukesh met Jim Gannon, owner of Organnons Natural Market, while he was working at Doc Bakers in Doylestown over a year ago. At the time, the Grub Shack was empty, and Mukesh saw a need and decided to fill it.
Because many people shopping at Organnons are already looking for healthier alternatives and natural foods, says Jim, Mukesh’s food and method of cooking suit the customers and Organnons’ mission, to provide the “highest quality products for a healthy lifestyle.”
Mukesh uses the produce from Organnons and alters his menu based on what is seasonal, fresh and available. Mostly vegetarian and vegan, all of the options are loaded with fresh vegetables, organic grains like rice, lentils, and beans, and lots of Indian spices. You might find chana masala — one of my favorites — savory spiced chickpeas in a tomato sauce, or tofu and peas in a coconut cashew curry, quinoa with broccoli, green red peppers, zucchini and spices or mung dal.
Mukesh’s food is available at the Organnons buffet the same hours and days the store is open. Usually, there are six to eight options available at the buffet. Everything is made daily using the freshest ingredients possible and using no preservatives.
You can also have dishes made to order. A menu is posted at the shack’s window, but Mukesh says, “Just tell me what you’d like, and I’ll make it!” Call the store before noon for these special orders, and Mukesh will have it ready for you in time for dinner.
Even though Mukesh and Jim have done little to no marketing for air cooking and for the buffet, it has become wildly popular. People are drawn by the rich, spiced smell of Indian food and the clean, wholesome ingredients that leave both their bodies and their taste buds feeling satisfied and content.
Organnons Natural Market
591 Durham Road
Wrightstown, PA 18940
Hours: Mon – Fri 9 am – 8 pm; Sat 9 am – 7 pm; Sun 9 am – 6 pm