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In Bed With… Vanika Choudhary

In Bed With… Vanika Choudhary

In Bed With… Vanika Choudhary


The idea of pioneering a farm-to-table food revolution might be daunting to some, but Vanika Choudhary has an approach that is both exciting and real. 

Riding the waves of motherhood and entrepreneurship hasn’t stopped Sequel’s Founder & Chef from embarking on new adventures. Her nourishing words are a primer that will have you pre-ordering her upcoming book:


What does clean eating mean to you? How has the concept evolved in your life over time?

I would like to change this to conscious eating––and that’s all about eating what’s in season, what’s local to us, celebrating flavours and most importantly eating as per your heritage. It's very important to understand that we cannot look at food as a numbers game. ‘One size fits all’ is not an approach that works. It’s about being intuitive with what works for your body. Having a positive relationship with food and your body are key––most importantly not falling for diet fads.




I have a particularly close relationship with this concept, both personally and professionally. I founded Sequel over 6 years ago based on my search for it, after a high stress job and bad food choices that led me to a crisis of my own health. And this concept took a turn when I found out that I was pregnant. All I wanted was to eat the food I grew up eating, document these native recipes and that’s how the idea of Noon, an ingredient-driven restaurant originated. As a mother, it’s very important for me to introduce our son, Agastya, to this way of life––understanding how to grow produce, forage, and be in tune with nature.


My earliest memories are of watching my mother and grandmother prepare delicious, wholesome meals by hand. Pounding masalas and condiments in a mortar pestle. Soaking and grinding grains. Sun-drying vegetables. Making pickles in large earthen pots. Eating and living with the seasons, in our home earlier in Srinagar and then Jammu. Watching my father tend to his garden, where he grew and cared for a wide variety of rare and common plants.



By osmosis, the ancient ways of living close to the earth, following its rhythms as my own, and nourishing myself gently and in accordance with ancient traditions became an indelible part of me.


Years later, after a successful career in the media, and a health scare that made me reconsider the way I was leading my life, I went back to my roots and inherited wisdom to found Sequel. And this year, I also founded Noon.



What gets you out of bed every morning? Your routine & breakfast?

I wish it was waking up and being on my mat, all by myself but the reality is quite different, given that we have a toddler and a Frenchie. My morning routine is sipping on tea when I have the time, having breakfast with my son Agastya, and sometimes cooking with him in the morning. From exercising every day, I now only manage to exercise four times a week, a combination of pilates and strength training, after dropping my son to school and before leaving for work.



Self care is a shifting goal post and I hope to change that and make more time for myself.


What are your thoughts on turning a personal philosophy into a professional one? Or to slice it another way, looking back on your journey, what has it taken to succeed at doing something you love?

To be very honest, it's been hard on so many levels but then I absolutely love what I do and wouldn’t trade it with anything else. When we started Sequel, we had to create a market from scratch because there was no brand with an emphasis on eating better using organic produce––we had to create this whole concept of farm-to-table dining in a casual and everyday setting and that’s not been easy. It’s taken a lot of determination, self-belief, and staying true to my vision for both Sequel and Noon. But as a result, I barely get any time to myself especially after becoming a mother. Being an entrepreneur means you always have to be switched on.



What are some projects you're most excited about this year?

Working on my upcoming book - Preserve. With Preserve, my first book, I want to share my food philosophy, built on foraging, fermentation, preserving ingredients and recipes, and keeping traditions alive by reinventing them for the modern world and global palates.


The only way to preserve food history, traditions and recipes is to give them a modern vocabulary to thrive in.



Which is why, at the restaurants and at home, I cook with a sense of fun and adventure, using heirloom ragi to make dosas, which are then served with chargrilled oyster mushrooms and Kokum chutney. Or fermenting jalapenos to make a chutney that spices up our sev puri made with jowar.


What, according to you, are the defining elements of a home kitchen and dining experience?

To me, the defining elements are all about how you find joy in the kitchen, doing things you love––a counter where there’s stuff you can watch fermenting everyday, a shelf that has all our favourite achars made by my mom, clay pot vessels, heirloom utensils being passed on from one generation to the other, a well-stocked pantry. And a fruit basket on our dining table with a wide variety of seasonal fruits. 


We'd love for you to share a favourite recipe.

Kanguchhi and Gugej Yakhni

A recipe from back home, nostalgic of my early childhood and the food I absolutely love sharing with others. 


Fresh yoghurt - 250 gm 

Water/Morel broth - 400 ml

Gucchi (Morels) - 8 pieces

Gugej (Turnips) - 110 gm, quartered (don’t discard the greens, use them as well in the yakhni) 

Bay leaf - 1

Cinnamon stick - 1

Black cardamom -  2 pods (slightly crushed)

Green cardamom - 4 pods (slightly crushed)

Ghee - 1 tbsp

Asafoetida - a pinch

Shah jeera - ½ tsp

Salt - to taste

Fennel powder - 2 tsp

Ginger powder - ½ tsp

Dry mint powder to garnish 


Wash the guchhi and soak it in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes. 

In a medium bowl, boil the guchhi in the soaked water. Bring it to a full boil, simmer the heat and let it cook for 30 minutes. Strain it through a muslin cloth, reserving the broth. 

In a medium pot, add ghee, let it simmer for a minute, and then add hing and shah jeera. Let it sizzle for a minute. Quarter the turnips after cleaning them and add it to the pot. Halve the morels once cooked and add it to the pot with the salt. Add the bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Cook these ingredients for 4-5 minutes. Next, add the fennel powder and ginger powder. Cook this for 5 minutes for the spices to seep through, add the measured water and give it a good whisk. Cover it with a lid.

Cook for 15 minutes. After the turnips are cooked and the liquid has come to a boil, add the yoghurt gently. Make sure that the yoghurt is whisked properly without any lumps. Keep stirring the yakhni on simmer as you don’t want the yoghurt to split. Serve hot. Garnish with dried mint. Enjoy it with musk budji rice. 


Mushk Budji Rice is a short bold aromatic rice grown in the higher altitudes of Kashmir valleya very unique variety. It is mainly grown in the areas of Sagam, Panzgam and the Soaf Shali of district Anantnag and the Beerwah belt of district Budgam. 

Shah zeera/black cumin or caraway seeds impart a smoky, earthy flavour to this recipe. They’re darker than normal cumin seeds, and cannot be interchanged with cumin. Typically used in Tandoori and Mediterranean cuisine.



What about Himêya resonates with you most, and why?

Ethical sourcing because that's also been the foundation of both Sequel and Noon. And we need more brands across the board who believe in ethical sourcing and follow this concept. It’s amazing how each product is consciously crafted and manufactured. Eco-friendly packaging is another aspect of the brand that I absolutely love. 



I love how simple yet elegant they are––it's easy to mix and match a lot of Himêya’s collection––whether it's the quilts, bed sheets or the pillowcase pair. All you need is an elegant earthen vase next to your bed with some flowers!



How do you unwind?

Reading, writing and being on my mat. 


How would you complete the sentence, "I have a dream…”?

I have a dream that our children grow up in harmony with nature. Children still need a childhood with dirt, puddles and trees!



What's the trick to balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship?

Sometimes I think there’s no balance at all, the trick is to take each day as it comes, not be hard on yourself and most importantly never compare your journey to others.



Smile through the good days and pat yourself on the back for making it through the hard ones.



A culinary adventure that is one of your fondest memories...

Hard to pick one but I would say that the first time I ate at Noma, I was blown away by the culinary experience. Of late, it’s about spending time with the farmers we work with in Ladakh, in really remote areas, more towards Chanthang. Foraging with them, picking produce from right outside their homes, learning the cuisine of their forefathers and cooking with them in their homes. And it’s a huge privilege to be able to document all this in my upcoming book.



All images courtesy Rema Chaudhary