A Tale of Tastes

A Look into the Culinary Collaboration Between Chef Sameera Wadood & Pastryarchy that created Transactions in Tastes—A Pop-Up Dinner, aiming to unearth the essence of our tastes.

The Culinary Lab of Sameera Wadood (SW) is known for celebrating Bangladeshi ingredients and cuisine. Pastryarchy, on the other hand, is a modern patisserie known for their creative desserts and introducing original flavors. The pop-up event, ‘Transactions in Taste’ which took place at Aloki Community Center on September 28, 2023, marked the second collaboration between Chef Sameera Wadood & Pastryarchy. The name is inspired by the book, Transactions in Taste: The Collaborative Lives of Everyday Bengali Food by Manpreet K. Janega. The aim of this pop-up dinner event was to unveil the fascinating ‘transactions’ behind today’s culinary creations – transactions that reflect the myriad of cultures that traveled through the lush valleys of Bangladesh, sharing ingredients, recipes, and also their tales.

To present the journey of cuisines in Bengal, Chef Sameera Wadood and Pastryarchy developed an ingredient-forward menu, all locally sourced. It consisted of an 8-course tasting menu, with a surprise mignardise course featuring Lotkon Macarons, accompanied by an in-house SW Ginger Ale. The guests walked through the glass doors of the greenhouse, into a visual ‘Ingredient Installation’ that allowed them to immerse themselves into the chefs’ personal journey. With the menu, guests also received a map of Bangladesh, featuring Passionfruit from Cox’s Bazar to Black Rice from Rajshahi.

A version of the SW dish that formed the brand image for the event, the Snowskin mooncake had a satisfyingly chewy exterior. As you take a bite, the ‘moon’ reveals an inky Black Sesame Bhorta with a rich, koji-ghee cured Egg Yolk glistening in the center. Spicy, salty, and sweet, the ‘Purnima’ celebrated the full moon on the night of the pop-up dinner. The first main course of fresh steamed Surma fish, sat against bright pink jewels of Jambura marinated in local Dragon Fruit. Its accompanying sauce was made from 3-year Kathal (Jackfruit) Miso and Tahini. A take on Sylhet’s famous Shatkora Beef, the second main featured slow-roasted Dry Aged Prime Rib with a luscious Shatkora just reduced for 12-hours.

The cuisines were presented in a way that reimagined how the guests would anticipate seeing these ingredients. Whether with the ‘Mushroom Patis’ or the dessert made from Black Rice, Purple Corn and Aged Jaam-Balsamic vinegar, the menus offered the guests a different way to experience Bangladeshi produce, resonating with their wants.

The event is a collaboration between Chef Sameera Wadood and Pastryarchy, three years after the first one. This event put aside ‘authenticity’ and explored what a true, global Bangladeshi would want. At the core of the event’s success was a bootstrapped team of long-time collaborators. CreateDevs, served as their dynamic Tech Partner, managing the online registration and backend technology to handle guest management. In addition, Golap Jol stepped in as the Interior Partner, ensuring the decor and table setup were nothing short of spectacular. The excellent response to the dinner was reflected by the 68 shortlisted attendees, out of the 200 people on the waitlist prior, who showed interest over the two days of online registration window.

With the success of the event, Chef Sameera Wadood is bringing more pop-up events this year, locally and internationally. The organisers believe such events facilitate the introduction of the cuisines of modern Bangladesh to the rest of the world. And someone like Sameera Wadood thrives on enhancing the local food scene with such events.

An engineer at heart, Sameera changed the game of culinary arts in the country when she utilized her coding skills to develop a flavor algorithm that enhances pairing local ingredients to international ones, based on similarity and an intent to better swap ingredients in recipes. Progressing quickly with this move, Sameera started sharing her culinary creations on social media trying to spur the value that she saw in them to others as well. In no time, agencies and restaurants started reaching out for help with their plating and food styling. However, despite the fabulous responses, Sameera noticed a conspicuous communication gap among the culinary industry people, especially the local and international chefs. And so, after years of working as a cybersecurity engineer by day and a chef by night, she shifted her dedication completely toward the latter and started her brand, SW-Sameera Wadood in 2019.

With events like ‘Transactions in Taste’ taking place, the local culinary scene is expanding and reaching new heights, becoming a form of art in itself.

Photographs: Courtesy of Sameera Wadood