A talk with Food blogger Neha Pradhan (@mymasalabox)

Hello, Weekenders! Hope everyone had a rocking Durga Puja and Dussehra 2019! But the festivities are far from being over because… Diwali is coming folks!! And boy aren’t we excited again? Like every other festive occasion, Diwali is also about spending time with friends and family and its also largely about FOOD..!

Food is an essential part of our culture and tradition and we make the best of this on special occasions. Thus to grace this tradition and celebrate the festive spirit in the truest sense of term, we bring for you a savory and delicious chat with some food bloggers who are truly doing wonderful work.

These bloggers are not only cooking delicious food but also, teaching us about different cuisines, the history and stories of a particular dish/food tradition, food presentation and food photography. Along with this they also provide many tips and tricks to help us cook better. They will also provide insights on how we can amp up the food scenario this Diwali. So keep reading.

Today we are talking with the very sweet and lovely Neha Pradhan who lives in New Jersey, USA currently and is originally from Delhi, India. She has had a long journey in her becoming a food blogger. She was a financial banker and started food blogging as a means to showcase her love for photography and food. Read on to know more about her.

Follow her in the following places –

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/mymasalabox/

Facebook : Mymasalabox

P.S. All the pictures and videos are owned by ©Neha Pradhan and reproduction in any form, without prior permission, is prohibited

Q. Please introduce yourself.

Hi, my name is Neha Pradhan and I grew up in New Delhi where I completed my studies and worked for the first few years. I moved out of the country when I got married. I lived in Singapore for nearly a decade and now live in New Jersey, USA for the last 4 years with my husband and two daughters who are 9 & 5.

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The Lovely Neha Pradhan

Q. Would made you start your food blog/page? Please share what is your Instagram profile all about and how did your journey start?

I have always been very passionate about Food and loved playing around with new ingredients and flavors. The inability to work due to visa restrictions in the US and the availability of a lot of time at hand made me share my daily food pictures on Instagram for fun initially. I later realised that there is a whole world out there – the world of food blogging, food photography, so many talented people we could connect to and interact with. To be honest, it helped to channel my inner creativity. I have always loved presenting my food well and this is a fabulous platform to share snippets of my daily life and moments in the kitchen. Indian cuisine would top the list because that is what we grew up with.

Q. Is being a food-blogger your full-time profession or do you work elsewhere?

I am currently a homemaker. I am unable to work in the US due to visa restrictions and food blogging is my passion which takes up most of my time. I have been a Private Banker all this while with HDFC Bank in India and UBS AG in Singapore till the time we moved to the US.

Q. What would you consider your biggest achievement so far?

That is a tough one. Because I do not pursue this professionally yet, I would choose to answer this question differently. I would say the one thing that makes me very happy is when my readers trust me enough to try the food I talk about and share here and share a very honest feedback with me. And as a mother, when a child appreciates the love that goes into the food, we cook for him/her will count as the biggest achievement, ever.

Q. What is your signature dish that represents who you are as a cook?

Kheer. Rice Pudding. My all-time favorite dessert. We learn and perfect ourselves over time. This is one dish I have perfected over time and I can proudly say I do make a good one. Slow cooked, with a whole lot of patience and love. I think perfecting it over time has calmed me as well and I have learnt that a lot of love goes behind cooking good food.

Q. When you post a new recipe on the page, is that usually part of your home menu or do you sometimes have to prepare extra meals?

All the recipes I share on my page are of the food we cook and eat at home. They are very much real, home cooked meals.

Q. How do you manage your family life along with other commitments and running a page?

Because I am at home most of the day, I try and complete my chores, recipe trials, photographing food etc when my girls are at school. Most of my dinner prep is done during the day as well. Winter is a struggle because the days get shorter and once the girls are back, my entire focus is on them and their activities. A little extra planning the night before goes a long way.

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Q. What are the top five ingredients that you would say is essential in all kitchens?

A good quality ghee/oil, a spice box, heat for cooking, a lot of patience and the love for food. 

 Q. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool that you can’t live without?

My favorite kitchen tool is the mortar & pestle. Hand pounding spices can do wonders to your curries.

Q. What are your favorite regional cuisines or specific foods? Name a dish you always wanted to make but haven’t had a chance to make it yet.

Apart from the food I grew up eating, which is North Indian, Delhi & UP style food, I am a big fan of South Indian food. Curry leaves are my favorite ingredient in South Indian cuisine. I adore Delhi style Chaat and Chhole Bhature. I am intrigued by Rajasthani Lal Maas and would love to make it one day. My mom grew up in Rajasthan and the food is so vibrant there.

Q. Which other world cuisines have you tried and what do you like about them? In your experience what is the basic difference in the eating lifestyle of Indians as compared to rest of the world? 

I love Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines for their flavors. 

While every cuisine has their own uniqueness and specialty, I’d say we are such a regionally diverse country with foods unique to every region. This is what makes our food special. We have so much food waiting to be explored. 

Q. What other activities are you a part of apart from being a food blogger? What are your hobbies?

When I am not cooking, I try to read as much and love outdoor walks. I also volunteer very often at various activities in my daughters’ school.

Q. Please share your experience with different brands you have worked with?

I have not ventured professionally into brand collaborations yet. Although if a brand I believe in wants to send me some sample products to try, I definitely give them a go ahead.

Q. As Diwali is approaching soon, could you please suggest few dishes which will be ideal to try out during the festivities? 

Diwali is such an exciting time for all of us.

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We all have our regional, family specific dishes special to Diwali. My favorites I make often at home are Besan laddoo, Coconut laddoo, Nan Khatai, some namkeen and roasted nuts. Of course, there’ll be the usual Aloo Poori, Chhole, Dahi bhalle, and Kheer for our Diwali dinner.

Q. There are a lot of shoddy people on social media who either try to discredit others or stalk them. How do you deal with such people or negativity in general? Does it bog you down or affect your mental peace?

We have all kinds of people on social media (and otherwise). It is very easy to point a finger at another person. I feel it is important to ignore and move on to maintain your own sanity. It is very easy to get disillusioned and give up when we get trolled. However, if we are true to our work and passion, we must not let the negativity affect our work and mental peace here.

Q. Local Bazaars or Supermarkets – What is your preference when it comes to choosing fresh ingredients for the kitchen?

I’d say it all depends on where one lives.

Back in India, most people including my mom, prefer visiting the local bazaar. I love the hustle and buzz whenever I visit India and make sure to accompany mom on her weekly bazaar trips. Those markets have their own charm. But again, living outside India, we have to visit supermarkets and the organic produce and ingredients are pretty good here as well. There are local farmers markets here in New Jersey as well and the produce they sell here is beautiful.

Q. Can becoming an Influencer be taken up as a profession for future generations? How to not get lost amongst the masses? Any tips?

Influencers are doing a great job right now. I guess people connect with them so much more than famed celebrities. I am not sure how this role would suit the future generations as this concept wasn’t heard of until a few years ago as well. Something new may just come up in a few years, you never know.

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I guess it is very important to have your niche audience and your strengths in mind when you decide to be an influencer. The same thing may be done by 10 different people, but it is so important to stand out and portray your uniqueness and talent. A little hard work never hurt anyone.

Q. What are your future plans for your page and profile? Are you happy with the way it has shaped up?

For now, I am happy with what I do and share here. Although there is no upper limit to creativity which of course is a learning process forever. I do get occasional thoughts and requests to have my personal blog so that is a work in progress right now.

I hope it helps me to connect with my readers better.

Q. Lastly, any word for our blog? Thank you for your time!

I loved going through your blog! It is so vibrant and informative. Keep up the good work and keep sharing good content.

It was so good to connect with you here.

Thank you, Neha for taking out time to talk to us, and having such a wonderful and heart-to-heart conversation. We look forward to your continuously bringing more deliciousness to our feed! HappyDiwali!

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