My 6,000-Mile Journey to Introduce ‘My Suruchi Chili Sauce’

When I think back on growing up in Calcutta, one of my favorite memories is of visiting my aunt. Each time we’d visit, she would shower us with love and with amazing, delicious food — many different sauces and pickles, the foods that I later realized people know to be the most exquisite forms of Bengali cuisine. When I was 17, my family moved to the United States. I wasn’t able to visit my aunt for many years. Unfortunately, 20 years ago this summer, my aunt passed away. I was inspired to honor her memory, to share with the world a part of her legacy. Although I didn’t get a chance to learn from her, I turned to cooking to recapture the fond memories of my childhood. My first attempts were nowhere near my aunt’s, but with practice, I learned quite a bit.

As a single parent, however, I had to put my plans on hold; I turned instead to safer pursuits — owning hotels and an Italian restaurant. Once my son was grown and had made his way into the world, I knew the time had come that I could finally make my dream into a reality. In 2008, I returned to Calcutta to learn the art of street food from the city’s top chefs and cart purveyors. I toiled endlessly to master their craft. After about two years of tutelage, I was ready. I returned to the U.S. and began making kathi rolls.

The rolls were a smashing success. The feedback I received was stellar, and I was surprised to learn that the sauce that I put into the rolls was itself a huge hit. I realized I was onto something, and began developing a preservative-free sauce, called My Suruchi Hot and Tangy Chili Sauce, that could be mass-produced.

By May of 2014, the formulation for my sauces had been finalized. I planned to offer three unique blends of time-tested Indian flavors: a hot and tangy sauce (with a milder version for the spice-wary), a cilantro sauce, and — perhaps my most unique creation — a zesty mustard sauce. I tested out my sauces on friends, family and sauce-loving strangers. All agreed that they’d never had anything like it before. This is a testament to the wide-ranging influences that went into the sauce’s composition: my aunt’s kitchen, the street-side food carts in Calcutta, the bustling restaurants of that city’s top chefs, and a generous helping of the bold experimentation that has always characterized the country I now call home.

Now that everything was ready, I planned a road trip for August to take my sauces to stores and distributors around the country, so they could try the sauces for themselves and decide whether to offer them to their customers.

Sadly, a couple of years back, I had developed a mysterious, crippling left flank pain, and no doctor could tell me why it was happening. I wondered if I would ever stop being in pain for long enough to put my plan into action. But my pain was getting worse. By June, I could not eat or sleep and I couldn’t imagine driving cross country.

Finally, during an ER visit, a doctor was able to diagnose my ailment, and I was told I needed surgery. My reaction was bittersweet — I was ecstatic that I might be able to finally rid myself of the pain, but terrified that I would have to put my August road show on hold. To my great relief, my doctor informed me that, though not ideal, it would be safe for me to embark on my journey six weeks after my surgery.

On July 30, finally rid of the flank pain, still recovering from surgery and more excited and nervous than I’d been since the birth of my son, I set off on my own for Kansas to pick up samples of my sauces from my manufacturer. Since then, I’ve traveled through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. I still have to go to New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. I introduced the sauce in Georgia, Florida, Maryland and the New Jersey market. The response has been incredible. My first production batch of My Suruchi Hot and Tangy Chili Sauce is almost sold out. I feel truly blessed that my dream of spreading the flavors of my family and childhood home may someday come true.

  • Paneer
  • Soy Kabab
  • Chicken Kabab
  • Spicy Chicken
  • Malai Chicken

Medium Hot and Tangy Chili Sauce
Extra Hot & Tangy Chili Sauce
Hot & Tangy Habanero Sauce

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