By Avneet Takhar
Mithalee Rawat can most often be spotted at Farmers Markets or on her bike out and about in Vancouver and the surrounding areas, hand-delivering her Ayurvedic Shorba Bone Broth. An entrepreneur with a cause, she’s also the co-founder of BIPoC Foods Van.*
We caught up with her ahead of prepping for a busy holiday season!
You were born and raised in India but moved to Canada as a teen. How did this impact your approach as a chef?
“I was spoiled as a child with great food. Both my mother and father are excellent cooks, and my four uncles on my mother’s side are professional cooks. I had the unique privilege of being familiar with various cuisines and hence developing a very fine-tuned palette.
“Indian cuisine is also rich with vegetarian dishes, and although I have never been vegetarian myself, cooking meatless meals came easily to me. This was a huge advantage once the plant-based diet started taking off in the aughts and restaurants were looking for chefs with expertise in those dishes. Sadly, the vast majority of Western chefs aren’t trained in vegetarian cuisine at all.
“For years I created vegan and vegetarian menu offerings at restaurants I worked at. Another way my roots impacted my approach was through the common Indian notion of using food as medicine. This came in handy when I was in charge of creating menus at vegan, health-focused cafes and subsequently my business now is based in Ayurveda, the traditional food-science from India.”
What made you focus specifically on bone broth?
“I spent over a decade working as a chef in health-focused restaurants in Edmonton, Canada and London, UK, where I created many iterations of bone broth for different soup recipes. They were always a huge hit! It gave me a lot of pleasure to offer such a potent, healing food which has been used in various cultures for such a long time.
“When living in London, I noticed bone broth picking up as a trend, and it made me happy to see so many more people learning about the benefits, especially for gut health.”
Could you tell us more about the Ayurvedic practices you use within your cooking?
“I was inspired to start Shorba Bone Broth by offering practises from my own cultural medicinal system in India – Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the master science of gut health and I use the spices that it recommends which are beneficial for gut health, in all my broths. The result is that the product is rich in collagen, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
“When I decided to move to Vancouver, I felt it would be the perfect city to launch this business – both because of its health-conscious image, as well as the soup-appropriate rainy weather!”
You use Diaspora Co turmeric and other spices for Shorba. How does it feel collaborating with other WOC (women of colour) in the industry?
“When I was approached by Sana from Diaspora Co for a collaboration, it was an easy ‘yes’ because both our businesses aligned perfectly in terms of ethos, and also both of us have very similar values. These were early Shorba days, and it gave me the motivation to continue seeking WOC [Women of Colour] brand partners. It feels empowering, and having fierce support from the community has been so valuable, especially since imposter syndrome is unfortunately prevalent for us as WOC.”
On that note, give us the backstory on BIPoC Foods Van, and what we can expect to see for the holiday season?
“So we started BIPoC Foods Van in July 2020. The pandemic hit food producers really hard, and many of us faced difficult supply chain issues. Systemically, BIPoC folks are always hit the hardest. When Anika (from The Indian Pantry), and I were discussing this at a Farmers Market, we had the idea to create an event which would highlight local BIPoC producers. The BLM movement had also brought conversation about systemic imbalances to the mainstream, and many people were seeking BIPoC makers to support.
“This year we have a bunch of great food, art and wellness on our website! There’s also a special discount for Shorba’s Reset Program exclusive to BIPoC Foods.
“It really is a huge community effort and we’re super grateful to Coho Coffee too, for allowing us to use their space for the pop-up.”
You can browse BIPoC Foods Van for now, the pop-up shop goes live on the website at 9am, Friday 5 – 6pm, Sunday 7 November, 2021. Pick-up for products will be at Coho Coffee on Sat 4 December and 5% of all sales proceeds will go to a BIPOC organization. Find out more here.
*BIPoC stands for “Black, Indigenous, People of Colour”.
Main image by Doaa Jamal