Welcome to Beyond Butter Chicken. This publication sits at the intersection of food stories and recipes. By telling you the stories of my misadventures in food and life, I’ll share what I’ve learned about Indian food with you.

I hope to inspire you in your journey beyond radioactive orange butter chicken and show you how simple and forgiving Indian food can be.

That in fact, Indian food can be made in any home, even yours.

This newsletter is for you if:

  • You love Indian flavours but get overwhelmed with all the spices and ingredients.

  • You’ve been to India or eaten food at an Indian friend’s house but then found it hard to recreate that food at home.

  • You’re a third culture resident. Like me, you might have migrated from India, or perhaps you’re a second-generation migrant and have experienced a time when leaving your culture (and food) at the door felt easier.

Read my featured story

And now, a bit about me, Perzen Patel

I’m a hope-to-soon-be-bestselling Indian food writer, Perzen. I’m happiest at the intersection of food and a good story. When I’m not writing, I’m building my ready-to-cook curry paste empire, Dolly Mumma.

Over the years, I’ve written about food and travel for The Spinoff and Stuff in NZ as well as for CondeNast Traveller, Mint and India Food Network in India.

I call myself an Indian food expert. But by that, I mean the eating kind. Because, if you ask my mum she’ll tell you she has never seen a child eat the way I used to – slowly, with my eyes closed, relishing each bite to the fullest (especially if it’s a bowl of my Dolly Mumma’s prawn curry).

I moved to New Zealand with my mum at age 15.

The culture shock, teenage bullying and weird-tasting-but-reminding-me-of-home butter chicken sent me into an Indian food hating phase of my life that I deeply regret.

I only learned how to cook Indian food when I got married and moved back to India.

It was just my luck that I married a proper Indian boy and had to resort to secret phone calls with Mum to ensure my mother-in-law didn’t find out that I knew zero Indian cooking.

As a joke, I started a food blog that soon morphed into a catering company!

Slowly, one curry at a time, I fell back in love with Indian food.

When I moved back to NZ in 2019, it was like Aotearoa was stuck in time.

People were still only talking about butter chicken!

As I started making new friends, I encountered old conversations.
"Oh you're from Mumbai? I love having curry," they'd say.
or, "I love Dahl but sadly I can never get it right,"
or, "I bought curry powder at the Indian shop but my curry didn't taste anything like the one I usually order. Not quite sure what to do with it now, aye."
It clicked that if I wanted my friends and those around me to experience the true taste of India, I had to do more than talk about it. I had to bring those flavours into their kitchen and show them how truly versatile they could be!

That’s what I hope to do now. With this Substack and also my business, Dolly Mumma.

All paid subscribers receive:

Good food and good stories both take time to come together. When you support my work as a paid subscriber, you receive:

  • A monthly online cooking class on Zoom where we go in-depth into one dish. I’ll share stories, tips and my key learnings, and there will be a lot of laughs. Some classes will be cook-along, while others will be demos.

  • Recipes for Indian food made in the homes of other Indians. This is important because no self-respecting Indian “wastes money” by going to an Indian restaurant (my aunty said this, not me).

  • One serving of Indian food stories a week, along with a history of the dish and a recipe. These are warm, engaging stories and not the usual “fluff” above a recipe on most food blogs.

    Monthly subscription = $10/month

    Annual subscription = $100/year

Stay up-to-date

You won’t have to worry about missing anything. Every new edition of the newsletter goes directly to your inbox.

If you can’t find the newsletter, check your spam folder and mark this address - perzen@dollymumma.com - as “not spam” or check your Promotions tab. And, it’s probably a good idea to add that email address to your contacts so you get all my stories.

Have more questions? Shoot me an email at perzen.patel@gmail.com

Thanks again and spread the word!

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Food stories, cooking classes and recipes that help you fall in love with the real Indian food billions of us eat daily. No radioactive orange butter chicken to be found here.


Indian food expert. The eating kind. I help you cook real Indian at home. Went from “can’t cook rice” in 2011 to caterer to food writer. Let my stories and recipes take you #beyondbutterchicken