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20 May 2018

Lady who won't be cowed down

Doma Wang, the owner of Shim Shim (above) on Bright Street in Park Circus.
Pictures by Sanat Kr Sinha
TT, Park Circus: A restaurant specialising in beef has become the talk of town at a time when meat trolls have been beefing up their act at every chance.
Cooking up the beefy storm is a 51-year-old single mother from Kalimpong. The 20-seater Shim Shim on Bright Street in Park Circus has been seeing snaking queues almost every day since it opened doors on April 8.
"This happens only in Calcutta," said Doma, who admits she wouldn't have dared open a restaurant that considers cow meat its forte anywhere else. "Such are the times... but Calcutta is still a place where what you eat is your choice and nobody's business."
Food is Doma's greatest passion. Born to an Indian mother and Chinese father in Kalimpong, she blends the best of both cuisines. "My mother was a great cook. But my father was better. I have imbibed the best of Chinese as well as Tibetan influences," she told Metro.
Her cooking mantra is simple. "I don't make smileys with ketchup. I am a stickler for authenticity. My food is soul food." She uses the best raw materials and whips up her own "secret sauces".
Doma first came to Calcutta in the 1980s en route to Taiwan, where she had got a scholarship. On her return, she married and settled down in Calcutta.
Two years later, Doma started a delivery joint in Salt Lake after a Japanese firm she worked for wanted to transfer her to Gaya. "My elder daughter was just born. I could not have relocated, so I left the job." Wang's Takeaway delivered momos and noodles to offices and homes in Salt Lake.
Blue Poppy came 12 years later. "A friend who was a minister in the Sikkim government had eaten my food several times. He suggested I start a small canteen at Sikkim House. That is how Blue Poppy was born. I had no idea it would become so popular," Doma said.
It was Doma's desire to give her adopted city a taste of traditional Tibetan beef dishes that spurred her to start Shim Shim - the name derived from Shimbu, Tibetan for delicious. A friend rented the 380sqft space and she was all set.
A bold idea in times when many cities have shunned beef in the face of cow vigilante violence.
But fans of Doma's cooking far outnumber her haters on social media. FoodZpah, an online food lovers' group with over 2.5 lakh members, is among those who have welcomed Shim Shim. "We keep organising beef parties. But most beef joints in the city are shabby. But here is an air-conditioned cosy urban place with brilliant food and a great host. What's not to like," said Shahbaaz Zaman, the group's founder.
"Calcutta has given me more than my birthplace. It is my home," said Doma di, as she is fondly known. She speaks fluent Bangla and when she has had her fill of momos and shapaley (Tibetan stuffed pie), Doma settles for steamed rice with boiled egg, mashed potato and a generous dollop of Jharna ghee. Fried hilsa is her favourite fish.
On Doma's bucket list: "I want to treat Shah Rukh Khan at Shim Shim."

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