Nira Varma: Satisfying sweet cravings of UAE residents' since 1996

Nira Varma, Chappan Bhog, sweets, Kwality Restaurant
COOKED WITH LOVE: Nira Varma ensures all her sweets are served with affection.- Photo by Ryan Lim

Abu Dhabi - For Varma, cooking is an art and act of love, which she learnt as a child.


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Fri 6 Sep 2019, 2:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 8 Sep 2019, 12:12 PM

For over 20 years, Nira Varma has been in the business of making sweets. And till date, the lady with a sweet tooth has satisfied thousands of foodies with her range of goodies on a platter.
Varma's restaurant Chappan Bhog has become so famous that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi first swiped the RuPay card in the UAE by purchasing sweets from her. It was an accomplishment, which Varma described as the 'most beautiful feather in her cap'.
For Varma, cooking is an art and act of love, which she learnt as a child. And in 1975, when she moved to Abu Dhabi as a newlywed, a new chapter in her love story started.
"The flair of cooking developed after I started preparing food for my two school-going children. I wanted to offer a new variety to them. They are my best critics. Starting from preparing vegetarian food, I now cook most cuisines one can think of," she said, sitting inside one of her Chappan Bhog restaurants near Electra Street.
The journey gained momentum in 1980s when she began teaching Europeans and Arabs how to cook.
Seeing a growing demand for Indian dishes, Varma, along with her husband Vinay, opened Kwality Restaurant. However, it was her dream to have a restaurant exclusively for sweets and snacks so, by 1996, Chappan Bhog was born.
"There was no restaurant serving Indian sweets. When we opened, people enjoyed the varieties. I used to work round the clock. A lot of recipes you see at our outlets are mine. As the demand grew, we opened a production unit in Mussafah, where all items are made for the group's 12 outlets. We have five outlets of Chappan Bhog and a total of seven other restaurants under our group."
And even with several restaurant operations running all at the same time, no food preparation is cleared without her approval. "I am a big critic. I check almost all the food, sweets and snacks. We have a hygiene officer, but I don't feel comfortable unless I personally check it."
She said 'great varieties' had become the hallmark of the group, and this also earned them a community of loyal patrons.
"We have over 100 varieties of sweets. There were 16 varieties of modak, popular during the Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. Last Diwali festival, we had 15 new varieties only for three days of celebrations. Our new varieties for this Diwali are now being produced."
Recollecting setting up a mock Chappan Bhog shop for Modi's visit, she said: "It was a surprise. We are very fortunate. We had just a few hours to prepare. It was hectic as I had to set up a mock shop at the Emirates Palace and simultaneously check on the sweets and snacks being prepared.
"With God's grace we were successful. Modi took the sweets to Bahrain as offering to the temple. This is a beautiful feather in our cap and a precious moment in our life."
Varma is also a judge for cooking competitions, especially those organised by Indian Ladies Association. 

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