Editor’s Note: In January 2018, Puli-Ra relocated to Texas Keeper Cider. Puli-Ra’s last day there was Nov. 11, 2018. Chef Shirdhar is looking to return to pop-up supper clubs, with a potential storefront coming.
You may have heard of Puli-Ra’s earlier iterations, Anjore Supper Club and farmers’ market darling ChaiWalla. Both have taken the backseat since Puli-Ra moved into Still Austin Whiskey Co.’s courtyard, as the distillery’s official food truck.
The team members behind Puli-Ra are a hardworking bunch, dedicated to merging South Indian flavors with local Texas produce that will astound your taste buds right off the bat.
For the Love of Culture and Texas
Deepa Shirdhar, owner and chef of Puli-Ra, pulls inspiration from her Indian background and obvious Texas influences. The two are evident in her cooking, menu, and all-around charm you encounter when you first meet her.
Shirdhar moved to Garland, Texas, from India when she was four years old, in the midst of the first snow North Texas had seen in years. Though it was a culture shock, Shirdhar and her family acclimated to the Texas heat and culture swimmingly. As she grew to love Texas cuisine, her family still held to its Indian traditions, like daily chai tea time (which eventually led to her school friends coming over for tea and learning about her family’s culture).
At first, Shirdhar was studying to go to film school. Realizing it wasn’t the path she wanted to take, she decided to apprentice at Lucia in Dallas, and ended up falling in love with the kitchen. She made her way through the trenches of kitchens in Dallas and into Austin’s culinary world, working at established restaurants such as Dai Due and Lenoir.
Learning as She Goes
There’s a saying in the culinary world: “Clean as you go.” Keep your work station clean as you cook throughout the shift. The work makes the night easier for you in the end. As for Shirdhar and her team, they’ve been learning as they go–from Anjore Supper Club, which started in 2014, to ChaiWalla, Shirdhar’s farmers’ market take on pastries and on-the-go foods. The curtain has closed on both for now, with Puli-Ra as the entrepreneur’s next act.
In the Tamil language, “puli” means fierce and “ra” is a word used to end friendly sentences. Throughout her time in Austin kitchens, Shirdhar has found her place is to share the Indian flavors she grew up, with the delightful produce Texas has to offer. The ever-changing menu will make sure to keep your taste buds interested, with starters like Goat Cheese with Asparagus, and main dishes like Tofu Pad Thai.
After placing your food order, order a cocktail or whiskey flight from Still Austin Whiskey Co., and settle into an Adirondack chair in the open air. You’ll be glad you came.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite menu item at Puli-Ra?