Sitting adjacent to the Rajdeep Complex, this bijou enclave occupies a visible portion of the Segunbari Veneer Mill Bazaar. Inside, you’ll find a haven with a beautiful blend of colourful furniture; from the cane round tables and laid-back chairs to cozy cushions and stylish throw pillows. The interior is as relaxing and tasteful as the array of recipes and desserts this café offers.
Known as Cafe on the Way, the Banana Baked Roll is one of the latest additions to its menu. That first bite of sumptuous goodness is not just a thrill for your taste buds, but tells you a lot about the ingenuity and adventurous nature of this tasteful, family-styled and slightly classical café at Margherita, a small picturesque town in Tinsukia district, Assam. This cafe is quite a feat considering where it is located. It is the brainchild of Kunwolie Gogoi.
As a result of its quality style and offerings, this café has become a notable attraction to residents and visitors in Margherita and all over Assam. But this ambitious entrepreneur, currently pursuing her graduation from the Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad, says it is just the beginning. “The journey began when we sowed the seeds in the form of a small outlet cum café close to our residence. However, by dint of hardwork, we were able to shift it to a better and bigger place within a year. It’s still in the nascent stage and we are learning each and everyday,” she begins.
As she remembers her childhood, playing around in the kitchen with her mom, baking her first vanilla cake, she acknowledges the role played by her in building a passion for cooking and baking. Now accomplishing her mother’s dream of owning a café, Gogoi is following a path that not many dare to take.
“I absolutely love experimenting with different cuisines. I adore Northeastern cuisines of all kinds but I am also very fond of Thai, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine. I love pairing these dishes together which I feel would go well. Recently, I have been cooking a lot of French dishes. I have also learnt how to make pasta sheets and it tastes amazing with the Lasagne that I bake,” she notes.
Coupled with his signature desserts like cookies, tarts, non-baked cheese cake, fudge brownies and glazed donuts, Café on the Way is a favourite spot for great pizzas, empanadas, sandwiches, baked rolls and other delicious pastries, all of which have caught the attention of customers far and near. To make all these come together, Gogoi has some special ingredients that you’ll always find in her kitchen.
“For cooking, you’ll always find oyster sause, Worcestershire sause, fish oil, nutmeg, and different herbs. For baking, castor sugar, vanilla essense, and compound chocolates, and some others are my go-to ingredients,” she reveals. She talks glowingly about her absolute favourites. “I absolutely love the combination of butter, finely chopped garlic and rosemary. These three simple ingredients work like magic and have the ability to boost up the flavour of any dish.”
Her secret lies in her de-emphasis on sugar and more emphasis on flavours. According to her, “In baking, people think just because it is a dessert, there has to be an ample amount of sugar, but that’s not true. Even desserts require flavours and aromas. It is not always about the sweetness. Personally, I have been inspired by my very own cravings. I have weird combinations when it comes to food. So far, they’ve worked out pretty well.”
As expected, Gogoi’s mother (who made her fall in love with cooking) and father (who taught her the essence of hardwork) are her role models. As she reflects, “They made me realize the importance of hardwork, dedication, teamwork, believing in oneself, to never give up and most importantly, consistency.”
While there is a lot of satisfying goodness to enjoy at Café on the Way, Gogoi’s personal favourites include some mouth-watering delicacies.
“Rice noodles with a mixture of gochujang– which is a Korean chilli paste – along with oyster sauce, garlic, soy sauce, chilli flakes and rice wine. To balance the heat level of the noodles I pair it up with pineapple sauce which is finely chopped and brewed in low flame with Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of sugar and soy sauce. The sweetest and tanginess of this particular sauce pairs up like wonders with the spicy rice noodles. So far I feel it has been my best recipe.
“Another favourite recipe would be chicken made in mushroom and béchamel sauce and with a little hint of white wine,” she adds.
On her most unforgettable food adventures, Gogoi reflects on a memorable trip to Paris where she first fell in love with pizza, as well as a Thai experience she’ll never forget. “Another fond memory would be HuaHin in Thailand. I had glutinous rice made in sweet coconut milk and paired with mangoes. Even though it sounds pretty common, these three simple ingredients work wonders together.” These are the exact types of memories and moments she intends to create with her café.
While the major challenge has been the rigid eating habits of the host community and their reluctance to try out new dishes, Gogoi’s café is constantly experimenting with new recipes. The rising demand for gluten-free meals is also a trigger for new entries. Garlic breads and gluten-free multi-grain pizzas lead the menu of gluten-free meals- on special orders. But the mission remains the same; to expose the small Magherita town to the rest of the world.
Gogoi plans to upgrade the café as well as open a resort in the coming years. “My hometown, Margherita, lacks a place where people can come and hang out. Ever since I was a kid, I would complain how boring my place is. Now I’ve realised that complaining won’t change this place, I have to do something about it.”
Café on the Way has not even completed two years, but the recognition it has got in this short span of time is Gogoi’s greatest achievement. “Looking at customers coming to our café to spend their evenings has been so exciting and rewarding. With each happy customer we serve, we get a level of satisfaction no award can ever provide,” she concludes with a smile.
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