Dhaka's new found Bengali-Mexican fusion tacqueria, Taltibaaz is serving delicious tacos with a deshi twist where classic bengali meals like alu bhaji, chicken jhalfry and chicken tandoori are all composed into taco form with various fresh veggies, salads & sauces. Since Tacos are a quick and convenient meal that doesn’t take a lot of time to eat, when envisioning what success looks like for this brand, it was taco carts & kiosks all over the city serving up Taltibaaz tacos in their own words.
In a conversation with Arbab Musa, the Executive Chef and CEO of Bond Foods, (The parent company of Edith, Taltibaaz, Ricky's, Olympus) we dive deep into understanding what all goes behind running this unique food house.
We started off by asking him about the journey of Taltibaaz and the secret behind this eccentric name to which he said "When I was a kid, I was quite the trouble maker. There was a point when my nanu got so mad at me for running around wreaking havoc, she said “Taltibaazi bondho koro!” According to Nanu, taltibaaz means someone who is always fooling around and having fun. When I moved to Bangladesh I wanted to open a Bengali Mexican Tacqueria. Not only are Bengali & Mexican food two of my favorite cuisines, the structure of the meal is very similar. We have rooti with curry, Mexico has tortilla with carne asada. It was a fusion that had never been done before and in a sense - Taltibaaz is the world’s first Bengali-Mexican fusion restaurant."
When we asked him to describe the conceptualization of the menu and the thought process behind the food items he replied "My brother and I conceptualized Taltibaaz during a summer visit to Toronto in 2019. We spent the entire day in the pool while i told him about the concept. Later that evening I made some the first ever rendition of our Chicken Jhalfry Taco and Taltibaaz was born. After we came back to Dhaka I thought of some classic meals that we eat with roti like aloo bhaji, chicken tandoori, beef bhuna and created fusion tacos out of all of them. The tacos are priced at around 100 taka each because we wanted to make this brand accessible to every one since the flavors are very familiar to those with a palate for Bengali cuisine."
We asked him to share with us about some of the struggles they faced while building the business and how they overcame those. He said "One of the struggles with taltibaaz was introducing tacos to a market that had little to no exposure to Mexican cuisine. While those who try us out always come back, this has definitely been a challenge in connecting to the larger market at play."
"Another struggle we’ve faced with this brand is that tacos are not the most delivery friendly item and with longer delivery distances, the tortilla does lose some structural integrity. We’ve adjusted our packaging to retain enough heat to avoid the condensation & optimizing our operations to ensure that the orders go out as soon as they are prepared to combat this issue."
We asked him about their process of keeping up with the times and how they wish to evolve the business to which he answered "We’re always updating our menu to refine it to our consumer demand. For example, we used to have a chicken curry taco but it did not fair well in competition to our other tacos. We ended up replacing it with our Baja Bhetki taco which is now by far the most popular item on our menu. While I may not fully agree with the sentiment that the customer is always right, I do wholeheartedly believe that you should always listen to your customers and what they’re telling you."
"Our target customers are people who wish to explore the different spectrums of food, especially fusion food. As well as giving expats living in the country a taste of deshi cuisine without the big cultural shock. It’s a brand for people who wish to get out of the box with food and flavours and challenge their own notions of what bengali food can be"
We ended the conversation asking him about their future plans and aspirations with the brand to which he said "The original vision for Taltibaaz was for it to have small kiosks all over the country. I would like to to see kiosks in every major street corner and people tilting their heads to fit our tacos into their mouth."