Testing recipes for Meatwala, his new butcher shop, Dushyant Singh came to a breakthrough. Singh had left his job as chef at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails in March, a decision forced by the pandemic. Quickly, he started on a fresh concept: a butchery providing pre-marinated meats with Indian flavors.
Tweaking recipes, prepping for a June launch, the revelation came when his mom, Preeti Kaur, took to the stove. She pulled dishes from memory, lent a hand with testing, and added other touches that made his Punjabi food part hers, part his own. Singh knew he had discovered his shop's identity.
“It was just amazing,” he says. “I was like, ‘Mom, forget about even my creations. I really need to do what you do.’ Because she does it so well and takes it to another level.”
Now in its earliest phase, Meatwala delivers vacuum-sealed meats to your door, fully spiced and salted, ready to grill. His move to Meatwala feels like an early glimpse of how chefs might pivot to new models in the world of COVID. As it begins, Meatwala has no brick-and-mortar location. Singh is the sole employee: butcher, chef, and delivery guy.
Customers order meat by the pound — like malai chicken, achari chicken, or beef kebabs — plus sides. They come to your home like any delivery, only wrapped in a neat package of butcher paper.
With people marooned at home, the industry has grown significantly during the pandemic. Meal delivery kit operations like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are part of a multibillion-dollar industry, with top companies selling millions of meals a month. From one angle, Singh is localizing and personalizing this modern way of eating.
His meats are succulent, explosively flavored, and reasonably priced. Chutneys, pickled onions, and sides like daal complete bright meals, sized as you like them.
Though Singh has big dreams and a long road ahead that he hopes will lead beyond delivery, he feels happy to be channeling his energy into an early-phase business deeply connected to his roots.
“Whenever I thought of opening something of mine, I always thought it had to be something with Indian flavors,” he says.
Surprisingly, Singh, a chef from New Delhi, has never cooked Indian food professionally until now.
“When I started, I was cooking in India at hotels, so I was cutting, chopping, and cleaning,” he says. “I wasn’t even cooking. Then I moved to Phoenix, went to culinary school. I was cooking French, all that stuff.” At Blue Hound, the focus was elevated American comfort food.
Meatwala, though, is Indian. Specifically, Singh’s current marinated meats and sides are Punjabi, meaning they're rooted in the northern Indian state to which his mom moved and where he grew up. These meats will form the Meatwala core, accented by rotating specials and newer dishes, some that will travel to other parts of his native country. “Today, I was thinking about western Indian, chicken vindaloo, a little more heat and spicy,” Singh says. “Things will evolve, but the base will stay.”
For marinades, Singh toasts and grinds spices himself. He blends dry ingredients with wet ingredients, herbs, aromatics, often lemon juice, and always “a little bit of yogurt, so it sticks” to the meat. Most meats so far are chicken, though steaks and beef kebabs are also regular. In mid-July, Singh rolled out a brief lamb rib special.
Singh is still honing his meat sourcing. In the future, he hopes to do a more large-format butchery.
“Eventually, I want to go into where we’re sourcing fish, and different cuts of beef, and whole legs of lamb,” he says. “Eventually, I want to look for a storefront and move into that, but we’re just taking baby steps right now.”
One step: Singh just procured machinery to grind his own meat.
Another step: He is beginning to develop a deeper roster of side dishes, though he plans to keep it minimal. “I don’t have 20 different kinds of potatoes or 20 different kinds of lentils,” he says. “I have one lentil and do it right.”
A future step: sourcing whole goat. “Down the road, I want to do the whole nine,” Singh says. “I want to go full out with this kind of stuff.”
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Singh wishes to develop Meatwala into a butcher shop that will anchor a community, like some of the Valley's other great shops. He hopes to carve out a new niche in an old field, maybe in the east Valley (he’s now based in Chandler), maybe downtown.
Meatwala is already great, but its future feels wide open right now, during a nascent era in which chefs and other food professionals might have to reinvent themselves to thrive.
“‘Wala’ in Hindi means ‘guy,’ so I’m the meat guy,” Singh says. “And that’s what I want to be.”
Note: To order Meatwala, head to the website. Food keeps fresh for a few days (or can be frozen), so you don't have to order the day you plan to cook. Singh delivers across the Valley and as far as north as Anthem.