Husband and wife duo Ketan Gajria and Meher Makda are the creative pair behind the @alwaysbungry.boston Instagram account, focused on eclectic props and high quality images. Inspired by Gajria’s cousin’s Instagram page, the two decided to dive head first into Boston’s food world, getting to know local restaurant owners, managers and crew while showcasing all the tasty and creative dishes they serve up each day. Learn how they met, their mix of photography techniques and what eateries are bringing the legit HEAT to the table.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
We are a husband and wife team of very different backgrounds. Ketan is a Boston native and Meher is from Pakistan, but we happened to meet in Syria more than a decade ago at a fruit juice stand. Since then we have been obsessed with food and travel! Professionally, each of us works in one of Boston’s big industries: Ketan is in higher education and Meher is a nurse practitioner. In 2019 while having a delicious South Indian breakfast in Bangalore, Ketan’s cousin told us about her account @alwayshungry.everywhere. We decided to combine Ketan’s passion for photography and Meher’s flair for creativity to start our own version — @alwayshungry.boston. However, we were new to Instagram and intimidated by all the wonderful work bloggers were already doing. We decided to focus on high quality images, eclectic props, and showing the restaurant’s vibe. That said, our favorite part is getting to know the restaurant owners, managers, staff, and of course, fellow bloggers.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
Miang Kum at Sugar and Spice Thai (@sugarspicethai). Served in small woven baskets, fresh thong-lang leaves are topped with roasted shaved coconut, crispy chicken, shallot, peanut, ginger, lime, fresh chili, dried shrimp, and caramelized tamarind sauce. Heaven in each bite.
Lamb Gongura at Bheema’s Indian Cuisine. The best South Indian dish in Greater Boston! It consists of a spice and tangy curry made of Gongura or sorrel leaves. Their Chicken 65 is also on-point!
But Make it Spicy Chicken Sandwich at CGK (@crazygoodkitchen_). It’s hard to imagine a chicken sandwich knocking your socks off, but this one does just that. Make sure to get the Peanut Butter Slide shake, though you probably can’t finish both in one meal.
Shrimp and Grits at Atlantic Fish Company (@atlanticfishbos). Chef Dan Billo is amazing and these are the best buttery lemony shrimps and grits we’ve ever had. Atlantic Fish Company is one of our favorite places for seafood.
Dry Hot Pot at Mala Restaurant in Allston.You can pick your favorite protein and vegetables and they’ll cook them in a flavorful broth until all the broth gets soaked up. Our favorite combination is fish fillet, lotus, enoki mushrooms, and potatoes. EXTRA SPICY!
What do you think is on the horizon for restaurants?
We see more restaurants preparing authentic international cuisines without altering them to appeal to a broader audience or conservative palette. We love that! As part of that trend, we hope to see more authentic South Asian options in Boston along the lines of NYC. Selfishly, we also like that restaurants are aware of the power of Instagram and are paying close attention to interiors and food presentation. A beautiful setting and aesthetic plating makes taking good photos so much easier!
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
Ken Oringer of Toro, Uni, Little Donkey, Coppa, and Ghost King Thai is massively creative. He is continually elevating the Boston food scene with unique creations! His newest concoction – Spicy Fried Thai Chicken at @ghostkingthai – is what spicy dreams are made of!
Ana Sortun of Oleana, Sarma, and Sofra brought Middle Eastern fusion cuisine to Boston over a decade ago. We fell in love with her food then and continue to be inspired by her “inventions” every time we visit one of her restaurants.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
Armani from @forkingwitharmani takes unbelievable photos. The way he is able to manipulate light and angles is truly impressive. Sometimes we cannot believe his photos are from a phone, but they are! We have witnessed him in action.
Lena from @lena_zhurkina based in Russia has a hauntingly beautiful feed. Each photo is dark yet whimsical. The photography and styling are breathtaking.
When we cook at home, we always go back to @myheartbeets by Ashley Singh. She has the easiest and tastiest instant pot recipes, especially for South Asian food!
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Expanding. Diversifying. Accessible.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
Our approach to food photography is a mix of techniques from landscape and portrait photography. In landscape photography Ketan developed his taste for balanced compositions and bold, but never oversaturated colors. With portrait photography he learned the importance of strobes to control the look of the image and overcome challenging location lighting. Meher brings an exacting sense of style and arrangement to every image and together we create the images. Honestly, we are also learning more and improving as we go forward. There is a big difference between how we were shooting 18 months ago and today.
Our tips can help someone who wants to use professional equipment and give their images a different look. On the camera vs. lens side, you should focus on the lens as most cameras can do the job. A good starting point is a 35mm lens that focuses close; it will do great for individual items and flatlays while giving a different look from what smartphones currently produce. For lighting, always use diffusion or bounce the light off a white surface. With some basic equipment you can make a table at the back of the restaurant look like the one next to the window.
Favorite brunch spot: Rosa Mexicano for their Huevos Rosa and build-your-own mimosa bar.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Barcelona Wine Bar in Brookline is quintessential Boston with brownstones surrounding the mbTa right next to the patio.
Favorite Pizza joint: CIAO! Pizza & Pasta for every single pizza on their menu and the best bolognese in Boston!
Favorite neighborhood for food: Allston has amazing Asian (spicy) options & Back Bay has such a fun vibe.
Favorite new restaurant: Mahaniyom for authentic Thai tapas, but also the Malai Daiquiri which is our favorite cocktail in Boston!
Favorite new restaurant innovation: Cobble. They have multiple themed spaces each big enough for one party and each with a different vibe!
Meet The Tastemakers is a monthly column that shares the stories of those contributing to the conversation on Boston’s food scene.