Yellowknifers used to go to the Bengali chefs for their food, now the chefs go to Yellowknifers.
Following their successful run at the Yellowknife Farmer’s Market in the summer, K M Safat Rashif and his wife Shamima Fahmida launched the Bengali Chef food delivery and catering service in late February.
While they set up only a few times at the market, their Indian and Bangladeshi offerings were popular enough that they looked into becoming a licensed business.
“People liked it and they asked me to make more of it,” said Rashif. “Then in November we applied for the licence for a home-based catering service.”
First order bigger than expected
Once their food permit and business licence arrived, they served 34 people on Feb. 20, exceeding their expectations for the first set of customers.
“It was awesome,” Rashif said.
The pair work full-time jobs during the week so thus far they make orders just for the weekends.
“We take orders during the week and based on that we deliver or people pick up their orders at our place. People make orders by Friday for the weekend, so we can cook fresh on Saturday morning. Normally we have two dishes at a time, meat and vegetable. There are two of us working on it so we have to do a lot of preparation. I’m really surprised that people like it so much.”
Next Saturday and Sunday are already looking busy. They received a big order of samosas and sweets for a baby shower.
Indian and Bengali offerings
Rashif explained that the cuisines of India and of his homeland Bangladesh aren’t very different. Both cultures eat similar types of curry dishes.
One difference is that Indian dishes tend to make liberal use of panchforan – a five-spice mix of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard and fennel seeds.
“We do that too but we use a little less than that, and we use them separately, not blended together. (But) I was in India for a few months before I came to Canada and there’s not a lot of difference.”
The hottest sellers from the pair are palak paneer (Indian cheese with spinach), malai kofta (potato and Indian cheese dumplings in a creamy tomato-based curry) and tandoori chicken.
Goat rezala – a yogurt-based Bengali curry with cashews and poppy seed paste – is also popular with spice-loving Yellowknifers.
Not even two weeks into their new culinary venture, the couple are considering the possibility of eventually opening a restaurant, depending on how successful the business becomes.
“Let’s see how the response goes and maybe we can grow,” said Rashif. “My wife loves to cook for people and she loves to serve. Her dream is to get into the food business. We started this because people said they like our food.”