Owner, Monsoon India, Discovery Bay Center, Waikiki
Where were you born and raised? In Pakistan. I went to London to university and then came to University of Hawaii to finish my engineering degree.
You must have been amazed at the number of Indian restaurants in London. Yes, London, Scotland, Australia … they all have hundreds of Indian food restaurants. Indian food is like the national food of those countries! In the beginning, I wasn’t too familiar with them, but people from all over the world come to the restaurant in Waikiki and they smile when they try our food. They say it talks like at home.
There are a wide variety of pulses and legumes and vegetables used in Indian cooking. Great vegetarian food. Yes, if you are a vegetarian, then Indian food is absolutely the best, most-interesting way to eat. There are so many dishes and so much variety. You can eat a variety of heat and spices in vegetable vindaloo, saag, korma and masala, for example. Every dish we cook also is made with only vegetables.
But Indian food isn’t all vegetarian, right? Correct. In the Punjab region they eat a lot of meat, so we serve many dishes that are meat-based. One of our most popular ways to serve lamb or beef or chicken is kadhai style – that’s with a light, flavorful sauce of bell peppers and onions. It’s a great first dish to try.
A lot of people think of Indian food as just curry, and they base that on Japanese or Thai. How do you explain the difference? There is nothing similar, really, between them. Indian dishes use different spices, they are very complex, they have a different depth of flavor. They are completely different curries.
Did you grow up in the hospitality industry? Not really, but I started working in restaurants before college and I loved it. I came to UH to finish my degree, but I had already realized that cooking – especially this food that I love – and working in restaurants was my passion.
The best part? The interaction with people – being able to talk to customers, tell them about the food, see them enjoy it. In Waikiki you talk to people from all over the world every day.
When you go out to eat, where do you like to go? I love to go to different kinds of places, and go for quality whenever I choose. I like restaurants that serve authentic dishes – Italian food and Thai are favorites. Anything that’s good I am willing to try.
People might want to try your restaurant on Father’s Day? Ae you serving anything special? We’re having a buffet with a number of our most popular dishes – we’ll serve lamb and chicken and beef along with a number of vegetable sides, breads and rice. It’s a great way for people to try many of our dishes all at once.