Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 27, 2014 - 9:31 am

A taste of Bengal in Nunavut: home restaurant offers Indian-style food

CamBay couple offer kormas, curries and other East Asian delights

JANE GEORGE
Come into the Cambridge Bay kitchen of Salma Easmin where she prepares a variety of tasty Indian-inspire dishes for take-out. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Come into the Cambridge Bay kitchen of Salma Easmin where she prepares a variety of tasty Indian-inspire dishes for take-out. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Chicken korma and tuna patties are among the many dishes, seen here, which you can order from Salma's Kitchen in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Chicken korma and tuna patties are among the many dishes, seen here, which you can order from Salma's Kitchen in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
A warm welcome, good food: Salma Easmin and her husband, Mustafa Azmal, stand next to a table spread with some of the dishes they offer for take-out in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
A warm welcome, good food: Salma Easmin and her husband, Mustafa Azmal, stand next to a table spread with some of the dishes they offer for take-out in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY — As the days get shorter and colder in Cambridge Bay, people in this western Nunavut community can keep warm with tasty food from a warmer climate.

That’s because they can now order Bangladeshi takeout dishes from Salma’s Kitchen.

Open for a few months now, Nunavut’s first Indian-inspired restaurant is located in the apartment home of Salma Easmin and her husband, Mustafa Azmal.

Once part of the Indian empire’s Bengal region, Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971 after a war of independence against Pakistan.

And the restaurant’s take-out menu includes classic dishes found in Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine such korma — meat braised in a creamy sauce made with yogurt, cream and a seed paste — and spicy chickpea soup.

Korma chicken and the soup manage to feel smooth and warm — but not too hot — at the same time.

The secret to these dishes is the traditional South Asian mix of spices such as cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger and onion, Easmin said.

Easmin arrived in Canada in 2009 from Bangladesh — living first in Montreal. There she learned French, earned a certificate in home childcare and worked for a time as a seamstress in a garment factory.

But Easmin, one of seven sisters, had studied cooking in her home country and after she and her husband Azmal arrived at Cambridge Bay in February 2013 amidst -55 C temperatures, they decided to open the territory’s first Indian restaurant.

They now face challenges unique to Nunavut.

First, there are the food staples which they say are “hard and expensive to buy.” Then there is the selection of spices — these are “impossible” to find. And finally, “local people have different tastes.”

Yet there are nonetheless many familiar and budget-friendly dishes on the menu: fried chicken ($12), spring rolls (two for $4), grilled beef or tuna sandwiches ($5) and vegetable fried rice ($6) — all sold “at prices no higher than in the South,” Azmal said.

Lunch and dinner boxes ($20) can include rice and egg curry, along with chicken, beef or shrimp korma.

A breakfast box ($10) consists of a hearty-looking Mughlai paratha — bread with a filling of red kidney beans, meat, or paneer cheese, a stuffed pari dumpling and a spring roll.

Regardless of whether they’re familiar with Indian cuisine, everyone in Cambridge Bay is welcoming, say the couple, who plan on putting down roots in the town.

Azmal, who arrived in Canada in 2003, is now a Canadian citizen.

He works as an engineer and project manager with Nunavut’s Community and Government Services department, while Easmin recently started to work as an educator at the Cambridge Bay child care centre.

Before opening their take-out, the couple applied for a home business license from the hamlet, which costs $250, and took certified food preparation and safety courses. 

Now they’re looking forward to the day when they can open a restaurant which would offer table service.

For now, the take-out is available by order in the evenings and on weekends.

To reach Salma’s Kitchen,  go to their new Facebook page or send a text to 514-932-7549 or 438-821-4782.

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