Proving that anyone can fulfill a life’s dream, Rokhsana Siddiqui has opened a tiny eatery called Sid’s Kitchen. Tucked away in the rear of the Indian grocery store, Pooja Spices on Sunset Park Drive in Herndon, the kitchen—which offers a few seats and carryout—would be easy to miss except for the out-front sign announcing “Sid’s Kitchen.”
Despite its diminutive size and almost-hidden location, apparently Mrs. Siddiqui’s kitchen talents have been drawing both friends and members of the local Bengali-Bangladeshi community to the restaurant. “A lot of people, Bangladeshi, Pakistani talk about my cooking,” she says, adding that she had been catering for friends’ parties for several years.
“Cooking has been a hobby for years,” she says. “My kids love to eat different kinds of food, so I take recipes from all over and put my spin and spice on them. Then cooking became a passion.”
And if Sid’s Kitchen carries out one of her dreams, it also completes that of Mr. Siddiqui’s as well. “My husband has always loved cooking, and loved the restaurant business,” she says. “This restaurant was his dream. And I thought, ‘Well, OK. I love to cook,’ so that is how it started.”
The pair share the responsibilities: “My husband is very good at European cooking, because he used to live in Germany and worked in a restaurant there for five years,” she says. “I do all the cooking,” adding that he helps with the scrubbing, shopping, and clean up.
And because Mrs. Siddiqui plays with flavors, her husband thought that some of the offerings should be considered fusion cooking—such as the recipe for Mughlai Paratha (below), which some patrons might liken to a stuffed pizza with exotic flavors. “It is a bread that is stuffed with either egg, chicken, or beef and pan-fried,” she says. “This is a very famous dish back home, like a snack. People like to eat it between lunch and dinner and some even like it for breakfast.”
That fusion concept seems to be a draw for Westerners as well. “Westerners really like the food a lot,” she says. “They come in expecting typical Indian food, but when they try mine it is a little different. Not so may spices, butter, or oil... people have commented that it does taste different...I don’t want to cook typical Indian food.”
Now after a year in business, Mrs. Siddiqui says that she and her husband find that the most popular dishes, at least among her Bangladeshi and Bengali patrons, is a typical Bangaldeshi fashion called ruhu dopiaza, a carp cooked with oion, garlic, ginger, and a special house sauce. The second most requested dish is hilsha, which is shad prepared with garlic, ginger, and special house spices in a ground mustard sauce. Sid’s Kitchen’s menu—very lengthy for such a tiny kitchen setting— also lists various vegetarian and goat-based offerings. “People eat goat because it is leaner than lamb,” she says. But that’s not all: somehow, Mrs. Siddiqui manages to whip up such kid- and Westerner-friendly fare as French toast, burger and fried, fish tacos, and a gyro pizza. This place is a tiny treasure.
And why the name “Sid”? Of course, it’s a tribute to Mr. Siddiqui and his family.
Mughlai Paratha (stuffed bread) Recipe:
This is a popular stuffed-bread snack food. This recipe serves 2.
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil plus extra for panfrying the paratha
½ cup ground beef or chicken
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 pinch ground cumin
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
6 green Thai chilies, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
2 tablespoons finely chopped cucumber
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Ghee (optional)
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat, and panfry the ground beef or chicken with garlic paste, ginger paste, ground cumin, and salt. Set the meat aside to cool.
Prepare paratha dough: combine the flour, 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and enough water to form a dough. Knead all together until smooth. Cut the dough in half to form 2 pieces.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough. Rub some vegetable oil on the dough so that it won’t stick. Roll out the dough until it is very thin, taking care not to tear the dough. You can also help spread the dough with your fingers.
Spread half of the prepared cool meat on the middle of the dough. Add 1 tablespoons red onion, 2 green chilies, and one-third of the cilantro leaves on the middle of the dough. Spread out the stuffing to make a hole for the egg. Break the egg onto the top of the filling, and carefully fold the dough around the filling into a square shape, one side at a time. This seals in the egg and stuffing. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
In a skillet heat more oil and the ghee to deep-fry the wraps, making sure that all surfaces turn golden. Remove from the heat with a slotted spoon. Make a salad with the remaining onion, cilantro leaves, chilies and the tomatoes and cucumbers. Season this with salt and vinegar, as desired. Serve hot.