Q&A: Amanda Khan, Cooking With Miss Khan

Minneapolis native Amanda Khan is quickly growing her food fan base by offering up unique dishes via the food sharing app, Homemade. With her family's roots in Guyana and India, Khan cooks dishes you can't find anywhere else in Minneapolis. 

Eat.Drink.Dish.MPLS sat down with Khan to find out more about her inspiration and passion to start Cooking With Miss Khan. Here's the scoop!

 

EAT.DRINK.DISH.MPLS: Let’s start at the beginning here. When did you first learn to cook?  

AMANDA KHAN, OF COOKING WITH MISS KHAN

AMANDA KHAN, OF COOKING WITH MISS KHAN

AMANDA KHAN: I learned to start cooking with my mom, when I was very young. She kind of dominated the kitchen and it was her scene. She’d allow me to enter and do little things like chop up onions and things like that. But I’ve always been interested in cooking and food. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to learn from my mom until later in life. I started from a very young age, like peaking over the counter tops and watching my mom with her knife. She’s always been such a flawless cook. She’d cook 3 meals a day—I was homeschooled—and she had 8 kids. I don’t know how she did it!

 

Cooking—it’s like an art. You have to cook with feeling and love. I know right now that if I cook alongside my mom, and we’ll try to cook a staple in our culture, which is curry—and I’ll literally cook alongside her and do everything that she does and it’ll still come out different. And not as good as my mom’s! That’s why I’m convinced it’s a certain love, or something. Maybe it’s just your soul that goes into the cooking.

EDD: That’s wonderful! Have you always learned on your own? Did you take classes or anything?

AK: The only formal class I’ve ever taken was Home Ec in high school. Everything else was self-taught, or mother-taught. I’ve been cooking a lot and I love to host dinner parties. I love to get my practice in and [friends] were like, ‘You are pretty good at this!’ And I make our cultural food too, which [my friends] had never had, because it’s not a genre, at all—not here in Minneapolis.

EDD: Have you ever thought about cooking in a restaurant? Or do you enjoy being on your own?

AK: I have thought about interning in a restaurant or something because I don’t know how to cook for a large group in a restaurant setting. I know how to cook for a large group, though. Growing up in my house there was a group of ten people—minimum! It has only expanded with wives and nephews coming into the picture. Just a few years ago we cooked for my brother’s wedding and we cooked for 500 people. We catered for the event and there was food leftover and it was amazing! 

 

EDD: So how did you come across the food sharing community, like Homemade?

THREE CHUTNEYS: TOMATO CILANTRO, CUCUMBER LEMON, MANGO HABANERO - PHOTO BY AMANDA KHAN

THREE CHUTNEYS: TOMATO CILANTRO, CUCUMBER LEMON, MANGO HABANERO - PHOTO BY AMANDA KHAN

AK: I’ve always had it in the back of my head that we have really good food and culture to offer people that is just unknown here. So how would I do it? I’m Indian, but my parents were born in Guyana, which is different because it’s a bunch of Indian people in Guyana… So I have a South American, like Caribbean influence and then an Indian influence, so it’s like a fusion already, of foods and cultures… music. It’s unique in that sense that it’s not just Indian and not just Caribbean, it’s both… So how can I introduce this [here in Minneapolis]?

So I came across this app when I was reading on a food blog. And I thought, this could be it! This could be my ticket in! So I wanted to get the word out to Minnesotans everywhere, not only to try my food but also because now they have a platform to offer their food. It’s different in the sense that, if you have your grandma’s secret recipe, or your mom’s, and it’s just so fantastic, now you have a platform to offer that on. And they have a platform to buy it! It’s not offered in all of the restaurants. 


EDD: Exactly, it’s something special!

AK: It fills a niche of homemade cooking that is not here, at all. While I do want to eventually start my own restaurant, I want to keep that traditional way of making food, and keeping it homemade—I think we’re always going to prepare it in a big old pot!

Sharing is very trendy right now! There’s something comforting about that, in that it could be your neighbor, or someone you know. I am sharing something personally from my home, to you. And I’m all about that!

EDD: So what are some of your favorite things to make for people? Or, on the other end of that, what are the more challenging things to make?

AK: I would say that curry is my favorite thing to make and share with everyone because it’s impossible for me to wrap my head around the fact that you don’t like curry. Sometimes people will say that to me and I’ll be like, what?! You just haven’t had the right curry. I need you to try this curry and then tell me if you like it or not. I have converted some people… so that’s my favorite thing to make people. It’s also the best thing—I swear if you puncture my veins right now, curry will come out, not blood.


BEEF CURRY WITH POTATOES - PHOTO BY KIM LY CURRY

BEEF CURRY WITH POTATOES - PHOTO BY KIM LY CURRY

EDD: So what about the things that take more preparation? More time?

AK: There’s a lot of work that goes into everything because it’s all from scratch but nothing that takes too long, beyond your normal standard. Guyana is an underdeveloped country, so the foods that come from there are simple but complicated foods. For example, curry. Curry is simple—it’s curry sauce, and potatoes and whatever your protein is. But in that curry sauce there’s at least like, ten different spices with your masala and curry powder. The complicated part of that is toasting your own masala and grinding it up and making it from scratch. But the actual dish itself, when you put it together isn’t really that complicated. 

STEW CHICKEN AND ROTI - PHOTO BY AMANDA KHAN

STEW CHICKEN AND ROTI - PHOTO BY AMANDA KHAN

EDD: So you mentioned earlier your family’s influence on your cooking. Tell me more about that.

AK: So I am a first generation here; I was born in Minneapolis but my parents are from Guyana, my great grandparents are from India. There’s no record of my family coming from India to Guyana. So history from that type of setting, in underdeveloped countries everywhere, is what your parents tell you verbally. You just remember it and share it with your kids. And that’s how our history has been. So we have dedicated holidays when we are all together and we sit down and record, and do an oral history... It’s the same thing with our food and even our language. Growing up here, I lost the language… with that, I have lost a piece of our history and our culture. So pretty much the only thing I have of my parents, to maintain our history is our food. 

So when I cook, I’m not only sharing my culture with you, but I am hanging onto a history and a culture I don’t want to go away, that I don’t want to get lost. It’s important to me.

 

EDD: All right, with anything you want, fill in the blank: I Eat.Drink.Dish._______

AK: I want to say curry! I Eat.Drink.Dish. Curry. 

 

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Headshot photo by Lauren Cutshall

Top photo,  Beef Chow Mein Guyanese Style, by Polly Photography