ELLINGTON – North-central Connecticut has a robust Indian community, and with the people comes culture and food. At Flavors of Nawab on West Road, owner Fayaz Uddian Mohammad, along with chef Saykher Singh, bring authentic Indian recipes straight from India and have also created what Singh calls Indo-American cuisine.
“I’m a foodie,” said Singh, who enjoys experimenting with various cuisines, like crossing Italian ingredients with Indian ingredients.
Although India is not known for its cheese, Singh took the traditional Indian bread, naan, and, inspired by pizza, filled it with cheddar and mozzarella cheese, adding Thai chili peppers inside. to give it a lot of spice.
Flavors of Nawab opened in July 2019 with Mohammad pursuing his dream of being an entrepreneur.
“I had a passion for food,” he said. “I used to cook at home for all parties.”
To fund his catering business, Mohammad still works as an IT project manager at the Hartford, working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the day, then tending the restaurant in the evening.
Mohammad’s dream almost didn’t take off as the COVID-19 pandemic almost immediately shuttered his home.
“I started three months before COVID,” he said. “The government has provided very little support. I had to cut a lot of staff and work two jobs. It was hard. I had to fire a lot of people.
By keeping his job at the Hartford and adapting the restaurant’s services to include delivery, takeout and, once allowed, tables outside, he was able to keep the doors open.
“There were a lot of challenges,” he said.
For Singh, it continues a legacy.
“It was my family business,” he said, adding that his father and two uncles are chefs in his hometown of Kushinagar.
Mohammad said Flavors of Nawab offers dishes from all parts of India, but its main focus is on Hyderabadi cuisine. Hyderabadi in the south-central part of the country is where the Nawabs ruled, he said.
A hereditary regional monarchy, the Nawabs reigned for about 200 years, from the beginning of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century.
The Nawabs, Mohammad said, were responsible for introducing biryani to the region, a popular dish at Flavors of Nawab. It is a fragrant basmati rice dish offered with a choice of protein, with spices, herbs, yogurt and saffron.
It doesn’t have too much spice, Singh said, but enough to give it a rich aroma.
Flavors of Nawab’s recipes were collected from Singh’s Indian recipes and his own experiences, as well as Mohammad’s wife.
Besides biryani, there are several other popular dishes, such as Chicken 65, a bite-sized dish of fried chicken marinated with Indian spices, fried and tossed with sauces.
“We say it has 65 flavors,” Mohammad said.
The most popular dish, Mohammad said, especially with British-American guests, is Chicken Tikka Masala.
He said there are many other delicious dishes available in varying degrees of spiciness.
“If they like spicy food,” he said, he suggests certain chicken, mutton or lamb dishes like curry or Rogan Josh.
“If they don’t like spicy food or are vegetarians, I recommend Shahi Paneer, Navratan Khorma or Malai Khofta,” he said.
“I prefer the middle,” he said. ” It’s a question of taste. Some people like it hotter because they think it’s bland. Some people like sweetness. Most people go average.
He said middle is best.
“That’s where you can appreciate the flavor,” he said. “It accumulates in the back.”
For the future of Flavors of Nawab, Mohammad said he would like to expand the venue, open a party hall and offer catered events. He also said he would like to be a franchisee.
“There are restaurants that have franchised,” he said. “We have to establish ourselves first.”