MISSOULA — There aren’t many opportunities to enjoy Pakistani food here in Missoula - in fact there are none - but one UM alum is trying to change that.
"I think it started with the whole idea of bringing my culture to Missoula," Zeera Food Truck creator Zohair Bajwa said. Bajwa is currently crowdfunding his dream of bringing Pakistani food to Missoula.
There weren’t any options for Pakistani food when Bajwa began attending the University of Montana about a decade ago so he started making it himself and when friends loved the food too he had an idea.
"It was very encouraging to see friends asking hey whens the next time you are going to make food and when can we come over. Just for the cultural aspect guests are always welcome so it was another chance to share my culture," Bajwa said.
So Zohair is looking to start with a food truck named 'Zeera' which will offer a number of dishes. "Predominantly we will be serving curry style chicken lentils for vegetarian options. Samosas are becoming popular here in Montana," Bajwa added.
Currently, Bajwa is crowdfunding to start the food truck and while a first campaign didn’t raise all the money needed, it was promising enough to hope a second will complete the goal.
"We just got done with our timeline for the fundraiser. It’s a website called Indiegogo. So we are done with the first phase and unfortunately didn’t hit the goal but I have recently just started part two of that specifically to match what we have already raised," Bajwa added.
Among the initial offerings he plans to serve:
Chicken Karahi: traditionally cooked in a wok with tomatoes and spices, simmered to a thick sauce. Served best with naan and kachumar* (keto-friendly)
Daal: orange lentils perfectly cooked to a stew-like consistency. Prepared with spices and served best over rice or naan (vegan, vegetarian friendly)
Samosa: everyone knows about these delicious, fried concoctions!
Paratha Rolls: a traditional grab-and-go street food from Pakistan. Chicken or vegetables cooked in spices, mixed with kachumar*, mint and tamarind chutneys, wrapped in a crispy paratha (fry bread).
Shakar Qandi: My wife’s favorite snack in Lahore! Sweet potato mixed with freshly squeezed orange and spices. Traditionally served over newspaper (we won’t be doing that here, obviously – hello health code violation), and toothpicks.
*Kachumar: sliced raw onions, raw tomatoes mixed with fresh lemon/lime juice, cilantro, salt and black pepper. A perfect accompaniment to any of the above-listed meals.
Chutneys: Spicy mint chutney and a sweet and tangy tamarind chutney.
Bajwa currently cooks Pakistani food for his friends, family, and for Soft Landings Missoula fundraising events.