Coconut Love

The Curry Pot brings a taste of Sri Lanka to Tucson.

July 10, 2017

GleaningsIssue 25: July/August 2017

When Amjaad and Shuhana Jhan realized that they couldn’t find Sri Lankan food within 500 miles of Tucson, they didn’t plan a family road trip—the husband and wife duo brought Sri Lankan food to Tucson. The Curry Pot, a food truck specializing in Sri Lankan cuisine, began with a desire to bring their young family and the people of Tucson together around the food of their native country.

When Amjaad emigrated to Los Angeles in the mid-’90s, he got a job at Trader Joe’s. Eventually he and Shuhana decided to move to Tucson so that they could be close to her parents, and Amjaar continued working for Trader Joe’s. When their only son, Amir, was born, Amjaad moved into a management position and found himself working 50-60 hours a week, often going more than 24 hours without seeing his son. When his own parents passed away, Amjaad got a wakeup call. “The little time I have, I want to spend with my son,” Amjaad said.

From his food truck, Amjaad Jhan serves curries, sambols, and samosas.

While Amir inspired Amjaad to go into business for himself, the small business community in Tucson was also a huge motivating factor behind The Curry Pot. After seeing the success of The Twisted Tandoor, Amjaad realized that there was a market for Indian food in Tucson. When Amjaad’s former Trader Joe’s coworker Scott Safford opened Tap and Bottle with his wife, Rebecca Safford, Amjaad felt ready to take the plunge. “They were one of the inspirations for me to venture out,” Amjaad said of the Saffords.

The Jhans decided to start with a food truck to broaden their impact and enable them to bring Sri Lankan food to people who aren’t familiar with it. Spices differentiate Sri Lankan food from Indian food, and the Jhans use a 10-spice blend consisting of coriander, chiles, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, and curry leaves to personalize the food at The Curry Pot. They also use a lot of coconut. “Coconut is a huge part of Sri Lankan cooking,” Amjaad explained. Their curries, vegetable sides, sambols, and samosas all include coconut, whether it’s in the form of coconut oil, milk, or meat. One satisfied customer described their food as the love child of Thai and Indian cuisines.

Although the food at The Curry Pot is distinctive, the Jhans try to cater to all needs. All vegetarian offerings are also vegan and every dish except for the samosas is gluten free. A plate of rice, curry, vegetables, coconut sambol, and papadum costs $8. Add a samosa and a drink and you’re only out $10. “I want prices to be very reasonable because I want people to be able to taste Sri Lankan food and see what it is,” Amjaad said. While the Jhans would love to open a brick and mortar restaurant in the future, for now they’re working to get more people to try Sri Lankan food and build a loyal customer base.

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