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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

White Jasmine Brings Pakistani Cuisine to the States

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As one of the planet’s most ethnically diverse nations, America is an ideal habitat for adventurous foodies. Immigrants who share their cultures’ culinary customs add another dimension to our country’s mosaic and offer the rest of us an opportunity to expand our palates. For Huma Siddiqui, food became an anchor to her native Pakistan when she was uprooted from her home, first to Africa, then Europe, and finally to Mount Horeb, Wis., where she still lives. As president of White Jasmine, a Madison-based business that revolves around Pakistani cuisine, Siddiqui now uses food to bridge cultures. White Jasmine recently blended Wisconsin’s most celebrated export, cheese, with flavors and spices rooted in the Pakistani tradition.

When Siddiqui first arrived in the States, she was struck by the absence of spices in the foods she ate. Longing to recreate the warmth she felt when preparing and serving the dishes of her homeland, Siddiqui began to teach hands-on Pakistani cooking classes as a hobby.

“I realized a lot of people like spices and flavor,” Siddiqui says. “They just don’t know how to use them.”

Siddiqui began to instruct eager cooks on how to create her country’s specialty dishes—think samosas served with creamy raita, sajji chicken with fire-roasted tomatoes and garlic, and rasmalai, a traditional dessert made with ricotta cheese, milk and almonds— at Madison-area food stores, such as Orange Tree Imports and Whole Foods.

In 2004, the mother of two launched a website that introduced her line of wonderfully rich, compelling spice blends, as well as Jasmine in Her Hair, a book she wrote about family traditions, culture and food of Pakistan. White Jasmine also began appearing at local food events, like the Madison Food & Wine Show. This fall, Siddiqui will be teaching spice seminars and cooking classes at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Orlando, Fla., a six-week international food experience that attracts food and wine lovers worldwide.

Siddiqui’s son, Samir Karimi, has joined the family business and serves as vice president of sales and executive producer of “White Jasmine Everyday Cooking,” a weekly cooking show hosted by Siddiqui. Siddiqui debunks the culinary myth that Pakistani cooking is tricky and time consuming by teaching viewers how to make simple dishes brimming with flavor. The show airs in Madison, but can also be found in DVD format on White Jasmine’s website.

White Jasmine recently partnered with Meister Cheese Co. of Muscoda, Wis., to create three different types of rBGH-free specialty cheese infused with Siddiqui’s signature spices: cumin gouda, tandoori gouda and sajji BBQ gouda.

“We tried different cheeses to taste how the spices held to the different flavors and styles,” Siddiqui explains. “Gouda became our favorite right away because it is so creamy; it has a subtle taste, and it melts very well, making it great for cooking.”

White Jasmine cheeses can be found at Metcalfe’s Market in Wauwatosa, as well as Grasch Foods and Sendik’s in Brookfield. They will be available soon at Outpost stores, Whole Foods and other Sendik’s grocery stores in the area.

Here is a Huma Siddiqui original recipe that blends an American classic with a Pakistani twist:

Turkey Burgers

2 pounds ground turkey

4 teaspoons garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons White Jasmine Tandoori Masala

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cilantro, chopped

8 slices White Jasmine Tandoori Gouda

8 hamburger buns

8 slices of tomatoes

Lettuce leaves

Red onions, sliced

Mix the first six ingredients together and make eight patties. Heat up a skillet on the stove top. Place the patties on the hot skillet. Let it cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes and turn it once. Cook the other side for 3-4 minutes. Place the cheese slices on top of each patty and cover the skillet for 2-3 minutes so the cheese melts. Serve on a bun with lettuce, tomatoes and red onion slices or any other favorite toppings.

For more information on White Jasmine, visit www.whitejasmine.com or call toll-free (866) 421-8117.