Meet The Indian-Origin Couple Behind Maine’s Oldest Indian Restaurant

Situated within the northeastern nook of america, Maine is understood for its scenic countryside, rocky shoreline, sandy seashores, maritime historical past and its lighthouses. It additionally homes the spectacular islands of the Acadia Nationwide Park. Yearly, hundreds of vacationers flock to New England’s northernmost state, and as soon as amongst them had been Bina and Raj Sharma.

Within the early 90s, when the couple went on a trip to the area, they immediately fell in love with its coastal attraction a lot so {that a} yr later they relocated from Europe to the state. “It’s a very lovely place. Right here, one feels secure and peaceable,” Bina tells The Higher India.

After relocating, the Indian-origin couple noticed that their new residence didn’t have any Indian eating places. “On the time, the inhabitants in Maine was under no circumstances various and  immigrants, particularly from India, had been far and few in between” she says.

Over the years, the Sharmas were able to make Maine fall in love with their culinary delights.
Over time, the Sharmas had been in a position to make Maine fall in love with their culinary delights.

Right this moment, the couple runs ‘Bombay Mahal’ in Brunswick metropolis to convey range to Maine’s worldwide meals scene which lacked it. Being Punjabi, the couple launched a North Indian menu and supplied staple tandoori dishes akin to tandoori rooster, naan, butter rooster, saag paneer, and far more to the individuals in Maine.

As soon as scared to strive Indian meals, as we speak Bina and Raj welcome lots of of native prospects from Maine, in addition to Canada, Asia, the Center East, and Africa.

From seafood to aloo paratha, kulcha and lassi

Whereas Bina was born and raised in Kenya to an immigrant Punjabi household, Raj was born in Punjab and raised by his Kenyan mom and father from present-day Pakistan. After finishing his culinary research on the age of twenty-two, Raj left India to work in Europe throughout eating places in Holland, Italy, France, and Germany.

Raj and Bina have been able to gain admiration for their Indian roots in Maine.
Raj and Bina have been in a position to acquire admiration for his or her Indian roots in Maine.

With about twenty years of expertise within the meals trade, Raj got down to set up Bombay Mahal in 1991. Throughout the identical time, the couple determined to get married. This yr, they celebrated their fortieth marriage anniversary. 

With Bombay Mahal, the couple affords a minimum of 70 sorts of Indian meals together with pakora, samosa, rikki tikki tavi, 11 sorts of breads like peshawari naan, keema naan, onion kulcha, aloo paratha, moghalai butter rooster, saag paneer, gulab jamun, and Punjab’s most beloved – lassi.

“Maine is understood for its seafood and native components. So, we additionally experimented with native and localised specials, providing dishes like lobster tikka masala, pumpkin curry, and blueberry lassi,” Bina elaborates.

“We’ve got used a number of worldwide and native suppliers through the years for not solely the supply of native produce but additionally for the Indian and Asian spices for all our curries and menu gadgets,” she provides.

When Maine skilled the Indian hospitality

The couple says that folks in Maine had by no means tasted Indian meals they usually feared the meals to be too spicy. In truth, earlier than coming into the restaurant, prospects even researched concerning the dishes they supplied, the tactic of preparation and even the kinds of spices used.

Over time, the Sharmas had been in a position to make Maine fall in love with their culinary delights and the distinctive flavours that they supplied. Regardless of being hundreds of kilometres away from their nations of origin, Raj and Bina have been in a position to acquire admiration for his or her Indian roots in Maine.

“Throughout our peak summertime season, we get lots of of individuals coming out and in of the eating room. We’ve got had individuals from everywhere in the world come to Bombay Mahal as they’re on vacation going to Acadia Nationwide Park, and even driving from Portland particularly to return to strive our meals,” says Bina.

Right this moment, they’ve additionally catered quite a few Indian and American weddings and occasions. Speaking about introducing Maine to Indian delicacies, Raj tells The Higher India, “Once we opened, our visitors liked studying about India. They might take pleasure in listening to Indian music, its art work, and cuisines.”

Once scared to try Indian food, today hundreds of local customers from Maine relish food at Bombay Mahal.
As soon as scared to strive Indian meals, as we speak lots of of native prospects from Maine relish meals at Bombay Mahal.

“Folks right here embraced our meals proper from the beginning and had been very eager to be taught extra about India and our tradition. In addition they requested how they might make a few of these meals at residence. They might inform their associates about it and maintain coming again,” he provides.

The couple provides that they’ve had diners from three generations who not solely relish meals at Bombay Mahal but additionally convey their grandkids to strive Indian meals for the primary time.

Bombay Mahal has received an America’s Greatest Enterprise Award and voted the Greatest Indian and Worldwide Restaurant in Maine. Right this moment, it’s the oldest operating Indian restaurant within the state.

Aside from Bombay Mahal, the couple opened their first Indian restaurant in 1990 with immense success referred to as the ‘Style of India’ in Bangor and ‘Tandoor’ in Portland’s historic Previous Port, which they offered in a couple of years.

“All of them had been vastly profitable and are nonetheless operating. We’ve got heard quite a few instances that Bombay Mahal and our different two eating places had been the primary locations the place locals tried Indian meals for the primary time ever of their lives,” says Raj.

“Being within the hospitality and restaurant commerce all these years, it’s a must to love coping with individuals and making your prospects really feel welcomed. Indian hospitality is essential to us and the way we make our visitors really feel. We’re very grateful for the love and the lengthy standing loyalty Bombay Mahal has had right here in America,” he provides.

After Maine, the couple plans to develop their presence in Europe, Florida, and again residence in India.

Edited by Padmashree Pande. All pictures: Bombay Mahal.

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