Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star
As one of the November visits, the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors also stopped in to the Silk Road Experience’s kitchen located inside the former Sancho’s Bar & Grill. Pictured in front and center is employee Vanessa Alldredge, on left, along with owners Merri and Farrukh Nadeem.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – The Silk Road Experience offers tantalizing Pakistani foods made from recipes handed down through the generations all the while opening our minds and palates to a whole new world of culinary delights.
“We found Silk Road early on in their endeavor and we have been consistently pleased,” said Shelley Hagans-Brown, “The flavors are amazing and the Silk Road is as good, if not better, than the ‘big city’ Pakistani food. We are so grateful they are in Hot Springs.”
The name is derived from the ancient Silk Road trade route connecting China to the west, a route that carried goods and silk along its 4,000 miles, from east to west. Along this route travelers would find thousands of miles of traditional foods; foods that varied from country to country but with one thing in common, exotic tastes and essences.
Creating Silk Road foods is not only a science, but also an art.
“I just love watching him create,” said Merri Nadeem of her husband Farrukh’s culinary skills, “the crushing and blending of the spices, the whole process; it’s like alchemy in the kitchen.”
Having never tried Pakistani food prior to meeting Farrukh, Merri was happily surprised at the taste, texture and aromas of the exotic foods.
Farrukh began his culinary journey while in college as he learned to cook for himself. Influenced by his friends and roommates from places such as Nepal and Bangladesh, Farrukh began combining the richness of other areas into his own. This process gave Farrukh a “great base foundation” for his future creations.
Soon the two began to create mouth-watering meals together.
“Some of the best times we have together is when we are cooking together,” said Merri, loving the changing recipes and the constant and delicious delight the food brings to not only her but to their friends and family; the very same people who urged the couple to share their talents with the world.
While the thought of opening a restaurant had crossed both their minds many times, the process to do such a thing seemed to be a daunting undertaking and a distant dream.
However, with that thought still in the back of Farrukh’s mind, he began reaching out to his mother back home in Pakistan for her special secret family recipes.
A move to Hot Springs in 2020 was the impetus to a new journey for the couple.
“There is something about this town that pulled me here,” said Farrukh.
Both made friends quickly in Hot Springs and were once again told their food should be available to the public.
They took their small savings and jumped in with two feet and the Silk Road Experience was born.
What began in August as a small internet-based food delivery, quickly morphed into a hopping and much desired meal service.
The Silk Road Experience’s first platter offered chicken curry, Pakora, chutney, rice and naan, and the orders were coming in.
“I couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” exclaimed Merri, “we had 15 orders!” The couple was so excited to see the delight their food brought to the community
Each authentic combination platter offers a two main dishes, chutney, rice, dessert and naan.
“One of our customers refers to our chutney as Pakistani ranch,” laughed Merri, “but everyone loves it.” Customers liked it so much they began ordering extra with their meals, and eventually the couple began to sell pint jars of their signature chutney.
It wasn’t long before the couple knew they had grown too large for their small kitchen and had to create a business plan, obtain a license, and have access to a certified kitchen.
Within two months they were up and running using the former Sancho’s Bar & Grill commercial kitchen, at 237 N. River Street, as their “ghost kitchen” for their online restaurant.
Orders are now taken once per week, with new secret recipes created weekly, so they know just how much product to buy, trying to purchase locally as much as they can.
While the whole whirlwind adventure has had its difficulties, they both welcome the challenges.
“Challenges can be fun,” said Merri.
With an MBA in business, Farrukh had always dreamed of owning his own business. That dream now includes the possibility of owning their own restaurant.
“We are always thinking out-of-the-box and looking at ways to grow and expand,” said Merri, yet never forgetting their roots and their family and friends who helped make this dream possible.