She’s Got the Chops- Meet Anika from Neeksomefood

Today’s interview will be discussing the Instagram chef Anika Ahmed of Neeksomefood. Anika specializes in Pakistani home-cooked dishes that are easy to make and 100% delicious. Let’s dive in.

So the name, Neeksomefood, can you tell me more about the inspiration of the name?

Well growing up my friends would call me Neeks and I wanted to incorporate my name into the Instagram handle. Everyone needs some food so I thought it would be a witty twist to combine the two.

Ahh, I love it! That’s so cute. Could you explain to the readers why you decided to start up the Instagram page?

So I started cooking really about a year or two ago. Before that I was cooking with my mom or my in-laws who I was living with at the time. I would FaceTime my mom whenever I had questions about dishes, but I never was able to get the consistency the way I wanted. I searched tutorials on Youtube for Paki dish inspiration but most of the tutorials were spoken in Urdu so that language barrier made it harder for me to fully understand the recipes.

When I started posting recipes on Instagram on my main page I would get a ton of messages asking how I made the dish and if I could share the recipe. So then I decided it would be best to create a whole new page to share recipes for everyone to have. Now they have an outlet on how to cook and even get visuals on how things are supposed to look like.

Right! I love those visuals. I’m wondering as you started off, were there some rocky moments cooking Pakistani dishes and can you share with me a moment?

So there’s this Urdu term, bhoon, which means to mix. And it’s a very crucial step when you’re cooking because it enhances the masala and allows flavors to merge together as you’re cooking. So I’m cooking the dish and it’s not coming out the way I want it. I call up my mom and she’s telling me ‘you’re not bhooning enough, you’ve gotta bhoon!’ She then proceeds to tell me that my arms need to strengthen up. It’s important that all the meats need to be coated and can’t be lazy in the initial prep stages.

I think all Paki moms have these strong biceps for cooking for so long. Next question, The dhum process, can you explain that as well?

The dhum stage is the last 15-20 minues of cooking. You add your finishing garnishes like cilantro or gharam masala, and turn the heat level on low and finish the cooking process. It adds another level of depth to the dish.

Thank you for that! So you mentioned that you started cooking after you got married. How was it, the beginning stages?

You mean cooking something other than a fried egg? It wasn’t the worst, but I did have one experience when I first started living with my in-laws. They asked me to make dinner, a “welcome the family” meal. I thought I would make Chinese food, but it was a disaster. I got the recipe off some blog online and it lacked that restaurant style sesame chicken taste I was looking for. It made me feel like “forget this I am not cut out for this, cooking sucks ect. ect…” But my in-laws still enjoyed it and were really encouraging saying how it takes time and not to worry. From then on I decided to start with Pakistani dishes and once I get comfortable with that I’ll branch out.

So it’s clear you’re getting very comfortable now, what’s your favorite dish to make?

I’d say chicken karahi is my favorite. It’s such an easy meal to make and you already have all the ingredients you need to make it stocked in your spice cabinets.

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What spices should everyone have stocked?

A must that everyone should have is chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, tumeric and salt. Every cabinet should have that. And for the dhum part you would need to have gharam masala.

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Who’s your inspiration for cooking?

My mom would be my biggest inspiration. She cooks amazing and at the end of the day nothing beats a home cooked meal from your mom.

There’s something about a mother’s hand with cooking. It’s funny how they cook so well but they never actually use any measurements. It’s nice that you are able to share exact measurements for us.

Thanks! When I was watching my mom cooking she’d tell me a certain amount of spices and I would write them down quickly so I wouldn’t forget. That’s how I’m able to share the measurements with everyone.

What I especially enjoy about the page is that you’re able to get those visuals when you’re cooking and it’s like you can even smell the food being made. And it’s great how much growth and support you’ve received since starting this account up.

Thank you! It was a side thing for me at first because of everyone was asking me for the recipes. But I didn’t realize how in demand this was. I was getting thank you messages from people that were telling me how they just moved out or they just got married and they really appreciated having this outlet.

I agree with what they’re saying because as a desi cooking novice, I really only cook daal chawal (lentils and rice).

And that’s how I started off too. My mom said it’s the easiest thing one can start off to cook. I think it’s great to try all different sabzi’s (vegetables) and meats when you start to cook desi food. Growing up I wasn’t a picky eater and always preferred desi food over American style. I mean now I’m starting to branch out and cook pasta’s like lasagna, but nothing beats desi khana.

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That’s exactly how I feel, I’m always reaching for spices when I’m eating Italian food. So what is your next steps with Neeksomefood?

Well when I make posts it’s really based off of what I’m interested in making for me and my husband. However I want to try to branch out more and show more variety. I never had chops on my page before so I wanted to have that featured. And I have been getting requests for healthy recipes so I’m going to work on that as well.

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Sounds great! Finally, can you share some words of inspiration for us cooking novices out there?

I would say, have those masalas I said before on hand. Know that it’s going to take practice, and the first time you cook it’s not going to come out perfect. But you’ve just got to accept that and continue further because you’re going to get better from there. Play around with what seasonings work for you so eventually you can grow into your style of cooking. Last I would say start off cooking in smaller portions first until you gain some confidence with you skills. You can always grow further and add more later.

Very inspirational! I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me. All your food looks amazing and I can’t wait to try them out.

 

Follow/Keep up with Anika’s mouthwatering dishes here: https://www.instagram.com/neeksomefood/

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