BOM to HKG to SFO.

The story of Indian Bento starts in Bombay (BOM), jets to Hong Kong (HKG) and touches down in San Francisco (SFO). If you're wondering what's up with the airline franca lingua, dear reader, then read on. It's a Bollywood-style masala with international romance set amidst the eateries and nightspots of San Francisco. Here is Pashmina, the executive chef and owner of Indian Bento.

My name is Pashmina, and I was a first class flight attendant when I moved to SFO. Jetting around the world, sometimes I would think, "If it's Tuesday, it must be London... and Chicken Tikka Masala!" or "Singapore means Laksa and Roti Paratha Canai in Little India!" Every city had variations of Indian cuisine, and when designing our menu, we tease apart the flavors to reveal Bombay street food with curries like Mughlai Tikkas to more fiery Konkani Coconut Curries, to our famous Hot & Sour Lentil Curry, with dashes of Asian flavors thrown in with Malaysian Roti Paratha breads.

I always wanted to bring the effervescent flavors of Bombay food to my new home, San Francisco. I wanted to eat delicious Indian food that would make you feel energetic after your meal, no mean feat. Our food is made with health in mind, using the highest quality foods, heart-healthy cooking techniques, and a balanced menu with both hot and mild spices. When Whole Foods introduced our food to San Francisco - we are sold in 25+ stores from Sonoma to Santa Cruz - we launched Indian Bento.

The unvarnished story of Indian Bento's beginnings comes from a review by my husband, whom I met in San Francisco when jetting in from Hong Kong for 3 glorious days, and the rest, as they say, is history. Our beginnings are told in his words - read on below!



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Vik C.

"How I came to be married to Pashmina of Indian Bento."


"I will tell this tale in a-funny-thing-happened-to-me-on-the-way-to-the-­Sikh-temple kind of theme. Our first meal was at Zuni, which explains why we love going back to that place, and not just for the Cosmopolitans. But, alas, we were in flighty moods and nothing transpired (she was, literally, flighty - a first class flight attendant with an international airline living the high life in Asia). She was flitting across the world, and San Francisco just happened to be a stopover on her journey to another paradise.

She touched down again, and we met at Gordon Biersch, where she vaguely recognized me as "that guy from dinner" - the drinks were starting up the night, the company was great, and it was on to Pakwan next, in the Mission, for some down-desi-homey food with lavish portions of Naan. After that to the Elbo Room where she thought it strange how the entire dance floor seemed to be praying to the DJ god. And, then to (long-term Mission residents will remember) Liquid, where the ambient beats in the narrow splendored room lit up our lives. I asked her there if she was dating (what a question! who wouldn't want to date this gorgeous damsel?!), and she replied that she wasn't dating any "boys". Quick to the comeback, I declared then that she should date me, since I had clearly surpassed boyhood. She laughed and agreed, and when I moved in with the dinner offer the next night, she said she couldn't as she had to take a nap.

Alas, that retort felt like the "I have to wash my hair" rebuff - but it turned out to be true. She was about to take a 15-hour working flight, and a nap she did have to take. So we made a lunch date instead, and I took her to the uninspired Ella's in Cow Hollow. An unmemorable breakfast and a tour of the City later, we thought our date was over. But then after an inspired phone call in the early evening, we met again at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store in North Beach, just hours before her flight, with a trip to Coit Tower in the nightfall to take it all in.

3 months later, faithful reader, we were married. Some friends were to be married in Bombay, and I was the best man. 3 months earlier, in the North Beach cafe, I had asked her to be my date at the wedding. In the ensuing 3 months, we met 3 times in San Francisco, with her flying 15 hours every time to see me. We ate at Aziza, where the owner Faranoush dazzled with the food and atmosphere, and we ate at numerous little places in Sonoma county. Once I proposed in the lobby of the Pan Pacific Hotel, while she was waiting for the limo to take her and the crew to the airport, we figured WHY WAIT?! So, with 10 days notice to our friends and family, she proceeded to plan our entire wedding.

If you marry a woman who can plan her wedding in 10 days, you know you have a winner on your hands. No matter what the crisis, she will come through for you. And so, a day before our friends were to be married in Bombay, we threw a rocking party at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Bombay, India, and were declared husband and wife.

Now, dear reader, take note that I had no idea that my future wife could cook like a heaven-inspired angel. Had I known what she could do to the classic Bhel Puri, a sweet and savory Bombay "chatpata" style snack, I would have proposed the very first day I met her. What's as palatably possessed is her "hot and sour lentil curry", bowlfuls of which I have imbibed over rice, letting its tangy effervescence wash over my palate. When she first made her organic Chicken Tikka Masala, she was nervous that it wouldn't meet the standards of the hole-in-wall-Pakistani food places (where, you can usually get the best Biryani) - man, it rocked! The spices are subtle at first, so you take in a lot of the Tikka Masala, and then the masala flavors gradually build up, until your eyes roll back to the back of your head in ecstasy. Her lentil dal soups are the most delectable I have ever had, rivaling the potions doled out by the gruff and taciturn "khansamas" (chefs) of the revered vegetarian Marwari clans in Rajasthan. And add to all this her Asian-inspired hospitality training - for corporate lunches and dinners she prepares everything to look fantastic - the chi comes from the beauty in her presentation, and the truth in the magical taste of her curries. And if I ever miss her, I walk over to Whole Foods and gaze longingly at her "Indian Bento Kati Rolls" (wraps) before they fly off the shelves.

And that, dear readers, is how I became the luckiest man in the world. I married a woman who stops running trains with her looks, travels halfway around the world and back to see me, marries me after dating me for 3 months, gives me two of the most beautiful daughters a man ever hoped for, AND is the best Indian food chef EVER! Some have it good."


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