A DERELICT former casino has been transformed into Sunderland’s first handi house.
Businessman Saif Chaudhry believes his business is the first to offer the traditional form of Indian cooking in the city.
He and business partners Hussain Chaudhry and Amir Riaz have spent the past six months converting the old casino in North Bridge Street, which was most recently Music Rooms and Black Cat bars, into Monsoon Kitchen.
Though there are many balti houses in the region, handi food is prepared and served in a deep pot which helps to retain the flavour.
“A handi dish is ideal for cooking wet dishes like curry,” Saif said.
“It acts like a pressure cooker and holds the steam, making the meat more tender and keeping the flavour.
“A lot of the restaurants here offer standard menus with around 300 dishes, many of which are inspired by Bangladeshi recipes.
“Our family are from Pakistan and they worked in East Africa which means our style of food is slightly different.
“Most of our recipes have been handed down by our grandparents. When they first came here in the 70s, there was nowhere to get traditional wedding food and they would prepare signature dishes for wedding parties.
“At the family home we watched them cook and would learn all about the spices and what was growing in the garden.”
Former Sunderland University student Saif believes the opening of Tesco at Roker Retail Park later this month could see an influx of trade to that part of the city.
“I think Tesco will bring a lot more business this way and it would be great to see the area back on its feet,” he said.
The food is prepared used only Halal meat and Saif hopes this will also attract Muslim diners as well as those looking for an alternative meal.
He said: “When I was a student here all I could eat was cheese and onion sandwiches, but the food now is a lot more diverse.”