Saffron Table: Local Foods & Exotic Flavors

Chandra Donnell

People are drawn to Bozeman because of the robust and scenic surroundings of the Gallatin Valley and Bridger Mountain Ranges. The enormous scale of the land creates an immediate connection to the earth. Andleeb Dawood, the owner of the Saffron Table, has a different connection with the land in the Bozeman area—The Food. Most people connect through hiking or skiing; Dawood connects with what is grown and raised here.

Dawood’s tangible and tactile connection with food started in her childhood. She grew up in the Pakistani city of Karachi, an enormous city of almost 22 million people and a transportation hub with the busiest seaports and airport in Pakistan. The rich history of the region has made Karachi the most linguistically, religiously, and ethnically diverse city in Pakistan. The result of this diversity is a mixing pot of world flavors, customs and influences.  

Her home in Karachi was unlike homes in large American cities due to a lack of infrastructure at the time. This resulted in homes with more rural characteristics where many extended family members lived together. These homes, called haveli, have gardens, barns and barnyards. Dawood’s family had a water buffalo, a cow, chickens and goats in addition to the crops of herbs and vegetables.  

In addition, Pakistani marketplaces are incredibly different from the grocery stores in America. An intimate connection with food is imperative. Imagine a world without refrigeration. Everything you buy would need to be fresh for that day. If you needed a plum to last for two days, what you would look for would be entirely different in a 102 degree marketplace. You would pay closer attention to color, firmness, if it is at the end of its season, and smell. If you want to eat chicken, you would choose the live chicken, then after it was butchered, you would take the meat home—warm, in a bag. This attention to detail in learning what to pick and when gave Dawood an advantage in picking the freshest, most vibrant and flavorful produce for Saffron Table.

“My goal is to bring the best of the land here in Bozeman melded with my history & where I am today.”

To get the freshest produce and meats for Saffron Table, Dawood looked local. She feels that the connection of a place with what is grown there is an art form. Our local, fresh food should resonate with each of us living in Bozeman. Of course with our long winters, fresh grain and produce is not always an option, but meat is always in season. Each meat on Saffron Table’s menu is locally sourced. Lamb from Willow Spring and goat from Farm 51, beef from Yellowstone Grassfed Beef, and chicken from only free-range farms. Each of these locations has been personally visited by Dawood. There is great dignity in making sure animals are treated with respect as they grow and live. There is also honor in knowing the people who take care of the animals, provide for them, and make sure they grow healthy, well and loved. She feels that these are principles of stewardship for the animals, land and the people living here.

This method of local sourcing and sustainability opens a “connecting door” between Bozeman and Southern Asia. A recipe from India with herbs grown in Bozeman is the perfect example. Coriander grown in Pakistan will have a different flavor, a different way it breaks down within a sauce and a different way that it would affect the cooking and breakdown process for meat. Likewise, coriander in Bozeman will have different culinary properties. An example of this interaction is the Willow Spring Lamb Korma with Golden Raisins-local lamb is braised with onion, cinnamon, cardamom, tomato, cumin and coriander, then served with roasted chili, lime, carrot, hazelnut and butter poached potatoes. Yellowstone Grassfed Beef Vindaloo is another tasty example paying homage to Dawood’s heritage with Montana influences. The local Montana beef is slow cooked in a spicy vindaloo curry with onion, fennel, clove, cardamom, red chili and vinegar. The fusion of both worlds is the addition of local Montana produce, meat and spices to Southern Asian recipes: a perfect completion of Saffron Table’s culinary connection. 

Chef Daniel Parris is the other influencer in the food within the restaurant. From his travels abroad, Parris brings some some southern influences to the menu. One of the menu items is Tandoori Prawns with Fenugreek Grits. The jumbo prawns are roasted in a Tandoor oven after being rubbed with red chili, ginger, and garlic. In a location like Bozeman, Dawood wants Indian food to be more approachable; the addition of a twist on a familiar dish is a way to accomplish that. 

Growth and influence are integral parts of Dawood’s life. She fondly recalled when each of her mother’s brothers got married and a new aunt joined the family, bringing along her own twist on spices and family recipes. As the family grew, the flavors did as well. Bozeman’s growth has allowed places like Saffron Table to grow and flourish in a like fashion. 

Saffron Table is located at the Kirk Homestead site near Feed Café and The Roost Fried Chicken. It offers Southern Asian food from the countries of Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, and Bangladesh made with fresh Montanan produce and meats. Menu items include Crispy Bites for the Table, Street Food Favorites to Share, award-winning Vegetarian Flair, Curry in a Hurry, and Mains to Dive Into.  

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