Over the past month, 33 million people have been disrupted by intense flooding in Pakistan. The UN has estimated $30 billion worth of damage, over 1,400 people have been killed and infrastructure has been completely wiped away.
When tragedy strikes halfway around the world, it can feel like there’s nothing we can do to help from here in Detroit. But one local business is stepping up to be that bridge.
Khana Detroit creates Pakistani-inspired street food from the mind of chef and owner, Maryam Khan.
Khana Detroit will host a benefit dinner at Now Corktown this Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Proceeds from the event will support recovery and rebuilding efforts in Pakistan. Khan joined CultureShift to talk about the benefit dinner and her connection to the cause.
“I do have a huge sense of pride when it comes to being a Pakistani child of immigrants,” she says. “My entire livelihood – this passion project that I started years ago – is based on those roots.”
But she hasn’t always felt proud of her parents’ heritage. Growing up, she says she identified more with American culture than Pakistani culture.
“At school I got made fun of for bringing lunch, and it was something I resented growing up. But as I got older and I moved away from home, I found myself missing all these recipes.”
As she tried to recreate the food from her childhood, she found that she could never get it quite like her mom made it. Eventually, she decided to intentionally “white-wash” some of those traditional dishes, putting her own spin on the cuisine. When she ultimately opened Khana, that fusion proved to be popular among Detroit crowds.
“American food is really easy to integrate with basically any culture. We’ve seen it done with everything,” Khan explained. “I don’t think it’s been done so much with Pakistani food, but it works really harmoniously and I think it makes it more approachable for the average consumer as well.”
She says the Khana menu has been described as “Paki-stoner food,” featuring Americanized Pakistani dishes like Butter Chicken Nachos, Fried Butter Chicken Sandoori and the Shrimp Masala Rich Boi, her take on a Shrimp Po’ Boy.
In addition to their usual food, there will also be live music from Desi Detroit DJ Akash Raje with sonic support from xtrMayo.
100 percent of the profits from the benefit dinner will be donated to UNICEF and the DASTAK Foundation, both working to provide relief for flood victims in their unique efforts.
Khan says she feels a sense of responsibility to give back to the community she built her business around.
“The Pakistani food is the driving force behind my business and starting this was a way to share the food I grew up eating, but also personally, a way for me to celebrate my heritage and embrace who my entire identity is tied to,” she explains. “So I do feel like there’s a level of due diligence here. I owe it to my ancestors, to our roots.”
Listen: Khana Detroit founder talks about benefit dinner and her connection to the cause.