Pooja Patel of Zaika New York loves her spicy Pumpkin curry

Nov/24/2019 / by Seema Staff
Pooja Patel

We sat down with Pooja Patel, the owner of acclaimed restaurant Zaika New York, to learn how does she celebrate Thanksgiving.  Her Thanksgiving is with friends and family with the usual tradition of having a get together at a friends place for dinner, but with an ‘Indian’ twist. “We have many vegetarians in our family including me which makes us think out of the box and be more creative and innovative with our recipes. But don’t worry, there’s still Turkey – with a twist; Tandoori Turkey. Chutneys take the place of cranberry sauce. Mix of Indian and American desserts to wrap up the feast, “, she explains.

We asked her what was her favorite Thanksgiving recipe: “One of my personal favorite dish is Spicy Pumpkin Curry. I have not dared to make it myself as no one can beat the flavors and taste of the curry cooked by Chef, Rajan Sood at Zaika New York, Authentic Indian Restaurant. He brings out the authentic Indian flavors by using in house ground spices, so much so that even the butter used for the gravy is from India. We grew up eating Amul butter sandwiches.  Even our American friends love this curry”.  

PUMPKIN CURRY by Chef Rajan Sood, the Zaika way:

 Ingredients: Serves 4

Small pumpkin (unripe, peeled, cubed) – 2 cups . You may want to roast these in the oven prior to using them.

Ginger, Garlic , Green paste – 2 tbsp

Green Chilli (chopped) –  1 

Onions (chopped) – 1 cup 

Tomatoes (pureed) – 2 

Garam Masala – 2 tsp

Turmeric- 1 tsp

Ground Cumin – 1 tbsp

Ground Coriander- 1 tbsp

Red chilli powder- 1 tsp

Salt to taste


1.     In a skillet, put some oil and chopped onions

2.     Saute onions until golden 

3.     Add garlic/ginger/chilli paste

4.     Add spices and saute on low heat for 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly.

5.     Add tomato puree , cook on medium heat for approximately 7-8 minutes 

6.     Add pumpkin cubes and mix it well. 

7.     Add salt to taste, water 

8.     Let it cook on medium heat with lid cover till fully cooked. Approximately 15-20 minutes

9.     Garnish with cilantro and serve hot !

When it comes to entrepreneurship and her advice is for women starting out on their own. “For all women who are passionate about food and thinking of starting their own business, be prepared because turning your hobby/talent into real business is not going to be easy. Just food knowledge is not enough, you need to know the ins and outs of running the business before getting into it.” “Remember, great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people. I cannot stress how important it is to have the right TEAM with you to succeed.  I have been fortunate enough to have a great team at Zaika – from the General Manager, Mr Naresh Sondhi, Chef, Rajan Sood,  co -owner Mandeep Oberoi to our servers, bartender, dish washers – each one of them who makes it possible.  We are nothing without them and real credit goes to my team.” she continues.

Entrepreneurship also runs in Pooja’s family, with her father serving as her key inspiration. “Ironically, I am not a good cook but a foodie. For me, good food and good company are two of the simplest pleasures in life. How do we connect with others in this busy world- what better way than connecting them through good food – this was my goal. Zaika New York was designed to create that perfect space with a serene, zen ambience to pull guests out of the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan so they could enjoy their meal time with friends, family, work colleagues or an happy hour/networking event at the Bar and most important create memories. After all it is moments that we remember not days !”

Pooja also believes in expressing gratitude for a wonderful, supportive family, friends and health, without which none of this would have been possible. Besides being the owner of Zaika New York, Dr. Pooja Patel is an Internal Medicine Physician.


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