Iffat Huq is a licensed doctor in Bangladesh studying to be an occupational therapist in Tupelo. Huq recalls cooking meals in her dorm room with friends between cramming for exams back in Bangladesh.
“Most of us had a rice cooker and we cooked literally everything in it, especially noodles with eggs and veggie khichuri, a traditional food mixed with rice, daal and seasonal vegetables, while pulling an all-nighter before an exam,” Huq said.
In Bangladesh, Hilsha fish curry is a popular delicacy Huq remembers well, but she hasn’t always had luck preparing it in the United States. Once, Huq imported a whole Hilsha fish and invited friends and family over for a special feast.
“After cooking the fish curry, despite all my efforts, the fish turned out bitter and smelly because the fish was imported a long time ago and it was kind of rotten, so I ended up cooking chicken curry for everyone that night,” Huq recalls.
At the Bangladeshi Cooking As A First Language class, Huq stuck to a few other popular recipes such as polao and beef or chicken curries with daal, a lentil soup with desi spices.
“When I taught my first Bangladeshi class, we had a Bangladeshi meal while listening to Bangladeshi songs in the background and everyone tried to eat with their hands, just like regular Bangladeshi people,” she said.
Huq learned how to cook from her mother and grew up hearing these words of wisdom: A little spice goes a long way. She also learned a few dessert recipes from her mother-in-law and from traveling.
In Turkey, she remembers eating doner kebab with her husband, who is a doctor at the North Mississippi Medical Center, and watching the seasoned meat cook on a vertical rotisserie. In Hawaii, the couple dug into bowls of ahi poke, a raw fish salad with spices and sauce that inspired her to make raw fish dishes at home for the first time.
“My passion for cooking is linked with my passion for traveling and exploring new cultures,” she said. “Since food is a significant part of any culture, whenever I visit a new place I try their cuisine and try to recreate those recipes for my family and friends.”