When friends Elakkia Priya Sakthikumar and Thiyagarajan Balamuthuvel couldn't find authentic south Indian food in Halifax, they decided to start making it and selling it themselves.
"We were looking for those foods. So we thought we should just start this. There are only a few Indian restaurants here," said Sakthikumar, who comes from Chennai, India.
There are differences between north and south Indian dishes explains Balamuthuvel, who is from Puducherry. "South Indian foods are more spicy," he says.
After years of frustrations and cravings for her traditional food, Sakthikumar taught herself how to make traditional south Indian food via the internet and asking her mom for recipes.
"After that all these people liked my food, like my friends," says Sakthikumar. "I was like are you guys serious, you like my food?"
The duo launched Little India at the Halifax Forum Farmers' Market just before Christmas and have had a space at the Seaport market for two weeks. With her passion for food and the help and support of friends it is no surprise that Little India is quickly becoming a local favourite.
Current popular menu items include sambar—a mixed vegetable lentil curry that is vegetarian friendly—as well as curry chicken and pepper chicken.
Sakthikumar also makes idli, which she describes as rice and dal that is fermented, ground and then steamed, and she plans to add dosa to the menu in the summer.
"Idli and dosa use the same batter but for dosa we make in pan and for idli we steam it so it's healthier," she says. "We will also have some different types of chutney, such as coconut, peanut, tomato and onion."
And for those Haligonians with a sweet tooth, Sakthikumar's mango lassi drink is the perfect smoothie or dessert alternative. The soft yellow drink contains mango pulp, yogurt and milk and is the perfect beverage to wash those spices down with.
"I'm also planning to sell masala chai at the Forum too, not this week but probably in the coming weeks," she says.
"For 23 years I never entered into my kitchen. As soon as I came here, there was no way— I had to cook for myself," says the 24-year-old Sakthikumar. She originally came to Halifax three years ago to do her masters of engineering at Dalhousie, and still plans to pursue her profession Monday to Friday.
As for Little India, she says, "I'm planning to start a restaurant but not right now maybe after gaining more experience. During the summer, maybe next year, I am planning to rent a food truck. We will see how it goes."Little India
Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, 1209 Marginal Road, Saturdays and Sundays
Halifax Forum Farmers' Market, 2901 Windsor Street, Saturdays