Five years ago, the Saddiqi family opened a grocery store called Noor Food to serve the Huntington area's growing halal market. Halal refers to the dietary restrictions followed by observant Muslims; forbidden foods include pork and any meat that has not been slaughtered according to halal practice.
The Saddiqis are from Pakistan, but their wares are drawn from all over the world, and range from rices and pulses, exotic beverages, frozen foods, colorful sweets and freshly butchered halal meat to a small selection of imported toiletries.
Amjad Niwaz Saddiqi, who runs the unassuming store with his wife, Robina, and son, Waqas, trained as an agronomist and, since he emigrated to the United States in the mid-'80s, has worked in insurance and construction. At one point, he also drove a taxi. His longtime dream, he said, was to cook for a living, and, nine months ago, he cleared a space at the front of the store and installed a grill and a tandoori oven.
Soon he had a steady stream of customers ordering gyros (both chicken and beef-lamb), naan (puffy flatbread made to order in the scorchingly hot tandoori oven), tandoori chicken (either chunks of moist, boneless breasts or whole leg-thigh portions) and delectable minced chicken kebabs, made with a top-secret blend of flavorings. (Did I detect onions, cilantro and turmeric?)
Two kebabs (or legs or breasts) with basmati rice and a salad costs $5.99, and that's the most expensive item on the menu. For $1.99, you can have a satisfying meal of a kebab with pita and salad.
"We started serving food in November," Saddiqi recalled, "when everybody was crying about the economy. But everybody who came in was appreciating both the price and quality of our food."
Saddiqi reports that about half of his takeout customers are non-Muslim Americans, proving once again that the "good food at a good price" is a concept that transcends nationality, religion and culture.