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The Pakistani couple behind Zareen's is writing a cookbook

Zareen says she has been collecting recipes for some time now and was ready to look for a publisher.
Samosas from Zareen's, the recipe for which is expected to be included in Zareen and Umair Khan's upcoming cookbook. Courtesy Zareen Khan.

Someday soon, the culinary secrets to at least some of the delicacies available at the popular Peninsula-based Pakistani restaurant chain Zareen's will be laid bare in the pages of a new cookbook by the couple that founded the restaurant. 

Zareen Khan, chef and restaurateur behind Zareen's, is co-authoring a cookbook with her husband, Umair Khan. (Courtesy Mark Tuschman)

Zareen Khan, the chef and restaurateur behind the eatery, is teaming up to write the cookbook with her husband, Umair Khan, who's an author in his own right: He wrote "College Application Hacked" about how to write personal essays for college admission applications. A founding partner of Mentors Fund in Palo Alto, he also teaches entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley and is collaborating with a professor there on a textbook about entrepreneurship. 

Zareen says she has been collecting recipes for some time now and was ready to look for a publisher. Working with an agent, the couple found a publisher, Sasquatch Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and signed a contract last week. 

The book is more than a year out from publication, they say. It’s expected to focus on the recipes Zareen grew up with in Pakistan and how they evolved after she married and moved to the U.S., working to recreate from memory some of the foods she grew up eating in addition to some of the recipes used in the restaurant. 

"It will also have some recipes for people who are new and want to experiment with Pakistani food," Zareen adds. 

For instance, they're planning to include the recipe for their Memoni samosa, which helped the restaurant receive Michelin Guide recognition, Umair says. 

Below is an excerpt he shared describing the samosa: 

"To those of us who grew up on this snack, the Samosa belongs among the great triangular concepts of human civilization, right alongside the Pythagorean Theorem and the Love Triangle. The Memoni variant of this labor of love starts with minced meat, spices, green chilies, and herbs slow-cooked for hours. A mound of this filling is wrapped in a delicate phyllo sari, fried to crackling perfection, and, finally, its bronzed skin is rouged with a sprinkle of chaat masala. We who first met this snack as toddlers, know that a Samosa must be savored hot. With our first crunch escape wisps of aromatic steam around our mouth and nose, and we smell once again the foods of our childhood. 

May we always savor all three sides of a great Samosa: taste, texture, and nostalgia."

As Umair sees it, the couple has three goals with their cookbook. First, every cookbook should provide instructions on how to prepare the recipes it contains. 

"Our first aim is to share our knowledge," he says. "The whole point is to make authentic recipes accessible." 

The second goal, he explains, is for the book to be a thing of joy. "It should be something treasured and lovely to read and see," he says. "Really, that's the way we would share our passion for Pakistani food." 

Third, he says, they want to promote a mission of women's empowerment. Zareen's inspiring personal story as an entrepreneur, South Asian immigrant and mom of three is part of the message, he explains. 

Umair Khan, co-founder of Zareen's and entrepreneurship professor at U.C. Berkeley, is co-authoring a cookbook of recipes with his wife, Zareen Khan. Courtesy Mark Tuschman.

"She's honestly knocked it out of the park," he says.  

They're also hoping to also incorporate recipes and stories about food from other remarkable immigrant women in the U.S. in various fields and are planning to donate proceeds from the cookbook sales to charities that support women's empowerment, he adds.

"I want to give back and make somebody else's dream come true," Zareen says. 

She's hoping to use recipes that aren't too complicated and are straightforward to follow, and that use as few ingredients as possible “without compromising on quality," she says. 

They're working this summer to wrap up much of the writing and get the recipes to a test kitchen to refine, Umair says. 

"It really is for everyone to enjoy: We never intended it to be just for Pakistanis," Umair adds. 

Zareen's, locations in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City, Instagram: @zareensrestaurant.  

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