Get your Indian-food fix

Amit Dandon

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

“What would you like to try, honey?” asks Amit Dandon, standing behind a counter covered with Indian bread (called naan) and dips at a farmers’ market in Chico. Dandon is busy at work converting new customers into regulars and introducing his regulars to new items. His day job is in the aviation industry, but he’s a farmer and food-lover at heart. He runs commercial kitchens out of Sacramento and Santa Clara, and he brings his goodies to Chico on Wednesdays and Saturdays. His food has become so popular at the farmers’ markets that he’s decided to open a restaurant in Chico—look for him in October. And watch out, because he promises “100 percent addiction, guaranteed.”

When did you come to the States?

I came from Delhi in 2001. I got off the plane … and I started my business the very next day.

What’s your most popular item?

The cilantro [dip]. It was the first item I brought to the farmers’ market. Initially when I started my business I didn’t have so much variety. Now I try to bring at least three to five new items every week. I have 150 kinds of breads and 300-plus dips that I try to make, and I rotate the menu.

Do you get a lot of regulars?

They’re all regular customers. They come once and they become a regular, and I know what they want and try to have it packed up for them when they get there. And then I say, “Do you want to try some new ones?”

How do you prepare the naan?

It’s prepared in an Indian-style clay oven. Usually you can make eight to 10 at the same time, and they take about three minutes. You make the dough and make the shape, and then you stick it on the oven wall. But you have to put your hand in the oven—you have to be very fast. When you’re just learning, the first couple of times you definitely burn your hand.

So, tell me about the restaurant.

It will be my first restaurant. It will be small—about 10 to 15 people sitting. And the menu will be different every day.

And the name?

I haven’t come up with a name yet. Maybe just Indian Food Restaurant. To tell the truth I haven’t really thought about it—that’s something I need to do!