Cooking for a cause: Mama Khan’s flavourful feasts fuel social impact

Pakistani restaurant’s Iftar gatherings change lives one meal at a time

The mother and son duo restaurant will be providing free Iftar boxes for Ramadan. Photo Menel Rehab

Providing nourishment, comfort, and a sense of belonging to those in need, Pakistani restaurant Mama Khan's initiatives extend beyond culinary delights to create a positive impact.

For the month of Ramadan, Mama Khan is offering special Iftar boxes as part of their ongoing charitable efforts. These Iftar boxes provide a complete meal experience, including appetizers, main courses, desserts, and drinks, allowing patrons to break their fast with nutritious and delicious food. 

The restaurant is continuing its commitment to giving back to its community during Ramadan by donating a portion of the proceeds from the Iftar boxes to charitable causes.

Through these initiatives, Mama Khan aims to foster a sense of unity, compassion, and generosity while providing nourishing meals to individuals and families observing fasting traditions.

Owner Abdul Raziq Khan explained that his restaurant’s journey took off as a ghost kitchen during the COVID-19 pandemic. They started with the intention of testing the waters, unsure of whether it would be successful or not. However, they received exceptional feedback, prompting them to expand their operations to a physical location on St. Denis Street.

“We actually started two doors down,” said Khan. “We started there in a small area and we would get a lot of people and sometimes we would get overbooked. So, the previous person who owned this space approached the restaurant and asked if we wanted a bigger space. The restaurant has been at 4135 St. Denis St. for nearly a year and a half.”

The restaurant’s name pays homage to Khan's mother, who serves as its head chef. “I reopened Mama Khan on her birthday, Oct. 13, so it is also our annual opening,” Khan added.

Over time, Mama Khan evolved its menu and dining experience, transitioning from take-out to a dine-in restaurant. Khan emphasizes the importance of experimentation and adaptation in the restaurant industry, viewing each day as a learning opportunity. 

Additionally, he highlighted the authenticity of Mama Khan's cuisine, rooted in Peshawari culinary traditions.

“It's Pakistani cuisine, but more specifically from Peshawar,” added Khan. “We're from the northern province of Pakistan. So you get the butter chicken palak paneer, that's more Indian Pakistani dishes. But then you also get the Pishawi curry, which is from my city, and you get the kebab which is specifically for my city as well. These are dishes that you probably find somewhere else but it wouldn't be truly authentic to where it’s from.”

Khan encountered challenges in collaborating with other organizations due to a lack of recognition of his restaurant at first. To overcome this, he took the initiative during critical moments, such as providing free food during power outages and extreme weather conditions, which garnered attention and recognition for Mama Khan's charitable efforts. 

This led to the establishment of the Mama Khan Pay it Forward program, where customers can donate $5 to provide a free meal to someone in need. This initiative evolved into offering Iftar boxes during Ramadan, continuing the spirit of giving back to the community. 

The restaurant has collaborated with organizations like Islamic Relief and local student clubs, such as the Muslim Student Associations of Dawson and Concordia, in organizing fundraising events and charity activities. These partnerships demonstrate Mama Khan's commitment to supporting charitable causes and fostering community engagement.

“I had an event that happened on March 16 and 17 with the Islamic Relief,” said Khan. “We raised almost over $4,800 for Palestine; we did an auction, and we did a fundraiser.” Attendees enjoyed a curated menu featuring appetizers like Chana Samosa, main courses including Kebab and Chicken Curry, and dessert with Kheer (rice pudding). Additionally, a refreshing Mango Lassi was served as a drink. The event also included activities such as auctions, with proceeds contributing to fundraising efforts. 

On March 31, Mama Khan hosted another special Iftar event in collaboration with Islamic Relief. This event aimed to raise funds for Palestine through a four-course meal. The event raised over $12,000.

A mother of one of the volunteers, who was granted anonymity for her safety, said she was impressed by the way younger people seem to be involved. “I am Palestinian and I have lost family members. It’s been war for so long over there you kind of become numb. It gives me hope when I see younger people throwing events like this,” she said. 

“Mama Khan is a humanitarian restaurant,” said Ahmad Mousattat, leader of Islamic Relief’s collegiate-level operations in Quebec. “Our values align and (Khan) gave us all the food for free.”

“The whole fabric of the restaurant is woven through community,” added Khan. “You get that vibe that it's more than just a restaurant.”


With files from Gabrielle Laperrière-Leblanc.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 13, published April 2, 2024.