A Masala Master and her Spice Apprentice
Noorbanu Nimji’s knowledge of spices was innate. Amounts, combinations and flavour memories – she expressed them as intuition as she flowed through the preparation of her favourite dishes. She was a masala (spice blending) master.
Noorbanu was born in Nairobi, Kenya not long after her parents moved from Gujarat, India. Her recipes reflect the dishes of Gujarat and other North India regional influences. Life in Kenya added East African dishes to the repertoire. The recipes in A Spicy Touch – Family Favourites from Noorbanu Nimji’s Kitchen are further influenced by Noorbanu’s move to Canada.
The Nimji family moved to Canada in 1974 when then-president of Uganda, Idi Amin was “expelling” non-Africans from East Africa. Noorbanu and her family walked away from all they owned.
Soon after her arrival in Calgary, she was noticed for her cooking and asked to teach the displaced youth of her Ismaili community. The Ismaili are about 12 million of the world’s 2 billion muslims. Noorbanu taught for a decade before publishing her recipes in three volumes in 1986, 1992 and 2007.
In 2006, Noorbanu began working on the manuscript for A Spicy Touch – Family Favourites from Noorbanu Nimji’s Kitchen with Calgary writer Karen Anderson. That book won both IPPY and Taste Canada awards in 2016. Noorbanu was also recognized by Western Living magazine that year as one of Western Canada’s Top Foodies.
Noorbanu passed away peacefully on June 10, 2020 at age 85. She leaves four children, six grandchildren, one great grandchild and many friends and A Spicy Touch fans who will miss her dearly.