‘Success is all about having the right spices’

Karim Rezaul, owner of Sweden's Indian Garden restaurant chain, tells The Local about his newest restaurant, life for a Bangladeshi man in Stockholm, and the importance of "having the right mix of spices" to spark a successful Swedish career.

'Success is all about having the right spices'

Karim Rezaul was born in Bangladesh, and after a stint in the UK in the mid-nineties decided to take a chance on Sweden – even though the Indian food scene wasn’t so strong back then.

“I came here in 1995 after I met a woman who lived here,” he tells The Local on the site of his fourth and newest Indian Garden restaurant in Liljeholmen.

While the Swedes still hadn’t developed tastebuds for good Indian food, Rezaul busied himself with getting married and experimenting with the right spice mixes while working at a number of restaurants around the city.

IN PICTURES: Take a close up look at some of Chef Rezaul’s dishes

“I worked in many places, always making my own spice mixes; I played around all the time. When I found which ones worked, the ones people really, really liked, then I wrote them all down,” he says.

Eventually, after being employed at the Indian Garden on Stockholm’s Södermalm for six years, Rezaul purchased the restaurant in 2002 and unleashed his secret recipes on diners who quickly lapped them up.

“I changed the whole concept,” he says. “And my wife was a great waitress. Together, it worked.”

And it worked indeed. Word of mouth spread, and before long, Rezaul opened another restaurant, and then another. Now, in September 2013, he’s opened his fourth – Indian Garden Liljeholmen.

“This area is really nice, one of my favourite places in Stockholm. The water’s right there, the city’s close. A lot of people in this area asked for a good Indian restaurant in Liljeholm so we took the chance,” he explains.

The restaurant, a two-story locale with enormously high ceilings and views over the harbour, is located on the Sjövikstorget square just a few minutes walk from the Liljeholmen metro.

For Rezaul, cooking has been a lifelong dream that was born after he cooked with his mother as a child. In fact, one of the dishes on the new menu – the Lamb Roshnai – is dedicated to the memory of his grandfather, who also cooked the same dish. “When I miss him, I’ve always cooked it,” Rezaul says wistfully.

The secret to his culinary success?

“You’ve gotta have the right mix of spices. Swedes don’t like things that are too strong, not as much as we do in Bangladesh for example. And good presentation is important too, of course.”

While Rezaul claims to be no guru on giving advice to those wanting to move to Sweden, he admits that the language is one of the keys to success.

“Swedish is really important to learn, absolutely. I couldn’t go to school so much with my restaurant commitments, and just learnt by speaking with people I met, quite simply. And outside of the restaurant branch, my best advice to people is that Sweden is a great country to study, you can really take a chance on that,” he says.

“My only complaint about Sweden is the cold, but I love it here in the summer,” he adds.

“But I’m very motivated by the possibilities of the future. Swedes didn’t like Indian food so much ten years ago, now they love it,” he says, acknowledging that his restaurants have had a large part in making Indian cuisine a staple among Swedish restaurant goers.

As for now, Rezaul isn’t planning to open any more restaurants. Instead, he’ll focus on the new Liljeholmen location and his other three.

So lastly, what does the Bangladeshi expert on Indian food think about Swedish cuisine? Do Swedes have good food taste?

“Yes, overall, they absolutely do. When it comes to Swedish food, some dishes are quite good indeed. If I had to pick a favourite, it’d have to be the Wallenbergare,” he says with a laugh.

Oliver Gee

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Boys claim woman threatened them with ‘sex or deportation’

A woman who ran a refugee home in central Sweden is under investigation for sexual offences after two Afghan boys claimed she threatened them with deportation if they refused her advances.

Boys claim woman threatened them with 'sex or deportation'
File image of asylum seekers in a Migration Agency waiting room in Solna. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

The boys, who have not been named, say the woman encouraged them to film her having sex with them, newspaper Eskilstuna Kuriren reports.

She then urged them to watch the films and to phone her when they missed her, they said. 

Eskilstuna Kuriren was given access to the films and believes they show the acts described by the boys, and that the woman can clearly be identified. She rejects the accusations.

The boys told Eskilstuna Kuriren they tried to inform social services and the police about what was happening but nobody listened to them.

They then went to the newspaper with their story on the advice of relatives living in another part of Sweden. 

“The boss at the home forced us into it and exploited us for sex. She knew we had to, and that nobody would help us,” one said. 

The boys say they had sex with the woman on four or five occasions, at a hotel and in her own home in the Sörmland region.

On one occasion all three were in bed together, they say, but mostly one of the boys had sex with the woman while the other filmed. 

The woman also offered the boys alcohol, they claim, saying it would help them enjoy the experience and despite them being under 18, the legal age for drinking alcohol. 

They allege that she promised to buy them clothes and toiletries if they had sex with her, but she also told them she would destroy important documents and get the migration agency to deport them if they turned her down.

They also faced sexual advances from other people in the woman’s social circle, they say. 

In an interview with Eskilstuna Kuriren one of the boys says they would be “stoned to death” if they ever went back to Afghanistan and their story got out. 

The boys were recently moved to a home in a different municipality. Local authorities there contacted the police after learning of their allegations. 

Police confirmed to the newspaper that an investigation into sexual offences was ongoing. They would not specify what the alleged offences were. 

The boys say they arrived in Sweden in November after they were urged by their families to flee Afghanistan and seek a better life.