Curry Beef at Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

The Curry Pot: Mobile bowls of sheer Sri Lankan deliciousness

April 4, 2023
By Mark Whittaker
By Mark Whittaker

Off the Eatin' Path

In our toasty food climate, we seem to embrace anything that comes our way — cuisine-wise, that is. No, really. We are quite a curious bunch and that’s why we are so recognized for our food fascination. We are, in a sense, still a small town even though we are the second biggest city in Arizona, and we still bump into old co-workers now and then while grabbing a bite or shopping in our pajama bottoms and unwashed Greasy Tony’s shirt. 

That’s why when the Curry Pot food truck rolled out nearly a decade ago, the response to their menu was an almost immediate standing ovation. Basically, it’s because we haven’t really been introduced to Sri Lankan food yet.

Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

Asian cuisine? Check. Indian food? Double check. But Sri Lankan? 

The story of how the Curry Pot came to be is one of the reasons why our fair desert hamlet is so inviting to anyone willing to make this a better, if not more delicious, place to call home. 

Amjaad Jhan, chef and co-owner of the Curry Pot, moved to California from Sri Lanka in the mid-90s and found work with Trader Joe’s, a position he kept until just recently actually. When he met his soon-to-be wife, Shuhana, a Tucson native by way of Sri Lanka (what a coincidence), they relocated to her home territory in order to be closer to family. Around the time their son Amir was born, Amjaad, or AJ as he likes to be called, took a management position with the company and was working so much that he barely got to see his wife and newborn child. Then, tragedy struck as AJ’s parents passed away. Something had to change. 

Amjaad and Shuhana Jhan of Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

As Amir got older and was enrolling in martial arts, the Jhans began making Sri Lankan-inspired samosas and bringing them to his competitions. At first, people were hesitant, yet curious, to try them but they were hooked once they did. The food from AJ and Shuhana’s native country intrigued both parents and children alike, and that’s when the idea of owning their own business began to take seed. 

But the Jhans were hesitant. 

How could they leave their respective jobs and still make rent and pay for Amir’s education and video games? Money is one thing but freedom and happiness is a completely separate devotions. So, they purchased a truck, fixed it up, gave it a new coat of black paint, and christened their new vehicle venture the Curry Pot. 

Being just a few miles off of the Indian peninsula, curry is the mainstay of most Sri Lankans’ diets. The approach though is a little different. It isn’t as heavy as most curry from their neighboring country but it can be a lot spicier. The idea that the Jhans had about the Curry Pot was to serve fast yet incredibly delicious food to an extremely wide range of customers, meaning meat eaters, vegans, and all preferences in between. 

Serving their delicious delectables in easy-to-manage bowls is a great way to accomplish this. It makes sense. They could do a sort of Sri Lankan burrito but that would be a tad odd. Or is it?

You start with the basics: beef, chicken, lamb, and a veggie option. Season it up with tastes of home, pair it with perfectly cooked jasmine rice, nestle the protein with two seasonal vegetable sides, and for less than $15 you have a meal that is worth its weight in curry and a composition of flavors. 

Curry Chicken at Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

AJ told me that if he had to serve one dish to royalty, it would be their Chicken Curry. It is just so stacked and packed with currylicious flavor that all I can do is agree. Perhaps if I was on the allegorical electric chair and the warden asked me what I was to have before I rode the lightning, I might have him track down the Curry Pot for that Chicken Curry. 

Make it a meal, of course, because if you pay a little extra you’ll get one of the locally famous samosas and a drink. 

Although, the lamb curry is amazing as well. But the vegan bowl is a bit more forgiving on the belly. It’s just so hard to decide. 

Samosas at Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

Through a former publication, I met the Jhans five years ago for an article and have been following and hunting them down ever since. That is, of course, one particular year when most eateries and drinkeries were shut down for an undisclosed amount of time. Briefly, the Jhans were closed until county ordinances eased up, especially on mobile units, and they were back in action in no time. Once Casa Video opened its beer bar, the Curry Pot has been a regular staple there, and it’s common to find them on the corner of Broadway and Wilmot, too. 

Here is something that still gets to me. In 2017, a national news source first nominated and then awarded the Curry Pot as “Best Asian Food Truck” in the U.S. Sure, getting a “Best Of” locally is great but how about some national recognition. How about that?

Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

From a hesitant idea to statewide recognition and becoming one of Tucson’s most adored and enduring food trucks, the Curry Pot is something special on four wheels. 

So, about that Sri Lankan burrito mentioned earlier: you can totally order that now. Just between you and me and because we are such good friends, it’s sort of a “secret menu” item, but I’ve seen it and the Jhans are more than happy to comply. 

Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

Recently, the Curry Pot introduced an item that was one of my personal favorites for March and that would be the addition of Curry Fries. Simply outstanding. It’s messy but a must-have for all walks of dietary life. Where vegans and carnivores collide in delight — a steaming bowl of curry fries. Canada has their poutine, the Midwest lays claim to something called hillbilly fries, and now we of the Sonoran desert have curry fries.

Now, I’m sure curry fries exist in other plateaus of municipality but there is only one Curry Pot. 

Curry Fries at Curry Pot (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

Okay, there are actually other restaurants that go by that same name but there is only one Curry Pot here in Tucson. 

When I first met Amir he was barely a tween who occasionally helped his parents out on the truck when he wasn’t in school or earning a newly colored martial arts belt. Years later, he towers over both AJ and Shuhana and is a bit surlier because, you know, teenagers. He still devotes time to the mobile curry cause when he can and when he’s not playing those video games his parents work so hard to afford. The point being, the Curry Pot is still and will always be a family affair and once you have eaten any or all of their dishes, you are part of their family as well. 

For more information and to keep up with the food truck, follow Curry Pot on Facebook.

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Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...

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