Today we're curling up with Sana Khan, a baker who recently moved to Chicago from the Bay Area and started a custom pie company, Chai and Pie Co. I met Sana last weekend when she hosted a pop-up shop at Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Lincoln Park (see above). Though we tried to arrive early, Shiraaz and I just managed to get the last two slices Sana had left. I invited her to do this interview as we sampled the rosemary plum galette and chai chess pie because, well, she and her pies caught my attention. Chicagoans, check out Chai and Pie Co.'s menu and place an order here.
Read on to get to know Sana!
What is your all-time favorite book?
I have a few as each book is associated to a defining point in my life:
The Secret Garden, the theme and inspiration for my garden wedding ceremony in California (I had a Jane Austen Library/Tea Party Bridal Shower!)
Little Women, the root for my love of reading, the classics, and femininity.
The Namesake, it's my parents' love story in a nutshell. I never cried so much after reading a novel.
What meal do you love to cook?
The easy answer would be pie, but the real, honest answer is pancakes. Pancakes are so fluffy, cute, and delicious! There are also many types and styles of pancakes which make it fun to experiment with. I recently visited Amsterdam and learned how to make and bake the Dutch Baby (pancake). I get way too excited when the batter puffs up and even more excited to eat it.
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
The description of Gatsby’s weekend routine in The Great Gatsby which we would call in today’s terms, a “farm-to-table experience.” I’ve dreamed about dining or simply drinking tea at Gatsby’s home, each sip would be a soothing and magical experience.
‘"Every Friday, five crates of orange and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York — every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen, which could extract the juice of 200 oranges in half an hour, if a little button was pressed 200 times by a butler's thumb."
Coffee or tea?
Coffee, extra hot, always. My rule is only drink iced coffee after first having a cup of hot coffee. I’m a pretty big coffee snob to the extent that a café or coffee shop is always on the itinerary when I travel. I even went on a neat coffee tour around a plantation with my husband during our honeymoon to Costa Rica
However I do love masala chai and Kashmiri chai and recently developed an appreciation for Chinese Gong Fu tea due to my husband’s passion for making it. He’s the Chai to my Pie.
What is the last book you abandoned?
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I literally abandoned it because I accidentally left it in California when I moved!
Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?
Zadie Smith and Sophie Kinsella. Zadie and I would walk to the Altab Ali park on White Chapel Road in East London after meeting for some chai and banoffee pie. Sophie Kinsella and I would go window shopping in Soho and grab burgers and milkshakes at Shake Shack.
Where do you go to find new recipes?
Usually from my collection of recipe books, a huge notebook filled with my mother’s recipes, newpapers, magazines, and various blogs. I enjoy visiting local farmer markets to pick up fresh, organic produce and re-creating traditional dishes with unique ingredients or often making my own recipes from scratch. I recently made a yellow daal (lentils) with heirloom tomatoes and arugula, it's now my new favorite comfort food.
Where do you go to find new reads?
Usually independent bookstores and local libraries. I enjoy reading the staff recommendations and going from there. In fact, in addition to cafés, I love exploring bookstores and libraries in new countries and cities. I'm not the type who gets recommendations online; I usually have to hold the book in my hand.
Tell us about your company — the inspiration for it, why you bake and your favorite aspects.
Chai and Pie is a space where my passion for home-style cooking, explorative travel, and wholesome living come together. I’ve always enjoyed baking, cooking, and crafting since a young age, learning the majority of the techniques from my mother and elder sister. When I met my husband, who is a vegetarian and an authentic foodie, I became even more adventurous with my cooking and expanded my culinary knowledge as well. We’re big on supporting local businesses, discovering new places (restaurants, bookstores, cafes, scenic spots), and sharing ideas to encourage a healthier, wholesome lifestyle. I started Chai and Pie Co. as part of our efforts to build and support communities through creative alternatives like new vegetarian-friendly recipes and menus, off-the beaten path travel tips, and simple yet unique craft and décor ideas.
I also love how food can bring families, friends, and communities together in one space where ideas and good conversations are exchanged. What could be better then sipping on spiced Chai and eating homemade Pie?
I make and bake pies with organic and natural ingredients from local farmer’s markets and our home garden. Enjoying food is a natural thing, and bringing smiles on people’s faces by baking fresh pies is natural to me. Its all about quality pie time!
What are your favorite blogs, and why?
The first blog I used the recipes from and still continue to is Smitten Kitchen. I’m a huge Food52 fan and can spend hours exploring all the recipes and links shared there.