29 April 2023

Five Minutes with Dr Qurat-ul-Ain Riaz and Dr Naveed Aslam, FLOK Cafe (For The Love of Koffee)

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Dr Naveed Aslam and Dr Qurat-ul-Ain Riaz owners of FLOK Cafe

Dr Naveed Aslam and Dr Qurat-ul-Ain Riaz, owners of FLOK Cafe. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who are Dr Qurat-ul-Ain Riaz and Dr Naveed Aslam:

Dr Riaz – The co-owner of Flok Cafe. I came to Australia (from Pakistan) in 2014 and got an international scholarship to do my PhD at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in 2016 and finished it in 2020. I worked at Charles Sturt in research for a year because I love and like to be in the kitchen and around the stove. It was always in my mind to have something traditional from my country.

I decided to have some breakfast ideas because we can always find traditional dining options in Wagga, but there are no breakfast options. And also provide halal food as it’s one of the limitations in regional towns that families can’t dine out as often. I have plans to expand it (restaurant) towards my degree – in food science.

I know the science of ingredients, nutritional value, types of food intolerance and more. And in the future, if I have more capacity in terms of space, finance and physical wellbeing, I would like to expand it towards speciality food needs and provide training about food safety and different types of food intolerances and more.

Dr Aslam – So far, Naveed is a mixture of qualifications and work experience. I graduated as a vet in Pakistan and did my Master of Animal Science. I got a scholarship to do my PhD in Animal Science at CSU. I work as a technical assistant at CSU.

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Best recent dining experience:

Dr Riaz –
To be honest, we hardly dine out because I’m very picky about food. I also look after everything at the restaurant and can’t take any breaks at the moment. Maybe the last best dining experience was a few years back at Ziyka in Melbourne. It’s a Pakistani restaurant.

Dr Aslam – I would say Indian Tavern. We don’t dine out a lot.

Favourite cuisine:
Dr Riaz –
I like Afghan and Lebanese fusion. And definitely, Pakistani cuisine.

Dr Aslam – It really depends on the mood and how hungry I am. My wife makes very nice biryani. So Pakistani cuisine.

FLOK Cafe uses coffee from Seven Miles. Photo: FLOK Cafe.

My most embarrassing pantry item:

Dr Riaz – Broken wheat … I haven’t touched it for two years.

Dr Aslam – There are so many things at our house. Annie (Dr Riaz) does all the shopping, so I wouldn’t know.

The ingredient I cannot live without:

Dr Riaz – There are a few basic ones: salt, turmeric, coriander and cumin.

Dr Aslam – Milk tea.

Chicken Mandi accompanied by a special tomato chutney. Photo: FLOK Cafe.

Favourite coffee:

Dr Riaz – Black coffee.

Dr Aslam – I haven’t been able to develop my coffee palate. It’s very sour for me.

What’s your coffee blend?

Dr Riaz – Seven Miles.

Dal Chawal (lentil with rice). Photo: FLOK Cafe.

Next big thing in the Wagga food scene:

Dr Riaz – Al Maghari, the new Morrocan cafe, is opening up. I am assuming that in the next few years, Wagga will have a multicultural food hub.

Dr Aslam – Erbil Cafe, Al Maghari and us (FLOK Cafe) – we offer English and Asian fusion.

A must-try on our menu:

Dr Riaz – Paratas (flat bread); on weekends – thali (traditional dishes served in small round bowls on a large plate) and biriyani (layered rice with either chicken, lamb, fish or vegetables).

Dr Aslam – Chicken biriyani or butter chicken.

Freshly made Victoria sponge cake. Photo: FLOK Cafe.

Most used ingredient at FLOK Cafe:

Dr Riaz – In the kitchen, spices and chicken; and at the cafe, coffee.

Our top pick from our desserts:

Dr Riaz – Carrot cake, brownies and nankhatai ( shortbread biscuits).

Dr Aslam – Hummingbird cake or carrot cake.

Matar paneer (peas and cottage cheese). Photo: FLOK Cafe.

My biggest culinary influence:

Dr Riaz – My neighbour’s aunty used to make very nice food and that’s where my cooking journey started, when I was about 11 years old. I give my credit to her and she doesn’t know. My father was in the air force and we kept on moving, so I don’t have her contact. I know she’s in Lahore at the moment. She is my biggest influence.

Dr Aslam – My wife.

Favourite cookbook:

Dr Riaz – I never use them but I have bought plenty of cookbooks and I just go through the pictures and the ingredients. I YouTube a lot of cooking shows. I will find, like, 10 people making the same recipe and tweak it my way.

Chicken karahi, served best with rice. Photo: FLOK Cafe.

Dr Aslam – I don’t use cookbooks. I Google or YouTube.

Who I admire in the Wagga food and wine scene:

Dr Riaz – Thaigga is doing really well. I would like to encourage and appreciate Habibi Chicken – they’ve got a good initiative.

Dr Aslam – Thaigga has been doing really well.

What are this week’s specials at FLOK Cafe?

Dr Riaz – Every day, I cook different curries and this week our weekly special is chicken tikka handi (chicken curry cooked in a clay pot).

FLOK Cafe offers optional gluten-free cakes. Photo: FLOK Cafe.

Death-row meal:

Dr Riaz – Anything rice: pilau rice, biriyani or lentil rice with a Pepsi Max.

Dr Aslam – A cup of tea.

Where I am travelling to next:

Dr Riaz – I would like to go back to Pakistan. The last time I was there was before COVID.

Dream destination:

Dr Riaz – The City of Mecca. I still haven’t been and I’m looking forward to going there.

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My biggest fear:

Dr Riaz – If something happened to any of us here (in Australia). We don’t have family, extended family or even relatives here. It’s just me, my husband and our three children.

My least favourite food:

Dr Riaz – Seafood.

My top-three cooking tips:

Dr Riaz – Give time to cooking. If you cook with love, it always tastes beautiful. I use the least amount of processed food. I even grind the spices myself. And give time when cooking.

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