James Beard semifinalist Basit Gauba brings a taste of Pakistan to Albuquerque’s dining scene - Albuquerque Journal

James Beard semifinalist Basit Gauba brings a taste of Pakistan to Albuquerque’s dining scene

Basit Gauba poses by his food truck Tikka Spice. (Jon Austria/Journal)

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Like many, Basit Gauba doesn’t know what the day will bring.

As the owner of Tikka Spice, the chef is always kept on his toes.

“I’ve been in the food industry for a long time,” Gauba says. “There’s not one day that is the same. Problems pop up all the time and you have to figure them out.”

Though his journey in the culinary world began decades ago, Gauba began Tikka Spice four years ago.

The food truck was not only a way for Gauba to express himself artistically through food, but a way to educate the community.

On the menu, there are entrees such as Chicken Tikka Tacos, Tikka Fries, Chana Masala Chickpea Curry, The Beast and Duke City Smash Burger, for the foodie.

“Me and my wife are both from Pakistan,” he says. “There’s not a lot of our culture here in Albuquerque. There’s Indian food and it’s different. I always wanted to start a food truck and bring some of our cultural food to Albuquerque.”

Gauba was born in Pakistan, but moved with his parents to the United States when he was about five years old.

First he spent time in California.

Right before he started high school, the family moved to Albuquerque.

Gauba graduated from La Cueva High School.

As a teenager, he began working in fast food, eventually running Whataburger and Panda Express locations in the area. He also worked at Flying Star, prior to becoming an owner of his own business.

“When I worked at the different restaurants, I would explore with some of the food,” he says. “At Whataburger, I was able to make a barbecue chicken pizza. I probably shouldn’t admit to it now.”

Basit Gauba prepares Tikka Spice’s samosa. (Jon Austria/ Journal)

Tikka Spice can currently be found serving up dishes out of its popular food truck. The schedule of locations can be found at tikkaspiceabq.com. Gauba is also scouting spaces for a new brick-and-mortar home for Tikka Spice, hoping to open the location in 2023.

A typical day for the 33-year-old business owner consists of checking in with his managers, oftentimes he will get behind the grill and cook up some orders.

“I don’t want to get rusty,” he says with a laugh. “Mostly, the days are spent developing new dishes and training people. Food is one of my passions.”

Gauba continues to balance his work and home life – but they often intertwine.

Being a father of three, he has his work cut out for him, but he takes it in stride.

“I get time to step back and be present for it all,” he says. “We had to close one of the spaces on Osuna and I worked hard to keep everyone on staff until we can open the coming location. It’s a balance and it’s hard to do, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

In January, Gauba was the lone Albuquerque chef who was awarded the semifinalist distinction for James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest. There were five New Mexico-based chefs nominated.

Basit Gauba
Lahori Fish Tacos at Tikka Spice. (Jon Austria/Journal)

Though he didn’t make it through that round and become a finalist, he’s proud of all the hard work he and his team has put into Tikka Spice.

“Being a semifinalist was so surprising,” Gauba says. “That has been a goal for me and my wife for a long time. There’s always good competition out there. I think we push each other in creating some amazing dishes. What’s great is that each one of us does it for the love. Food has a way of bringing people together.”


1 pound white fish (tilapia/cod/haddock)

Flour tortillas


2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons red chile flakes

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons red chile powder




Or any mayo-chili sauce mix


1 cup red cabbage, shredded

1 cup green cabbage, shredded

1 cup kale, shredded

¼ cup broccoli, finely chopped

½ cup shredded carrots

¼ cup (or to taste) vinaigrette dressing (we use housemade chipotle vinaigrette)

Cut fish length wise into long pieces. Make sure filet is deboned. Combine marinade ingredients and marinate for at least 2-3 hours. Best for 24 hours.

Combine slaw ingredients. Make mayo-chili sauce using sriracha or any chili sauce based on your heat preference.

Grill fish medium high heat in skillet with vegetable oil, 3-5 minutes each side, Until temperature reaches 140 degrees and the fish is fully cooked through.

Butter flour tortillas. Tortillas should be slightly crisped and street size. Still be able to fold.

To assemble you tacos, add slaw, grilled fish, and a drizzle of mayo-chili sauce onto your tortilla, then garnish with sliced green onions and chopped cilantro.

Enjoy! Warning, it is spicy.

(Recipe by Basit Gauba, Tikka Spice)

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