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February 6, 2010

Misal Indian Bistro celebrates 3 decades in Norman

Nasir Ghouri's mom came to the conclusion that her son was having a bit too much fun away at college.

"In 1978 I was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison enjoying the town and student life," Ghouri said. "She thought I needed to be under the watchful eye of an older relative."

Mom called Nasir's cousin in Norman for ideas. Then she convinced her 21 year old son, an electrical engineering student, that Oklahoma would be a great place to study and live.

"If you move there you'll just have some fun," Mom said.

This aroused his curiosity.

"Like what?" Ghouri asked. "You'll open a restaurant," she replied.

Ghouri had no clue what that would entail. But with the enthusiasm of youth he began the work of his life in what would become a Norman institution.

Misal Indian Bistro, 580 Ed Noble Parkway, has introduced generations of Oklahomans to the rich culinary traditions of the Indian sub continent since opening in 1980.

Ghouri began his career as a restaurateur first working to get some experience at various Norman joints including Orin's Fine Pizza, Boomerang and Legends. Then, along with cousins including Neelam Misal, they soon opened an Indian restaurant in the heart of Campus Corner on Buchanan Ave. There were just two minor obstacles. None of them really knew how to cook or manage a dining establishment.

"For the first eight or 10 years we brought in cooks from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh," Ghouri said. "But they would get really homesick and lonely." He explained that while Norman is good for international students and professionals, not so much for unmarried workers. "Our cooks would stay for a year or so and then want to go back," he said.

Ghouri learned the art of Indian cooking from these expatriates and began training chefs hired locally.

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