Emmy Award-winning actress Katherine Heigl has been living in Utah with her family for more than a decade, and has no intentions of moving anytime soon.

But despite being a veteran resident, she gets one thing wrong. Heigl recently claimed she hasn’t “found great Indian food in Utah,” in a Harper’s Bazaar YouTube video that has racked up more than 657,000 views.

For context, she said between herself and her husband, she takes care of dinner; her go-to recipes are chili, spaghetti bolognese and her mother’s meatloaf recipe. Heigl said she also loves making chicken tikka masala and butter chicken at home instead of ordering from the dozens of great Indian restaurants in Utah. Indian cuisine is tough to master, even for professionals. Tempering the long list of spices for the ideal aromatic blend isn’t a cakewalk, so kudos to Heigl for trying out the recipes at home.

Being born and raised in New Delhi doesn’t make me an expert on the Beehive State, but it does give me great judgment when it comes to spotting mouth-watering, authentic butter chicken. And Utah has what it takes.

Not only is Utah an Indian cuisine oasis, but most of these spots are mom-and-pop owned and have garnered high praise and reviews.

Here is an incomplete oral history of Utah’s bona fide Indian food scene — and my personal list of recommendations that are bound to change Heigl’s mind.

Salt Lake City’s Mumbai House is a three-decade-old institution. Last year, it won the award for best Indian restaurant in Salt Lake City — an accomplishment that even Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes applauded in a letter, which sits framed on the host desk. The restaurant also won the Quality Business Award for garnering high reviews on everything from service to satisfaction.

Before Mumbai House opened, Utah offered only one or two Indian dining options, recalled Harpal Toor Singh, the owner. And although times have changed, the Mumbai House owner still believes his restaurant has the edge by using only fresh ingredients, including spices.

Mumbai House in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

“We feed our customers what we feed our family and children,” said Singh, originally from Punjab, India. “We don’t compromise with quality.” Besides their creamy butter chicken, they are also known for their coconut-based curries.

Mumbai House’s second location in Park City will be ready for business in the next few weeks, with plans to open a third in Tooele in August, he said.

His restaurant was part of a trio of Bombay House restaurants in Utah. In October 2022, he and the other two owners, Ajmer Singh and Daniel Shanthakumar, dissolved their partnership, and the “Bombay” in Singh’s restaurant’s name changed to “Mumbai” without a formal announcement.

Singh said he has always depended on the power of word-of-mouth to bring in customers, and he thinks this strategy will work for acquainting Utahns with the new name. However, it’s worth noting that some of the interior signage still says Bombay House.

Out of the three Bombay House restaurants, the one in downtown Provo, established in 1993, was the first location. Its success prompted expansions in Salt Lake City and West Jordan. Following the partnership split, the West Jordan restaurant tweaked its name: It now goes by Bombay Garden, owned by one of the major shareholders, Harjeet Singh. The restaurant in Provo kept the original name.

“I think we’re the oldest and first Indian restaurant in Utah,” said AJ , the general manager of Bombay House. “Utah has been really good to us and we continue to see ourselves serving and catering to different communities of this state.”

According to him, their chicken tikka masala has been the No. 1 house favorite for the last 30 years. They are also known for their Bollywood chicken, an original creation of owner and chef Daniel Shanthakumar, which blends coconut milk with crispy chunks of potatoes and tender pieces of pineapple, AJ said, adding that a popular choice among vegans and vegetarians is the mushroom rajputana, which has an onion-tomato base with lots of ginger and garlic.

This partnership dilution is recent, but these three restaurants inspired many others and paved the way for an exciting scene for Indian food in Utah.

Chef Emmanuel Shanthakumar, the brother of Provo Bombay House owner Daniel Shanthakumar, opened his own restaurant, Royal India, in Sandy in 1998. It was the first of its kind at the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley, he said. Around six years later, he opened another Royal India in Bountiful. Shanthakumar said his regulars have been coming in since they were children and are now married with kids.

Royal India brings spicy culture to Bountiful

Within several years of being in business, Shanthakumar got acquainted with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Royal India catered a fundraiser dinner leading up to election night in 2004, and the campaign party when Huntsman eventually won. Shanthakumar said Huntsman wanted to introduce more Utahns to Indian food.

Emmanuel Shanthakumar, chef and owner of Royal India, shaking hands with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. at the Artist Awards on Sept. 19, 2007. Shanthakumar received a governor's medal. The photo is signed by Huntsman and former first lady of Utah Mary Kaye Huntsman. | Courtesy of Emmanuel Shanthakumar

Shanthakumar sent the Deseret News a photo of the menu from the Artist Awards event he catered at the Governor’s Mansion in 2007. The first course was a tomato, fennel and garlic soup with a lentil base. The second course included chicken tikka masala, palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese), eggplant curry and fried stuffed okra, served with garlic naans and whole wheat brathas. The same night, Shanthakumar received a governor’s medal, recognizing him as the culinary artist of the year.

Huntsman, who has an adopted Indian daughter, also hosted parties to celebrate Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, at the Governor’s Mansion during his time in office. At the first-ever celebration at the mansion in 2005, Huntsman said, “During my time abroad I’ve learned to appreciate Indian culture and cuisine,” according to a news report. “One of my favorite dishes is gulab jamun,” a syrupy-filled dessert.

Shanthakumar, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he guesses the governor developed a taste for this cuisine while serving as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, where there is a strong influence of Indian flavors. Huntsman also spent time in Taiwan as a missionary.

He recalled the former governor enjoying eating traditional items like lemon pickles and Shanthakumar’s okra fry recipe. “I cut okra almost like french fries, batter them with some lentils and spices, and then fry it,” he said, explaining his way of creating more of a “chip” texture that contrasts with okra’s sliminess.

Shanthakumar said he thinks Utah has “pretty authentic Indian food,” and said it is bound to taste more like it does in India as South Asians continue immigrating to the Beehive State.

In Heigl’s defense, he said the heat in the food he serves at his restaurant has to be toned down for Utahns.

Bombay Garden’s owner, Harjeet Singh, partnered with his brother, Manjit Singh, and cousin, Mainderpal Singh, and opened Little India. Out of the two locations, the one in American Fork was No. 19 on Yelp’s list of top 100 restaurants in the Southwest, which has gotten the restaurant a lot more traction, says Manjit. According to Yelp, the top seller of this “hidden gem” is its “amazing” butter chicken. The tandoori-baked naans, plain or with garlic or onion, “may change your life,” Yelper Michael M. says.

Customers eat at Mumbai House in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Manjit, the co-owner, told the Deseret News they also have a pineapple chicken curry with a coconut base. He said he thinks Utah has “a select few restaurants down in Salt Lake Valley that do a really good job,” especially since preparing Indian food isn’t easy.

“Just our masala sauce alone takes about four to five hours to prepare, and the butter chicken sauce takes about three to four hours, too,” he added.

Little India is expanding to Park City and Highland. He remembers when Bombay House had barely started, and the landscape for Indian food was barren. “Now if you go literally from Nephi, all the way up to like Logan, I would say roughly there’s about 65 to 70 Indian and Nepalese restaurants,” said Manjit.

Red Fort has four, soon to be five, locations that opened one after another within five years, making it one of the most popular restaurants in the state. They have claimed the title of the best restaurant in southern Utah for five years straight.


Currently in St. George, La Verkin and Layton in Utah and in Meridian, Idaho, Red Fort is owned by Shamsher Singh and Wahid Noori, an Afghani refugee who worked as a cook at Mumbai House for two decades. Their latest expansion is under construction in Ogden.

“That’s my family,” said Harpal Singh, Mumbai House owner, of his brother Shamsher. Many others have learned from his and other well-run kitchens to perfect the art of cooking Indian food.

The above restaurants don’t even scratch the surface of the options Utah has. Some other well-rated South Asian restaurants are Saffron Valley, which also offers cooking classes, The Kathmandu Grill, Bhutan House and Curry Fried Chicken.

Heigl might just have to take a trip from her home in Oakley, Summit Country, to indulge in some creamy, spicy curry.

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