First Look: Café Turmeric

This new Indian food truck serves classic dishes reimagined with locally grown produce.
This new food truck is bringing fusion Indian cuisine to O‘ahu’s North Shore. Co-owner Erin Belcher says the menu is inspired by offerings from local farms and the connections made at the farmers market.
Photo: Jennifer Fiedler


Between Opal’s Thai and The Elephant Truck, the North Shore has become a destination for solid Thai food. Now, Café Turmeric, a new food truck, is bringing a different Asian cuisine into the spotlight: Indian food.


Founded by chef Debasis Panda and his partner, Erin Belcher, the truck offers a range of familiar Indian dishes—what Belcher describes as a fusion of Indian classics reinterpreted with locally grown Hawai‘i ingredients—with a healthy spin. “It’s our mission to feed people’s hearts, minds and souls—we want to lift them up with food,” says the Maryland-born Belcher, who has lived in the Islands for 10 years as a yoga teacher.


Panda, who was born in Kolkata, India, had managed Indian restaurants in Singapore and Dubai before landing on Kaua‘i at Kapa‘a’s Shivalik, which is where he met Belcher. Though he had not cooked in professional kitchens abroad, Belcher was so impressed by Panda’s at-home recipes that she knew they needed to start their own operation.


The couple started serving Indian-style food at the Hale‘iwa Farmer’s Market last year and quickly gained a following. Their food truck opened in December 2015 with an expanded menu.


Located behind the One Love Surf Shop on the mauka end of Hale‘iwa, the truck serves a rotating mix of around 11 dishes. Some days you might find chana palak, a mix of spinach and chickpeas; others, a pumpkin masala curry. Belcher says the menu is inspired by offerings from local farms and the connections they made at the farmers market.


A few early-crowd favorites have turned into constants: a savory dal, made from red and yellow lentils and spiced with ginger, onion, garlic, cilantro and a homemade mix of Indian spices ($9), a vegan curry made from locally grown ingredients such as ‘ulu or sweet potato ($12), and a fish or shrimp curry simmered in a coconut milk and tomato base ($14). All main dishes are served with a healthy amount of basmati spiced with cinnamon, cumin and cardamom, and are filling enough to feed two people (or one hungry person).


The truck also offers a variety of chilled teas. The lightly sweetened turmeric tea, made from North Shore-grown fresh turmeric, is a standout ($3).


So far, Belcher says they’ve been having a blast. “I caught [Panda] dancing around the kitchen as he was cooking the other day,” she says.


Café Turmeric, located near the One Love Surf Shop in Hale‘iwa on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday through Sunday, noon to 7:30 p.m.; at the Hale‘iwa Farmer’s Market in Waimea Valley on Thursdays, 2 to 6 p.m., 741-2197