Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

When you pick up your grab-and-go meal from Mata G Vegetarian Kitchen in Albuquerque’s Historic Nob Hill, know you are also supporting the hungry in New Mexico. The underlying mission for Mata G (Sanskrit for “Sacred Mother”) is to feed those New Mexicans who can’t feed themselves.

The restaurant’s owners, Gurubachan Khalsa and his wife Gurubachan Kaur Khalsa, who is “Mata G,” have always been involved in a healthy lifestyle. They both practice and teach Kundalini yoga primarily in Asia, South America and on a free YouTube channel called Breathe Global that was started by Mata G herself. When it comes to the food that they sell at Mata G, they believe that the person who’s preparing it adds to the food from their own heart, from their own love, from their own spirit and that is what makes food good. If food nourishes the body, mind and the spirit, then you know that it’s good food.

A Tradition of Service

An underlying tenet of Sikhism is langar, the practice of preparing and serving a free meal to promote seva – giving selfless service to the community. During the pandemic, as hunger from the COVID spread across the US, Sikhs mobilized their gurdwara, places of worship, to feed the needy. Anyone, Sikh or not, can visit a Sikh gurdwara kitchen and partake in langar. The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India with its large kitchens serves more than 100,000 people every day.

“In the Sikh tradition all over the world we have langars where we serve people free food. It doesn’t matter who they are, feeding people is a very big deal. We decided to set up a for-profit business that we would use to help fund a free kitchen,” Gurubachan Khalsa told The Paper. in a recent interview.

They initially went out in a food truck and served food to people; however, the pandemic shifted the focus of their way of offering food to feed the hungry.

“Pre-COVID, our manner of serving the free kitchen was we’d have food trucks and we’d go out and we’d deliver 500 or 1,000 Burritos to the rural areas. COVID made that impossible and so we went to donating food. We’re now up to donating 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of free food to different agencies and different groups in New Mexico.”

They donate to two places in the Española area and Casa Barelas in Albuquerque. They’ve also been donating food to a couple of groups out in Las Vegas, NM because of the fires. “Mainly we’re in rural areas because there’s where we find kids that don’t have food from Friday night to Monday afternoon,” Gurubachan said.

To support funding langar when the pandemic hit, they decided to create the for-profit “grab and go” Mata G Vegetarian Kitchen at 105 Amherst Dr SE. The restaurant showcases Mata G’s own recipes and those of her mother and grandmother. Their refrigerated display cases are filled with a variety of ethnic vegetarian and vegan food options from time-honored family recipes. The meals are pre-prepared and packaged fresh every day.

Middle Eastern Mexican Fusion

You’ll find Moroccan, Lebanese and Mexican choices, including vegetarian and vegan soups, burritos, salads, sandwiches, hummus, tofu salad and other sides. Some are perfect for munching at a desk; others work well for heating up at home after a long day at work.

Mata G’s food has been well received and their prepacked meals can be found in twenty-four different locations in New Mexico. They’re in supermarkets, hospitals, the National Laboratories, La Montañita Co-op and various other businesses.

“We don’t serve anything that had a mother or eyes; it’s vegetarian – no meat, fish or eggs. Our vegan dishes offer no dairy,” Gurubachan explained. “Everything we do is grab and go. At Mata G, at the mothership so to speak, we have an outside patio where people can come and sit outside and eat.” Just ask if you want your meal heated up.

Mata G started with five people when they first opened and has expanded to twenty-seven employees. “When people realize what Mata G offers is very unique in its vibration, healing aspects and everything else, we’ll see the interest in fabulous vegetarian and vegan food will continue to grow,” Gurubachan contended.

“We don’t seek to make people vegetarians. People should do what they want to do. We’re just offering them great food. Our food isn’t just food minus the meat. Our food is just great food that doesn’t have meat, fish or eggs. I would just like to remind them that their breath is their source of everything they need within themselves. And with that understanding, that’s the consciousness and awareness that we put into Mata G.”

Mata G will be participating in the  Albuquerque Vegan Challenge. During the month of July, different restaurants will feature special vegan menu options not normally on their menus. Diners have the opportunity to go out, enjoy meals, vote, comment and post photos of the delicious vegan meals they have ordered.

The family also has two other businesses located next to Mata G in Nob Hill that their son, Sat Gurumukh Singh Khalsa, operates. Their furniture store Sukhmani Home next door offers historical, vintage, antique and repurposed furniture out of India, Tibet and China. Their jewelry store, Sukhmani Designs, across the street from Mata G, offers jewelry designed by family members. They also have a Sukhmani Home in Santa Fe.

Mata G Vegetarian Kitchen serves a hot dish of the day from a variety of international cuisines including Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Mediterranean and Asian. Their grab-and-go menu offers meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm. Price range: $6 – $14. 505-266-6374. facebook.com/MataGVegetarianKitchen