Hot Tamale Louie: The Pakistani, Tamale-Slinging Cowboy

How Zarif Khan changed a Wyoming town and redefined what it means to be American.

Zarif Khan hot tamale loui
Zarif Khan (Gillette News Record)

Mehr Singh


February 22, 2023


12 min

Two years after the 1907 Bellingham, Washington riots — in which members of the Asiatic Exclusion League attacked Indian mill workers, driving them out of town — a man from the Khyber Pass mountains would arrive in a small Wyoming town called Sheridan. The 5’ 6” and 120-pound Zarif Khan came from Bara village, in present-day Pakistan, but then part of greater India. Nobody knows why he ended up in the small industrial town. Still, one undisputed truth was this: Zarif Khan sold the best tamales out of a bucket hung on each shoulder, feeding cowboys, businesspeople, drunks, children, sex workers, and anyone else who spotted him outside the state’s railway stations and banks. 

Today, Sheridan’s sparse population of some 19,000 residents includes a few dozen Pakistanis who pray at its multiple mosques. Almost all are related to Khan. Khan, better known as Hot Louie Tamale, would change not only the town but also what it means to be American. 

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