So what’s new, as any of my friends or family would say. I always tell people that whenever I visit the sub-continent, magically my metabolism quadruples. I am not sure, maybe it has something to do with the heat, general pace of life, but I can just eat all the time, and the damage to the contours is minimal. Nothing to do with a ‘Delhi Belly’, never had that problem, been blessed with a cast iron constitution
Coming back to this story, as I was happily munching away those delicious bun kababs, oblivious to me, the phone kept ringing. I finally went down to pay, at the same time booked a taxi. Suddenly noted a few missed calls from my friend, let’s call her Reshma. I called her back, and she complained that I hadn’t called her all day and was not answering the phone either, which got her worried. She was conjuring up images of me lost or something worse. Assured her about my well being, and told her where I was. Reshma had never tried those bun kababs, hence got some as a takeaway for her and family.
This time I got an Uber, because it was rush hour and no Careem cabs were available. The cab driver, when I was about to get off, told me he wanted to be paid in cash. I told him it was not possible because the payments get debited on the card. He gave me a lot of grief, finally I decided it wasn’t worth it, and ended up paying him the fare in cash too (the amount was negligible as you can imagine), I was in any case going to tip him. I told Reshma about it and she told me he was just being difficult, and may have realised I was not local. Anyway, I noted that, but made sure not to get an Uber again.
I met Reshma’s family and chatted with her mum about Sindhi food and food she grew-up eating. Meanwhile their cook was getting dinner ready, but I was very keen to explore some more of Karachi’s food that day. So, after eating some dahi badas ( lentil doughnuts in yoghurt), which were delicious, some potato patties, Reshma and I took off. She gave me a choice between this fancy-ish place recommended by all and sundry, called Kolachi – famous for their ‘karahis’ and beautiful views, or Ghaffar Kabab House. Kolachi is also the old name for Karachi when it was still a tiny fishing village until the 18th century, in case you didn’t know. Of course, I went for Ghaffar Kabab House and got a taxi back to, where ? P.E.C.H.S again, but a different part!
Reshma’s mum didn’t look very pleased with our plan, as it was already getting to 9 PM, but stopped short of saying anything to her in my presence. I am quite sure she got a drubbing after.
Upon reaching, we had to get off a bit ahead and walk through a barricade, manned by police, local security, not sure. But sights such as this are not uncommon in Pakistan, army, police, ‘security’ is all over. After successfully clearing the barricade, we made our way ahead.
As we approached, the sight, sound and heady aroma, wafting from the kababs roasting on hot coals, enveloped my vision and senses, and was momentarily transported back home to the gullies and by-lanes of Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai.
Ghaffar Kabab House is one of the most popular kabab joints in Karachi. Like many such places in Pakistan, the best in the trade trace their lineage to the royal kitchens of Delhi and Lucknow.
They have two shops facing the street, one is for takeaway and the other ( as you can see in the video), is for eating in. I took a good look at all the kababs, and then the dining area.
The ground floor was completely packed with men, as expected, although I would have been happy to sit there and eat, had there been no other option. They led us upstairs to their family room, which seemed more convivial with lots of families, and at least one only women’s group. Yay!! Finally some representation, I thought to myself.
We sat down, and placed the order, one of each : a dhaga kabab ( that ‘dhaga’ or thread is surely a Karachi addition to a kabab that is similar to a gilawati/ tunday kabab from Lucknow – the melt-in-the mouth meat is held together by a thread), bihari boti, chicken seekh, chicken malai boti, mutton seekh kabab. But the dish I was eagerly waiting to eat for a long time was, ‘magaz nihari’ ( magaz= goat brain and nihari is shank, in this case it was beef), and it surpassed all expectations. I am a sucker for a good ‘nihari’ and this one came with a fresh off the goat whole brain, and I was in ‘meat-heaven’.
My favourites kababs were the mutton seekh kabab and dhaga kabab . Eat with multiple rounds of the kulcha ( flat bread), and dollops of the spicy chutney. I ordered another round of the seekh kabab, in the interest of disclosure :-), but got the chicken kababs as a doggy bag. Gosh, after three consecutive meals, just couldn’t move.
By the time we left it was past 11 PM, but the place was still buzzing. Keen to eat ‘paan’ ( betel leaf eaten with areca nut and some spices like green cardamom and clove), we found a shop just across. ‘Paan’ is an acquired taste, but in my opinion it’s the best digestive for heavy meaty food ( if no alcohol is available). Pakistan is a dry country, remember. There is an exception though, alcohol sales are permitted, to non-Muslims and foreigners, to be consumed within the four walls of their homes, or in certain designated five star hotels. The most most surprising discovery was learning about a local distillery called http://murreebrewery.com.
Well, that was the end of day 1, packed with lots of new experiences and learnings. On that note, I fell into deep slumber almost immediately upon return.
As I am writing this, can confirm those were the best kababs I eat in Pakistan.