Lahori London – A Blog Four Years Pending – Sara I.

I had stopped updating lahorikhaabay 4 years ago. When I looked through my last saved drafts today, I came across this. A wonderful person I knew a few years ago had written this when I was looking to feature fellow paitu log on lahorikhaabay.

By publishing it now, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I feel that I should. Sara put a lot of effort in writing this and I guess it really captures how Lahoris love food the same way, wherever in the world they are.

You can follow Sara on Twitter – @SupaSaara


Sara I.

“When you’re looking for a good place to eat at, always follow the crowd” – Mamu

You’re never too far from desi dining in London, be it a local Indian take away or an all out Lahore Karahi. Driving down the very desi high street of Tooting, you’ll find a handful of restaurants, each with a long list of why not to eat there but you do it anyway.

For the beginning of the 10+ years I’ve spent in this country, I found myself spending a lot of time, in family gatherings, at this high street. We’d started off at one end and gradually through the years discovered the rest of the high street.

I walk into this little ‘room’ of a restaurant, Desi Khana. This place seems to be overcrowded by goray but is still frequented by the desi families of Tooting. The gora-attraction reason being, this is probably the only place that caters to your choice of ‘curries’, your level of spice and allows you to bring your own drinks! I’m greeted by a young waiter, like most of the others working here, probably a student that’s just arrived from back home, who can’t believe he has to work when all his life naukar cleaned up after him, at the same time thrilled to have found work with his fellow Pakistani/Indian work mates.

desikhana

I’m seated a little towards the open kitchen area. As I sit myself down, my complimentary papad arrives with a choice of raita and mango chutney. I’m not keen on the zeera in my poppadum. You’ll notice how, when you’re hungry, you’ll still be dunking your poppadum in the raita (yoghurt), despite the zeeragetting stuck in your teeth. We give the waiter our order; Karahi Saag Paneer, Karahi gosht, Chilli Chicken and of course, a mixed grill. Let’s not forget the naan. They have a wide variety ranging from chilli and garlic naan, to peshawri and keema naan, not to mention the parathas and the rotis, for the small minority in my social circle.

Drinks are not at the top of my list when I’m prepared for a big meal, tends to fill me up quicker! So I order a coke, and that’s that. We don’t have to wait to long before the food arrives. First the saag and the chicken. The gosht to follow and not long before the mixed grill arrives, sizzling hot. It’s always hard to compose yourself, and not seem pretentious but still attack the food before the good stuffs all gone! I try to be subtle, but it’s not long before dishes are flying everywhere.

There’s a brief pause before the naans come rolling in, hot off the tava. I tend to start with something that looks least tempting, so I can savour the best at the end. Everything looks delicious, I choose to start with the karahi saag paneer (spinach), since paneer is not my first choice. The blend of masalas is just right. I cup my naan and aim for the chicken, mixing it with the saag. So what? I like to mix and match!

desikhana1

You have to be careful not to be too subtle when going for the mix grill. You want to just pounce and grab the chops while they’re still there. Once they’re gone, that’s it. There are never enough chops in any serving of mixed grill. I’m lucky. I get there fast. I’ve learnt well over the years. The chops should be eaten within five minutes of they’re arrival. Although, still very tender if left to cool, always a lot more delicious when eaten hot. Don’t be afraid to add a spoonful of the grilled onions and tomatoes to your plate, that comes with the grill. The grill consists of grilled chops, seekh kebab, chicken tikka , lamb kebab and tandoori wings. Three pieces each except the wings, which has four pieces. The chilli sauce has a tangy flavour to it, goes well with the spicy kebabs, my all time favourites.

I’m making my way to the karahi gosht now, although I can already see there’s not much left to it, so I tip over the whole dish into my plate. If you’re dining with your husband/wife or a couple of friends, the portion sizes will do just fine. However, if dining with a larger group, the karahi dishes will seem too small, so yo’re better off ordering two of your favorite dishes, one for either end of the table. The gosht is really well made, the meat nice and tender, a nice blend of spices, again not too spicy unless you ask for it to be extra spicy, in that case they’ll chop some extra hot green chillies and add them to your karahi.

The choice in sweets isn’t as wide and varied as our food. I tend to avoid sweet dishes from just any restaurant. You have to go to the right places to get nice ras malai and falouda. Most order a Kulfi or falouda after they’ve finished licking and smacking their lips, to get the last bit of flavour out of their teeth.

Dessert arrives in due time. I dig my spoon into the kulfi of the person next to me. Like I said, I can’t have dessert just anywhere, and I don’t like to waste food when I know I won’t be cleaning my plate. The kulfi’s nothing to fuss about. I’ve had better. Chai is not needed this time, as we don’t have a large amount of chai lovers on our trip today.

We pay the bill, not too pricey, and make our way out into the icy cold winds and freezing temperatures of London. We have enough warmth in our bellies to get us to our transports and still be warm and fuzzy.

The Fat Guy Breakfast.

D@ FAT LYF CH0SE M3.

kentuckycurse1

I don’t generally admit it but people who know me IRL, know that I’m fat. And proud. Although I keep telling myself that I don’t have a saggy chest yet, the lifestyle that I enjoy needs to be shared with fellow saggy men (and women). Yall need the encouragement. The urge is just eating at me.

The Fat Guy Breakfast is what ensures I remain in the fabulous shape I am in. You can learn from it and change your life forever.

07:00 – Wake up.

07:30 – Get done with SSS (shit, shave and shower for you filthy casuals)

08:00 – Leave for work

09:30 – LEAVE WORK FOR FAT G BREAKFAST

10:00 – Enter the nearest KFC as soon as they flip the Closed to Open. Order crispy strips. Consume.

10:30 – Back on the road for the fat guy sales job I have.

Rest of the day – Sweet regret.

If I can’t leave work for sweet, beautiful KFC, I order it.

This might seem like your average day too if you know me, as I tend to only know people who have pledged to live by one of the seven sins, but still. CONTRIBUTE. Tell me what YOUR Fat Guy breakfast is and how you go about it. Comment below lol.

Mine is KFC because ah well. Who doesn’t want crispy, spicy pieces of devil’s breast going into your mouth early in the morning. Yeah. YES KFC IS ALSO PUNJABI OKAY I DON’T CARE LAHORIS LOVE CHICKEN OKAY

Bear with me.

Take Me Back?

I can’t really call this a hiatus anymore. It’s been almost 4 years since I wrote anything interesting, or anything at all. Will you guys take me back if I start writing about my first love again? Food of course.

I’m not actually asking for approval though.

Send in suggestions! If you have places in mind that you want me to write about, tell me!

If you want to contribute to my blog on Lahori/desi eateries, anywhere in the world, you’re welcome!

I intend to write smaller posts this time.

This blog shall remain to look like a traditional-scroll-till-you’re-tired blog, for a while though.

Veranda Bistro, Lahore

I’m back. Before saying anything else, let me apologize for the random hiatus from writing. Life has been busy and now that I’m virtually jobless (for a while and by choice hyuk), I have enough time to review a few restaurants. Expect a lot of blog updates in the near future, readers!

Apparently, Verandas Bistro is a restaurant chain in the US. Someone in Lahore came up with an unbelievably creative twist on the name and started Veranda Bistro, Lahore. Yes, a missing ‘s’. I’m pretty sure this isn’t one of the US chain’s branches in Lahore as the one in the US offers casual dining and a wine house. This one in Lahore offers one of the prettiest, ‘fine-dining’ set-ups I’ve come across in my 8 years in this city.

Veranda Bistro, Lahore. Courtesy - Saad Sarfraz Sheikh

My first impression of the place as soon as I arrived here for dinner last week was, “Damn”. The place has one of the most beautiful dining setups in Lahore. The theme is extravagantly classy and is achieved through expensive wood and glass work. And this is just the interior-dining area. The actual ‘veranda’ is even prettier and has this amazing Fire and Water combination theme with wood tables that suit the outside environment, umbrellas and all.

This is not an interior-designing blog though so let’s jump straight to the food. Having talked about the decor even while sitting there with a few friends and an American visitor, we all placed our order. Like always, I try my best to make everyone order something different at a new place so we can try out as much of the full menu as possible. I and Saad Sarfraz Sheikh (a dear friend and an outstanding photographer/journalist) ordered their Chicken Fettuccine, Hassan Qureshi (my best friend since 2002) ordered the Lasagna, Abbas Khattak (friend-having-bro-status-visiting-from-Islamabad) ordered a Lamb combination, the name of which I forget, and our dear gori ordered steak, a T-bone I suppose. Excuse my lack of knowledge on a few orders here. I was sitting far across the table and didn’t have time to focus on everyone’s order or inquire a lot.

Chicken Fettuccine - Saad Sarfraz Sheikh

Keeping it short, the food was below average, shockingly. It’s amazing how such an amazing-looking place, recently opened during a time when restaurants and cafes in Lahore are enjoying healthy competition for a while now, can come up with food that is so..mediocre. The Fettuccine tasted like a concoction produced by combining pasta and several packs of vegetable-flavored Slanty chips. That’s all I could say to describe it and Saad gleefully agreed. The Lasagna? It was served in a 3-inch diameter bowl that looked like the ones we use for baking muffins. To cover up for the ridiculously small serving of lasagna, it had been placed in a huge plate lined with a ruffled table napkin. And the lasagna tasted totally desi – I’ve had better lasagna at desi homes in Lahore actually. The only thing I actually enjoyed on the table was the complimentary bread served as soon as we ordered. Freshly baked, served with garlic-infused olive oil. Bliss.

As I didn’t get the chance to try the Lamb, I asked Abbas about it and he said it was pretty frikkin’ good. Considering though how Abbas is a complete lamb-lover and had failed to find decent lamb on the previous dinner we had at Salt n Pepper Village, I think his opinion was a little biased heh. I asked our gori how the steak was, and she serenaded about how Islamabad sucks and Lahore is where she’s finally gotten some amazing food. That statement is based on prior food-bomb experiences in Islamabad and is a little biased again LOL.

All in all, I think the food experience pretty much bombed for everyone. It was confirmed when we got the cheque- Rs. 12,000 for 7 people who ordered an entree and drink each, no starter or dessert. Sad, sad day for fooding. To save one of the newest additions to Lahore’s Restaurant repertoire however, I want to add that the veranda area is a must-visit if you are between 18-22 years of age and a Shisha-lover. Order their Shisha and some thin-crust pizza, which is NOT a single serving as the server might tell you (serves 3). They might even throw in a complimentary Pomegranate cooler to cheer you up.

Thank you for welcoming me back, readers. Do leave a comment if you agree or disagree with the post. Love.❤

Summary: Veranda Bistro, Lahore. Great place for classy dining if your pockets are super-heavy and if your food judgment is clouded by previous food-bombing experiences. Must-visit for Shisha and thin-crust pizza.

Dunk Your Tortilla Into My Dip.

Okay. Sorry about the innuendo. But that’s how nachos and dips make me feel. Nachos, tortilla chips, whatever they’re called, I don’t care. Ever since I first had them when I was a kid (when I’d pronounce the word as Tawr-Tillah instead of Torteeyah like it should be done if you’re educated), I became a fan. It took me a while to understand the whole concept behind tortilla chips and dips. For me, roti was supposed to be dipped into Korma and everything else was supposed to be dunked into my cup of chai. I learned well though. I developed a love for tomato salsa and sour cream over the years.

While in Dubai, I’d buy a pack of Doritos and these canned or packaged versions of dips for my tortilla chips. I’ve always wanted to know if there was a simple (read simple and cheaper) way to get hold of dips and all before watching a movie for example. And I came across Palwasha Minhas on twitter. She posted this amazing picture of assorted dips and all. I asked for a recipe for making each one of them and she was generous enough to mail them to me along with the original picture.

This is for you Palwasha. For respecting a fellow foodie. Keep eating!

numnumz.

Guacamole:

6 riped avocados or a cup full of pulp.

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice.

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.

4 tomatoes deseed and chop finely

1 medium onion, finely diced.

1 jalapeno pepper, minced (with seeds if desired)

3 garlic cloves, minced.

1 1/4tsp coarse salt.

1/2tsp freshly ground pepper.

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Mash avocados to get the consistency you want, Stir in remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to your tastes.But try to use it as soon as you can or it will start to turn dark.

Tomato Salsa:

4 riped tomatoes chopped.

1/4 cup finely chopped red onions.

2 cloves garlic minced.

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, deseeded and sliced.

1/4 cup chopped coriander.

1 tbsp lime juice.

1tbsp apple juice.

2 tsp olive oil.

salt and pepper.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix

Baked Beans:

1 can of chilli beans mashed.

1/4 cup chopped red onions.

1tbsp hot sauces.

2 garlic cloves minced.

salt and pepper powder.

1/4 cup chopped coriander.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix.

Sour Cream :

1 cup sour cream.

1tbsp pepper powder.

1/2tsp onion powder.

Combine all the ingredient in a bowl and blend well.

Thank you, readers. Try the recipes actually. They’re pretty simple. Avocado might be a little difficult to find and might only be available at the ‘hip’ shopping places like Essajee’s (HEH) but you can always skip the Guacamole for a while if you want. Do comment!

CTC and Espresso, Lahore – Where Coffee Shops are Diners.

My worst fooding review, yet.

Not that I mind what the title says. I love how when you walk into some of the major coffee shops in Lahore, you’re not only presented with a coffee menu but a full-on food menu having everything from soups and steaks to burgers, sandwiches and wings. I’m not a coffee person. I’m a chai person. I live on chai. When I’m sad, I have doodh patti. When I’m happy, I have masala chai. When I’m meh, I have simple home-made chai. Despite my chai-lurve, I practically live at two of my favorite coffee shops in Lahore. Here’s to CTC and Espresso, coffee places that had a review coming from me but I never got to it.

CTC – Coffee, Tea and Company – Established 2003

My attachment with CTC goes back to 2003 when I was studying for my A-levels and spent a few hours every week at the place. And then to 2006 when I started my Psychology degree. That was before the ridiculous increase in the prices of practically everything at CTC. In those days *distant Bollywood-style look*, you could get a huge cold sandwich at CTC for Rs. 70. You could get a super-loaded pizza slice and their amazing lemon iced-tea, all for Rs. 110 All their cold sandwiches are now priced at around Rs. 250. And a glass of lemon iced-tea now costs Rs. 160. Add a few more rupees for more flavors. Times have changed.

What makes me go back to CTC still is their amazing food menu though. If you’re looking for the biggest and most amazing hot-sandwiches served in baked-in-house bread with a dollop of battered fries and assorted dips to choose from, this is the place to be. Their Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich has become staple food for me. A picture is attached to help your virtual foodgasm. It’s an old picture, I know, but the sandwich is the same. Trust me. o.o

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich

Other items on the menu that are worth trying:

1. Cannelloni Pasta (Rolled-up pasta stuffed with seasoned chicken, covered with a light, creamy tomatoeish sauce)

2. Chicken Pepper Steak Sandwich (The Lahori favorite *heh* Pepper Steak, in a Sandwich)

3. Chilli Cheese Fries (Fries, loads of cheese, loads of Jalapeno. So addictive that you can’t stop having them and you can’t stop crying because they’re THAT hot)

4. Chicken Quesadilla (4 chicken tortilla wraps served with actually fresh salsa)

5. Try their coffees too. They make a beautiful Cappuccino and their Hot Chocolates are friggin’ rich and a treat during winters. I was never a Starbucks person, so yeah, avoid the over-priced Starbucks menu heh.

What about other items to avoid though? Never, I say NEVER try a steak at CTC. You can try it though if you’re used to having paper-thin pieces of chicken or beef that taste like isphagol. Sorry, couldn’t come up with a blander tasting example. Do NOT try their breakfast. They say they serve bacon. That’s what they call 2 strips of fat on a plate. I wouldn’t pay poop-loads for a plate of eggs and toast in Lahore anyway. No thanks, I don’t want that complimentary glass of Nestle orange juice.

The service at CTC could keep you going back too. They’ve got really friendly waiters who remember your order most of the time and serve with a smile. One of them looks like Saeed Anwar. He’s adorable. One of them, Irfan, left the place and started working as a manager at Yasir Broast, Johar Town (LMAO). One of the managers, Sohail, is a really great guy and always at hand when you need something extra or for suggestions and complaints. You can spot him by his sharp, shiny head and frenchie.

Espresso

Passion Fruit Ice

Ahh, dear Espresso, home is where the tummy is babe, and you, my favorite coffee place, is what I call home. The first time I visited Espresso was around a year ago when they had recently opened up in Lahore after several successful years in Karachi. I immediately filled the form for a Loyalty Card (the card is brown and is sexy) that allows me to accumulate points on it. When I have more than 150 points, I CAN HAZ FREE FOOD. What could be better than that? I’ve had numerous free coffees and drinks at Espresso. One time I redeemed around 800 points. That was bloody amazing.

I love Espresso because of the amazingly cozy feel the place has. The whole theme is brown and the back panel of the whole place is not a wall but a back-lit abstract display that helps light the place, still managing to keep the place dimly-lit, enough so you can watch what you’re eating, not enough to make out. With food or whatever.

Again, I’ve been coming here for the food. Food you must try here:

1. CLT Sandwich (Chicken, Lettuce and Tomato in nice fresh baguette. The chicken is pretty spicy. Coconuts beware heh.)

2. Chicken Alfredo (The famous Alfredo pasta. They make it real good here. Seriously. Served with Garlic Bread). Also try their Chicken Fajita. It comes with dips and tortilla and everything.

3. Passion Fruit Ice (I love this. I simple LOVE this. More probably because it brings back sweet memories ahum. But it is really pretty good. Also try their Strawberry Ice.)

4. Starter Platter (Potato Skins, Chicken Strips, Mozzarella Sticks and Buffalo Wings served with Sour Cream, Cheese Dip and Hot Sauce). This almost totally matches the popular sexy starter platter I had at TGI Fridays in Dubai once. Yes, this is actually that good.

What not to order? NEVER order their Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. No words for it. Never order the Kiwi Ice.

Ahh that’s it I guess. When I started writing this, I had a lot on my mind. I actually love these places and can be found at either one of them almost every day of the week LOL. But there’s still a lot left to say. I want you people, my readers, to contribute. Comment on what your favorite coffee places are and why. Comment on food or drinks you liked at CTC and Espresso, or whatever.  Comment if you want directions or more information. I’m done here. Eventually, I’d always prefer Caribou if it opened up in Lahore, probably because of all the time I spent there with Sandora. They have the best Chai Tea Latte (heh-fancy-shmancy-name-for-masala-chai-win) and a nostalgic Passion Fruit Green Tea. *drools*

Bye for now. Make fun of my writing skills. Make fun of my blog. I’m not at my regular foodie self today. X|

Shahi Hamam, Lahore – Of Bathing and Dining.

Oh so pretty. o.o

The Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath), an important landmark of ‘Old Lahore’ is located right inside Delhi Gate. It has a small gate as its entrance on the left side, right after you’re inside Delhi Gate, in the Shahi Guzargah (The Royal Passage).

Having lived for years with the pride of having one of the largest fresco works ever, Shahi Hamam, despite its name, was not only for royals to freshen up who’d come in from far-off places like Delhi but was also open to the general public. With a glorious past defined by the architectural genius that Shahi Hamam was/still is, having cold, hot and steam bath options in THAT time, what state the Hamam lies in now is nothing but sad to look at.

Keeping it short, most of the frescoes have been painted on. White. WHITE PAINT. This was done after a mother-loving TV-producer covered the Hamam’s walls with wallpaper for a shoot and ripped it all off after they were done shooting. Smooth, oh Pakistani Producer. Real smooth. Way to respect your heritage for sure.

That said, what is left of the Hamam is taken care of by the TDCP now and they have left it to the most amazing guide you will find in Lahore – Mohammad Azam, who not only is super-polite and extremely well-informed about Walled Lahore’s glorious past but also has an AMAZING voice. At some point during the guided tour, he breaks into song as you lean into one of the pillars of the Hamam to feel the unbelievable acoustic technology the Mughals gave to it. You have to go there to understand what I’m saying. Words won’t do justice to it.

Why am I writing about a public bath on a food blog is because it’s not a bath anymore, obviously, but also because it’s not anywhere close to being renovated into a bath-like building of the past anyway. The TDCP itself announced in 2005 that they were planning to turn the Hamam into a Mughal-themed restaurant. Bad idea, TDCP. What has kept the Hamam in visiting condition til now even after the frightening damage done by the TV-producer is the fact that very few people actually deem the place important enough to visit. Turn it into a restaurant and there we go. Smoke from BBQ grills, splashing cooking oil, the sounds of Taka Tak, Lahori kids using the walls as their personal canvas, ahh hell. I don’t like the picture. Thankfully, the plan hasn’t fallen into place yet.

Back to why I’m writing this. Ironically, as much as I’m against turning the Hamam into a restaurant, I dined there. Yes. After my first visit to the Hamam, I decided to visit Wazir Khan Mosque and Kashmiri Bazaar. On returning from the long walk in the sun, I thought I’ll ask sweet Azam if there’s a clean fooding place nearby apart from the ridiculously priced Cuccoo’s at Heera Mandi. He however, generously pulled up two couches for me and my trip-partner Aarzoo Naeem and ran off somewhere into Old Lahore to get us the most amazing food I had that week:

Actual, unadulterated Naan Chanay (Pakistani baked bread and a Chickpea Curry) served with freshly-cut (crinkled) salad, Raita (Yogurt with salt and pepper) and ice-cold Sprite.

Chanay! Salad! Raita! Slurp.

If not for anything else, I want you all, my readers, to visit Shahi Hamam for Mohammad Azam. He is unbelievably sweet and is so amazing that the Hamam’s guestbook looks like a Fan-book for Azam! It’s filled with comments by people from all over the world (literally), all about Mohammad Azam and his friendliness and guidance.

Do not directly ask him for Naan Chanay though, friends. He is still a TDCP guide. Wait until we turn the Hamam into a restaurant and we may then treat him like our server too. Until then, I’ll laugh at how this post’s title is the exact translation of my blog title. And I didn’t even realize it lulz.