How does one describe the “kebab”? Meat meets spice; the combination is oiled and the result is no less than a happily ever after union!
Ours is an ethnic region that boasts a wide variety of delicious kebabs. The diverse culinary wonders whipped up with meat mince by Pakistani chefs, particularly the seasoned, experienced ones at Karachi’s dated kebab houses, are proof of the timeless quality of this dish that is a vintage, popular part of our subcontinent’s cuisine.
Whether the meat is chicken, mutton or beef, in the form of mince or coarsely chopped chunks called boti’s, barbecued kebabs of various kinds remain a persistently pursued prize for young and old Karachiites alike!
Bustling Burns Road – Kebab Fry
When beef mince is fried in pure, desi butter, however, you get the meaty wonder called “kebab fry” that is popularly sought since decades at Waheed Kebab house on burns road.
Hungry and loyal Karachiites of all ages determinedly flock to this eatery, deflecting erratic traffic and stubbornly indifferent pedestrians, braving smog-ridden crossings and bumpy side dirt roads, to achieve the monumental task of finding a parking spot, and then hopping across overflowing sewage, open air food vendors and strewn trash to get to the threshold of the always hustling, busting Waheed.
“Our restaurant has been in business since 50 years,” says the proud owner, “The offspring of those of our diners who have been coming in since decades now form our clientele.”When asked which dish on the menu was most frequently ordered, he promptly replied, “kebab fry,” just as his son piped, “Kebab fry,” just as his son piped in, “And also Gola Kebab!”
The restaurant turnover is high as families keep coming in with gusto, ordering most of the variety of kebabs on offer. A dining table without fry kebabs is a rare occurrence at Waheed. However, if you expect these fry kebabs to look like neatly shaped mince patties fried on a skillet, you are in for a surprise.
A traditional stainless steel quarter plate laden with hot, mildly spiced finely shredded beef mince floating in butter is placed before the diner, along with some green chutney and chopped red onions, who then tucks into it with a piece of hot off the burner chapatti or crisp yet succulent puri paratha.
The fry kebabs are marinated with just the right amount of spices, and tenderized to perfection. Before you know it, you’ve wiped it all off without feeling an ounce of heaviness or heartburn! The waiters are always on hand to cater to the demands of the hungry customers, be it a soft drink, more paratha’s or another plate of kebabs.
When the tantalized taste-buds are more than palatably satiated, the stomach is filled without taxing the wallet, and the hospitality received during dinner is no-frills, humble and sincere, it is no surprise that a restaurant with a modest ambience that provides newspaper squares as napkins and lacks central air-conditioning, can still attract eager diners across all social classes and from every corner of our gargantuan cosmopolitan city.
For the Iranian Touch – Chelo Kebabs
Karachiites would perhaps not be too familiar with what Iranian “Chelo” kebabs were, if it wasn’t for the dated, quaint café chullu subhani located on main sadder road. This café has been in business for years, and has perhaps changed little in physical appearance in the time it has been eatering to the palates of foreigners and locals alike.
The special thing about the menu of café subhani is its variety of Iranian food, namely, “chullu kebabs”. Chullu kebabs are served as tender and barbecued, skewered chicken or beef on a bed of steaming basmati butter rice along with a couple of grilled tomatoes. At café subhani, chullu mutton gravy and chullu fried fish is also available as accompaniments to the rice and tomato duo.
Before serving a small, open packet of butter is upturned atop the rice, most of which ends up melting into it by the time the platter reaches the diners’ table. The rice is flanked on one side by two mushy soft, grilled tomatoes and on the other side, by the chullu meat the customer has chosen to order. The price of this platter ranges between Rs 250 and Rs 350 and it usually suffices two adults.
“What I love at chullu is the taste of the steamed rice drenched in butter. And the skewered kebabs with those grilled tomatoes taste just awesome!” says Irfan, an Islamic Banking executive, who has by now become a regular at Chullu Subhani. “I like the fried fish and chips at Chullu!” pipes in his 6 year old daughter excitedly.
Lunch boxes can be availed at the restaurant’s downstairs counter throughout the day during business hours, as customers flock in not just to dine but also to take packed food away, especially for employees working in nearby offices.
Café Chullu Subhani offers other, regular Pakistani food items besides Iranian chullu kebabs as well, such as qorma, biryani, palak, afghani pulao, handi and karhai available with prawn, chicken or mutton as the meat component. This scribe has had their spicy daal and prawn masala with fluffy naans, and found nothing to complain about.
What’s more, after you’re done dining at Café Chullu Subhani, you can just walk outside, a bit down the road, straight into the famous “Iceberg” ice cream parlor and devour a cup of their cheaper than nothing, one of a kind cadbury or Sicilian ice cream. The perfect culmination to the perfectly unique meal!
While a diverse range of kebabs can be devoured all over the ‘City of Lights’ from gola kebabs, seekh kebabs, dhaga kebabs, bihari kebabs it is the vintage eateries tucked away in obscure locations of the cosmopolitan port since decades that undoubtedly offer the most unique and satisfying carnivorous experience for culinary enthusiasts! Bon appétit!