ISLAMABAD: When Ramazan and summer vacations coincide the results could be amazing. Instead of waking up for Sehri, the young ones are up and about till the Sehri. And what could be more fun than eating out at 2am.
The tradition of eating out on Sehri is gaining popularity. The old-city area food street of Kartarpura has become a famous haunt for foodies to indulge in sumptuous desi delights.
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The day long fast and long prayers of Taraweeh leaves Pindiwaals famished to feast on local foods like siri-paya, nihari, brain masala, cholay and lassi.
People are seen with friends and families enjoying food in the open air with cool late night breeze heavy with aroma of barbeque and charcoal ambers.
Such is the rush of the people that the staff at the two-kilometre long food street starts setting up tables for Sehri soon after dealing with Iftar crowd, besides giving final touches to traditional food items especially sri paye and nihari, which require hours to cook.
"People start arriving right after midnight and you will not be able to find a place to sit after 1am," said Tahir Iqbal owner of a siri-paya and nihari shop. He said all items at his restaurant are sold out well before the time for Sehri because people also place takeout orders.
"We also offer special naans in Ramazan including kulcha, mince filled naan, chicken naan and traditional roghani naan for Sehri," he said. Goat trotters (siri paya) is another popular dish, he said adding that it is cooked on a slow flame with spices.
"Ours is a traditional recipe which we don't share. It also tastes better because of the selection of spices we use. We also cook it on a slow flame," he said, adding that it takes a whole day to prepare nihari and sri paye.
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During Ramazan, tea shops are usually replaced with lassi shops with milkmen busy churning curd for lassi in their makeshift shops.
"After having warm and oil laden food like nihari, people like having at least two or three glasses of sweet and namkeen lassi. Most people believe that having lassi for sehri eliminates thirst for the day," said Mohammad Afzal a visitor at the Kartarpura food street.
"It took me two hours to get a table, be served and to be done with my food because of the huge crowd on the weekend," he said.
Unlike other places where waiters offer tables, customers at the food street have to grab a table for themselves as the street is always packed, even more so during Ramazan.
"This food street does not have a parking, and customers have to park out in the streets or in the adjacent Kohati Bazaar. But it is all worth it because the food is so good here. The chefs are familiar with the tastes people prefer in the area. While other markets may offer better seating, its all about food in the Kartarpura food market," said a visitor, Numan.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2018.