Peshawari Pizza

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Pizza is becoming more popular in Peshawar, but only two major joints offer it. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL

Pizza is becoming more popular in Peshawar, but only two major joints offer it. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL

Pizza is becoming more popular in Peshawar, but only two major joints offer it. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL Pizza is becoming more popular in Peshawar, but only two major joints offer it. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL

Peshawar is a city where food is only considered food if there is plenty of it, it is well cooked and it is not spicy. The less complicated the better. This would, in part, explain why you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to tikka, mutton chops, karhai. Try Namakmandi and the Charsi Tikka on University Road or Taraskoon Restaurant a bit farther down. But you will be hard pressed to find pizza in Peshawar — there are only two major places that make it.

The very first pizzeria is generally said to be the famous Sultan Golden Pizza House near Army Stadium. It is believed to have been named after (and run by) Sultan Muhammad Khan Golden, the great motorcar and motorcycle stuntman and jumping specialist. Rumour has it, however, that he packed up his pizzeria after 9/11.

This left Peshawar with Pizza Hut at Captain Karnal Sher Khan, Stadium, Shami Road in the cantonment and Chief Burger on Jamrud Road.

Pizza Hut declined to speak to The Express Tribune, but Chief Burger was more than happy to tell its story.

The brains behind this business venture is Muhammad Mumtaz Ilahi. He trained for six years as a chef and administrator at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad and opened Chief Burger in 1984. They started out with just 20 customers. Then, Mumtaz Ilahi persuaded his brother who worked as a chef at a three-star hotel, to come back from the UAE. “I behaved like a big brother and brought my younger brother Babar Hussain Ilahi back to Peshawar to give lessons to our staff at Chief Burger on how to make pizza,” he explained. Babar Hussain came up with five different recipes and within three months, eight of their staffers had learnt how to make them. They added it to the menu in 2001.

This really helped business grow to about 150 customers a day. They were able to expand to four large halls and today they get about 500 diners daily, tended to by a staff of 90 which includes 13 dishwashers, 38 waiters, 14 helpers, and four supervisors.

Demand is so high that Muhammad Tahir, who has given 15 years of life to Chief Burger as a waiter, said he didn’t even have time to stop to breathe. There used to be a time when he could complete his sentences with co-workers, he says by way of example. But now there are nearly always 15 people waiting in line. “We get happy when we receive more and more customers which is a sign of living and not just being alive,” he said before rushing off to get the next order.

While they have 16 different kinds of pizzas, Mumtaz Ilahi says the Pakhtun prefer their chicken tikka one. Some of the choices are pure Italian, such as the Bologna, you’ll get the very American Hawaiian Delight and even the Four Seasons or the Mexican Chilli.

It appears, however, that the exotic don’t necessarily appeal to the K-P palette. “I would say that people here love their own traditional food so much that they want its flavour in their pizza, burgers and even in Chinese and Thai dishes,” Illahi adds. The Chief Burger owner knows that the secret to his success is giving people what they want.

And if you are finding it hard to decide, someone like Tasleem Khan, who has been working at Chief Burger for 12 years as a waiter, is happy to help. “It’s like feeding and serving humanity,” he says. Indeed, food is a serious business.

Quetta’s fastfood joints

A quick look at where you can go:

RV Pizza, Chilton road

Rahat Bakers. Arts School road

Baig Snack Bar, Jinnah Road

Pizza Point, Churmal Road

Dalan bakers Serena road

Palace bakery, Mission road

Dolphin bakery, Jinnah road

Cakes ’n cookies, Archer Road

Jan Broast, Prince Road

Khadim chaat house

Hot ’n spicy, Shahbaz Town

Hot ’n Chili, Shahbaz Town

QFC, Jinnah road

Kamal Chargha

Usmania restaurant, Jinnah road

Noorani, Airport road

Zamzama superstore, Airport road

Student Biryani, Shahwaksha road

Master Biryani, Shahwaksha road

Karachi Biryani

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 22nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Disgusted
    Sep 22, 2013 - 8:52PM

    Yes, disgusted, with the side-by-side placement of the photo of a Peshawar church bombing victim and story of this atrocity, with photos of pizzas. Does this really make you feel good?

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  • Pekhawray
    Sep 25, 2013 - 1:34AM

    Why is this called Peshawri Pizza? It’s just pizza made in Peshawar. Should biryani made in the US be called American Biryani?

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