Every foodie who has lived in Karachi as well as Lahore will vouch for the fact that while Lahore does have several posh restaurants that qualify for fine dining, nothing comes close to Okra when it comes to polishing the palate. However, when it comes to street food nothing comes close to Lahore. Here are some of our favourite street foods, savoured in Lahore and desperately missed when you’re living in Karachi.
We have yet to find the same kind of sand roasted bhuttas (corn on the cob) in Karachi, that are a staple in Lahore. Dotted alongside the Canal Bank or sporadically found all over the city, these bhutta walas ride their donkey carts carrying gigantic clay cauldrons full of baking sand. Buried deep within are steaming corns on the cob, ready to be dug out and peeled.
The doodhia challis – better known as baby corn – are the best. For around 20 rupees a cob, you can have yours dabbed with chat masala and a khatti (something between an orange and lemon) and have the perfect midday snack. Somehow the salt roasted makai key daaney you get in Karachi fall short when it comes to a bhutta craving.
Peethi kay luddoo
The uninitiated would mistake this for dessert but peethi kay luddo are one of the most delicious savoury snacks available at roadside vendors. Labeled by some as a recipe for gastric disasters (not that we’re the least bit dissuaded), luddoo peethi are well seasoned, fried balls of moong ki daal, smoked and kept warm on a hot tavva. These daal key luddoos are served with a crisp, shredded salad and an imli and mooli (tamarind and horse radish) chutney that is its soul. Things could get a little spicy for the virgin palate but for the experienced, luddoo peethi are an irresistible and affordable evening snack. You can attempt to make them at home but these little delights are best bought at the roadside.
Summer may be on its way to transitioning into autumn but our love for suttoo can never die. Suttoo is the Punjabi equivalent of limbopani, perhaps. Both are thirst quenchers and are responsible for cooling down overheated internal systems when the mercury is rising but suttoo gets our vote of approval, perhaps because it’s so difficult to find in Karachi. Experienced suttoo vendors will create the perfect balance of barley and brown sugar with cold water and crushed ice. You are at risk of a system freeze as this heavenly concoction moves down your throat. You haven’t lived until you’ve had suttoo in summer.
Okay, so this beverage is commonly known as leemo soda but in Lahore it is best known as thha, a name attributed to the popping sound the soda bottle makes when its cap is removed, often dramatically for an audience. Thha is the perfect end to a heavy meal; one that has witnessed you indulge in other Lahori delights like paye, murgh chholay, yakhni pulao, tava chicken, katakat, etc. A fizzy bottle of soda is added to freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar, black salt and ice and is potent enough to help digest anything unhealthy that you may have overindulged in. It is a tasty alternative to a Hajmola.
This article was first published in Instep, 23rd October 2016.