In the land of confused beliefs, constant bad news and far too many moral high grounds, what better way to get people together than through the universal language of Food? From churros to chapli kebabs, crepes to koftas, khaosuey to roasted beef burgers, we are a nation ruled by gastronomical cravings. And this love for Food is what made Karachi Eat 2015 an absolute success.

For three days, the archaic lawns of Karachi’s Frere Hall were overrun by a multitude of food-lovers, as the Food Festival brought out the entire city. The walkways were jammed with cars and the crisp winter air turned aromatic by hundreds of sizzling woks and grills. There was live music, gorgeous lighting, occasional Food contests, a play area for children, and of course, enough Food to keep the keenest gluttons sated.

“This festival is our way of showing that if we can suffer together in bad times, we can also rejoice in good times,” observes Omar Omari, whose Chapra Khan Omari (CKO) events forms the backbone of the festival. “For two years in a row now, people from all over the city have been drawn toKarachi Eat. They spend entire days around the stalls, coming with their families or their friends, lining up peacefully to place their orders. It is this energy and celebratory spirit that we miss in Karachi; it is this Karachi that we want back.”

Were there any hitches? Of course there were. The festival is still in its nascent stages, only just gathering its bearings and problems are bound to occur. The insufferably heavy traffic jam, blocking the road and making it impossible for many people to attend was a definite disadvantage. And vendors need to come better prepared; far too many stalls were ‘sold-out’ by the evening, turning away the crowds that walked in to have dinner. There should also have been more variety in the desi Food department – eclectic international cuisine dominated while local favorites like nihari and seekh kebabs were missed.

In an effort to make the event accessible, ticket prices were kept deliberately low at Rs 200 per head and the Food priced no higher than Rs 250. A high-end Okra nudged shoulders with the thriving Chapli Kebab House and Pane & Amore’s delectable chocolate cupcakes were rivaled by gooey, irresistible fudge by the Karachi Fudge Company. Nitrogen ice-cream drew in curious customers while Chatterbox Café was a hit for its Nachos, and Cosmopolitan served crepes with mushrooms in white sauce. There were kiosks by veteran restaurants and others by debutantes like ‘The Chosen Bun’ and ‘The Melting Point’, testing the waters before they launched into the market.

Keeping the mood lively on a busy Saturday night, a‘no-hands’ Peri-bite eating contest was held between bystanders, and the ‘Cake-Off’ gave us cakes more molded into suspended teapots, multiple tiers and lopsided concoctions of burgers, onion rings and nans! Soft-drink company Pakola re-launched its original glass bottle for Rs 10, AQ Power Yoga staged a yoga performance, and a rickshaw, parked in the midst, became the focal point for umpteen photographs. All in all, in a city often torn by strife, Karachi Eat, despite the glitches, was an exuberant affair.

While it may be difficult to pick and choose between Karachi Eat 2015’s offerings, here are five of our favorite Food stalls:

The talk of the town from Day 1 were the Strawberry and Nutella Samosas from Spoonful. Inventive baker Ali Humayun came up with these delicious treats while experimenting in the kitchen, and it surely paid off as they were completely sold out all three days! A mix of crispy and sweet, they spoke to the hearts of true sugar lovers and were a massive success.

Chapli Kebab HOUSE
Who doesn’t like a Chapli Kebab – or two? The Chapli Kebab House was a sensation at last year’s fete and it thrived this time also. The digital screen, announcing the token number for each order, kept ticking away through all three days, doling out hot, succulent chapli kebabs with a piping hot naan. The texture, spices and salts, came together perfectly, making this one of the most popular desi Food kiosks.

Our favorite caterers/restaurant from Zamzama brought in some wholesome favorites: Florentine ravioli, sesame beef with rice, stir-fried chicken khaosuay, fruit tarts and mint lemonade. Prices mostly remained well below Rs 200 and The Deli’s signature flair attracted in a constant crowd.

These bite sized open faced sandwiches stole our hearts with their burst of flavor. Fresh organic bread, a light and tangy sauce and some roast beef all topped with crispy onions…we just couldn’t get enough! I couldn’t help but note how by Sunday, the price of each mini sandwich had gone up, but that only shows how in demand these little bites of heaven really were.

Pane & Amore served their quintessential delicious melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cupcakes along with crispy churros, corn dogs and hot chocolate – easily the best bakery kiosk, but then again, as affirmed chocaholics, we’re a bit biased here. g

Maliha Rehman is a writer with a compulsive love for fashion, lifestyle and all things colorful! For more updates, follow her on Twitter @MalihaRehman

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