It's our favourite time of the year, it's time for Karachi Eat!
And things are going to get pretty crazy as food vendors bring their A-game to the table. In case you're wondering, there's going to be Brazilian Churros, Paan Shots, Nutella UFOs, Special Masala Chai and a few surprises among many more mouth-watering (and experimental) foods to tantalise our tastebuds!
Get your fat on this weekend as Frere Hall kicks off Friday the 13th (let's hope no bad luck befalls us) till Sunday, 15th of Jan. There will also be live musical performances by Zoe Viccaji, Sara Haider, Jimmy Khan, Sounds of Kolachi, Fuzon and Natasha Humera Ejaz.
Yeah, it's going to be a feast.
We get the scoop from Omar Omari of CKO Event Architecture, the brains behind the food shindig that has gained a cult-like following in just the three years since its inception. It's one of those rare events in the year we all look forward to.
What stalls will be returning and what's new in store?
This time, Karachi Eat will host around 95 stalls, shares Omar.
So will some of last year's big hits be showing up this year too?
"Some favourites returning are Bond Street Waffles, Breast and Loin, Fatso's and some who have been with us from the first fest like Pantry, China Kitchen, the ever so popular Chapli Kabab House, to name a couple."
The food fest will start today around 4.30pm and end at 11.30pm. Saturdays and Sundays you can hop over early at noon and eat your heart out till 11.30pm. The entrance fee is Rs250.
"We're trying to pedestrianise the fest and really encouraging people to walk more," he added. "Problem is people try to get dropped off right at the entrance, which ends up causing way too much traffic so we're trying to eliminate that."
There are three parking spaces near the Frere Hall venue and a shuttle service running along the roads adjacent to Frere Hall (the red line on the map).
For all you without a ride, Careem will be operating at a flat rate of Rs250.
More details here: Karachi Eat's got your parking sorted
Without further ado, here's a sneak peek at some of the vendors who'll be feeding us at Karachi Eat 2017:
1) Bits and Bites for chai and pakoras
A joint venture of two people, Saima Noman and Mansoor Masood, Bits and Bites plans on bringing every desi food lover's favourite combo to Karachi Eat: Kashmiri Chai and Vegetable Pakoras.
"This is the first time we're participating in Karachi Eat, before this we had a stall at Karachi Literature Festival and the response was wonderful, we're hoping we'll get a much bigger and better response at Karachi Eat," said Saima.
Bits and Bites will also be offering Chicken Chargha for meat lovers. "We'll start prepping a day in advance, but everything will be made on the spot and will depend on the day-to-day traffic we get."
At the moment, the team only comprises of the two partners, and hope to market their business via word-of-mouth.
"We're home-based and we also do catering. We're hoping Karachi Eat gets word out about us, so we can hopefully gain more recognition."
2) Chai Wala for, well, chai
This one needs no introduction. Who wouldn't want to curl up with a cup of Dairy Milk chai and a Nutella paratha in this glorious weather?
Third time participant and owner of the artisanal dhaba that made chai cool again in Karachi, Aized Suharwardy reveals, "Our experience last year was great! It was actually our second year there and we felt we did a lot better than our first time! This year we want to make an even bigger impact with our stall space and packaging."
And he's not at all nervous about feeding a lot of hungry attendees.
"Fortunately, our entire business model is based on high volumes and our branches in DHA and Clifton are quite used to handling a high volume of customers at one time. We have set a number of standardised processes to ensure that inspire of rush periods our food quality remains the same. That being said, we won't be serving our entire menu, just selected items. We feel that is the best approach to the festival."
He adds, "Karachi Eat does a great job in introducing customers to brands they haven't experienced before. We are ourselves are at the stage where most people know of us so Karachi Eat is great way to continue our brand building initiatives."
3) D'OH for churros
D'OH is serving churros, but not the kind we've had in Karachi.
"We're introducing Brazilian churros," shares Ebrahim Bawany, who has partnered with his cousin Abrar to bring us a longer, hollow version of the (Spanish) variety we've enjoyed in Karachi. While Brazilian churros are usually made with a Dulce De Leche filling, D'OH's menu will offer more variety.
"We'll have four more fillings — chocolate/Nutella, strawberry jam, peanut butter and cream cheese," he shared, adding that prices are Rs250 per 8-inch churro.
D'OH's holding mini soft launches everyday to prep for the big crowd at Karachi Eat. "We have one machine, which limits our production capacity," Ebrahim admits, "but we'll have three to four fryers to compensate for that."
After Karachi Eat, D'OH plan to transition to a food cart. "We have a 'lorry rickshaw' that has a mini-kitchen in the back instead of passenger seating. We'll activate the cart at schools like Lecole, Lyceum, IVSAA, etc, before settling down in a single location."
Once the Brazilian churros kick off, there are more innovative eats that Ebrahim and Abrar want to introduce to Karachi under the D'OH umbrella. "We're in talks with Holland House Mini Pancakes and there are four, five other things we plan to immediately add to the menu."
4) Donny & Shabby for desi khaana
You can get your desi street food fix at Donny & Shabby's. On the menu will be Fish BBQ Tikka, Chicken Malai Tikka, Beef Bihari Boti, Jalaibees and Special Masala Chai.
5) Down To Eat for sandwiches and rice bowls
Two foodie friends — Alizay Saeed and Raza Rizavi — are joining forces to bring us scrumptious lunch options at their stall, Down To Eat.
"We'll be serving Pulled Beef Sandwich, Basil Chili Chicken Rice Bowl and Crispy Beef Rice Bowl," shares Alizay. Prices range between Rs200-300. We're down for that menu!
Alizay and Raza hope to open a cafe in the future and are testing out their food at Karachi Eat. So the duo is set to feed a small army at the food fest.
"We expect to receive about 5% of the Karachi Eat traffic — so if a total of 10,000-15,000 people are attending, about 500 are buying from us on a daily basis. So we're making sure we have enough to feed 500 people and then keeping stock for about 300 more."
6) Naye Namoonay for experimental snacks
As the name itself suggests, this three-person show is planning on bringing some wild/experimental food to Karachi Eat including Paan Shot (yes, you heard us) and Nutella UFO.
"We're doing something different, like the Danish Style Pancake Puffs, they're a twist on the traditional pancake but in a ball shape served with vanilla ice cream and a choice topping of Nutella or caramel sauce. Then there is a drink, Paan Shot, it's made up of paan but it tastes really nice, it's different," said Zeerak Jarrar.
Though this is the first time Naye Namoonay is participating in Karachi Eat, Zeerak expects to attract quite a few people with the food they're making.
"We wanted to buy a stall at last year's Karachi Eat but all the stalls were sold out so this time we booked earlier," added the partner. "It's the biggest food event and we want to get in there, so we experimented on these crazy ideas."
"We do plan to go further with our brand, we have a Facebook page too and Karachi Eat is the head start for the long run."
The Danish Style Pancake Puffs will cost you Rs250 and the Paan Shot Rs150.
7) Ruby Cone Gelato for, yup, gelato
Ruby Cone Gelato serves 100% Italian gelato made from hormone-free milk sourced from farms in Karachi. Also on the menu are soft icecream and beverages ranging from lemonade to monster shakes!
8) Jucy Lucy for burgers
Rayyan Durrani, who was behind the successful Churros & Choc (and Simple Dimple!) last year is back but is heading into uncharted territory this time — with burgers!
He divulges, "I was bored of doing the same thing three years in a row, wanted to something savory and fun. We'll be serving burgers stuffed with gouda cheese."
9) Wholesome Foods for healthy snacks
Think Karachi Eat is a purely gluttonous affair? Think again.
At the Wholesome Foods stall, you can have satisfy your sweet tooth in a nutritious way, if you choose the healthier option, of course!
Freshly prepared smoothies will be served at the stall, made from Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) fruits and vegetables that are healthier than regular frozen foods and fresh foods!
Owner Imara Hashwani shared, "By the time fruits and vegetables are harvested, loaded and reach us at retail markets, they've lost a lot of their nutrition. IQF foods are blast frozen at low temperatures in plants located close to farms, so their nutrition is locked in at a early stage. IQF foods can retain their nutrition for up to a year."
"IQF fruits and vegetables aren't clumped together like regular frozen foods," she added. "Each kernel of corn, each berry, for example, is frozen separately and then packaged. So the cell walls of the fruits and vegetables aren't damaged and nutritional value isn't affected."
Not watching your waistline? Wholesome Foods will be also serving berry-chunk icecream under the sub-brand Dilettö!
10) Nora's Got Sweet Tooth for elevated desserts
Speaking of keeping Karachi Eat a nutritious shindig, you also have the option of Nora's Got Sweet Tooth, a labour of love of two friends, Bisma Shahid Loan and Noorunissa Rameez Loan.
On the menu will be their famous granola, muesli, parfaits, smoothies and flourless, eggless, refined sugar-free brownies and oatmeal cookies.
As a fest first-timer, Bisma knows her limitations but is ready to take them in her stride.
"We're a very high-end, very niche product so we're not expecting monster volume. Either way, it's unrealistic to expect home-based business owners to compete with places like Lal's or Paramount that have mass kitchens. If we sell out, we sell out. We're going to treat it like a learning curve, see how it plays out on the first day. If we run out, I'm going to get back to the kitchen, prep all night if I need to."
Nora's Got Sweet Tooth will also be selling their packaged products so if you like what you eat, you get to take it home too!
11) Tempt Asian for your khaosuey fix
Craving a warm bowl of khaosuey to get your fix of the Burmese dish? Then head over to Ratan Salem's stall.
"I'm nervous that there will be a large crowd there but since we're so conscious of our quality, I have no doubt that people will enjoy our khaosuey. We just hope we don't run out!," says Salem.
12) Taha's Chocolate Mania for desserts
Once you've gorged on savoury items, go satisfy your sweet tooth at Taha's Chocolate Mania and sample one of their desserts.
The brand that's been showing since Karachi Eat first started is spearheaded by Taha Zoeb and is excited to be back and values the marketing value of the fest.
"As a home-based business no other platform can give us the opportunity to present our products to such a diverse group of customers. It also gives us a chance to meet our online customers and other people from the same business. We hope our delicious desserts can capture the audience's attention."
13) Karamel, for chocolate lovers
If you love going into chocolate coma then you might want to sit, breathe and eat Karamel all three days (okay maybe that's a bit much).
But they're bringing their ooey, gooey, cookie cakes, cookie cups and chunky cookies to Karachi Eat. And, Sheena, owner Karamel, tells us there's going to be a surprise product too!
"This is our first time at Karachi Eat. I don't know what to expect; we're excited, people are excited that we're going to be there, it's also nerve-wracking but we're going with open expectations," she said.
She told us that she's not worried about the volume or keeping up with hungry Karachiites, "It's pretty much like our day--to-day prep. For us, it's just another outlet, a new channel opening for three days."
"I actually think Karachi Eat is one of the best platforms because Karamel has never done anything public like this," added Sheena. "This is one of Karachi's biggest festivals and everyone is going to come in huge numbers because the weather is also so good. We're not going as a money making business, we're only going for the publicity because it really is the best way for eateries to showcase their food."
Total damage to the bucket at this stall: between Rs100-200.
14) Saniya's Kitchen for your pasta cravings
Who doesn't love having a nice warm bowl with the perfect blend of soup and noodles? Saniya's Kitchen would be the answer to that.
"We've been a part of Karachi Eat since the last three years now," said Saniya Faisal of Saniya's Kitchen.
"The experience and response was wonderful each time. The management and everybody is very cooperative, and we only buy a stall at Karachi Eat, no other festivals."
Although Saniya's Kitchen will only be offering one dish: khaosuey, Saniya told us that the team has to prepare 10 days in advance to make sure they don't run short on supply. "The first year we weren't prepared at all and we were completely sold out. I had made everything from home and brought it to Karachi Eat. This time there will be live cooking but collecting the food, getting the meat cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces has to be done from before."
The team had been given instructions beforehand: The family will be handling the front deck; her 11-year-old will garnish the khaosuey, her husband will handle the money and her aunt will be taking the orders and serving. And the army of 3-4 people will be cooking the food.
One serving will cost you Rs300.
15) The Waffle Cart for scrumptious waffles
We think these newbies could give last year's superstars Bond Street Waffles a run for their money.
This kiosk parked outside Malang Cafe has become a favourite for dessert enthusiasts in the city.
"We're seven months old and we thought it was time to try and serve such a large audience, to get out there and serve people from all over Karachi," states Alizeh Imtiaz, the woman behind the fluffy waffles.
They'll be serving their bestseller which is their Ferrero Rocher waffle, as well as a couple of other popular items from their menu like the Twix waffle which has caramel and chocolate fudge and their Classic which is doused in Nutella and sprinkled with crushed biscuits.
"We're also hoping to serve a new item just for Karachi Eat, which will eventually be added to our menu for the winter. It's going to be a really yummy Strawberry and Cream waffle, provided I can get the right strawberries from my vendor since they just came into season," adds Alizeh.
One serving will set you back Rs300.
16) Lals Patisserie for handmade chocolate bon bons and gelato puffs
Lals was a huge hit at last year's Karachi Eat and it's bringing more this time around!
Apart from crepes, waffles, gelatos and their popular macaroons, they plan on unveiling a new special dessert. The gelato puff! They have four flavours to release but they gave us two of the names as a teaser. The first is a coconut gelato with salted caramel and dark chocolate sauce. The second is a belgian chocolate gelato with dark chocolate sauce and chili powder. That's enough to get our attention!
Lals plans on keeping their price range from Rs100 - Rs250.
This list of eateries will be updated with new information in the coming days.