Think of them as comfort food or a convenient bite-on-the-go, but the hearty meat-and-veggies wrap is popular enough among Karachiites to have shawarma stands sprout up on almost every other busy street corner in the city.
But true aficionados aren’t satisfied with the desi spin on shawarmas served at those kiosks. While Lebanese food joints like Edgeware Road or even stalls such as Just Shawarma have been known to serve improved versions, no one really claims to dub them 'authentic'. A new eatery called Pita says it offers the most authentic of all shawarmas in Karachi.
Pita is a new shawarma joint in Karachi, whose owners Ahsan Asaad and Hassaan Warsi believe that “there’s no place [in Karachi] that’s doing justice to shawarmas the way it deserves.”
"It’s possible our original shawarmas may be ‘too original’ for some people, so we‘ve introduced a bunch of flavours to suit everyone’s tastes. That’s why we have options like The Kolachi, Wild West, etc.”
Hassaan shared about the origins of Pita, “We felt there was a need in Karachi’s food market for authentic shawarmas but we also wanted to play further with flavours. It’s possible our original shawarmas may be ‘too original’ for some people, so we‘ve introduced a bunch of flavours to suit everyone’s tastes. That’s why we have options like The Kolachi, Wild West, etc.”
And so was born the idea for fusion shawarmas at Pita, which hopes to also introduce shawarmas as an alternative to burgers and pizza in the fast food market. “A lot of people are health conscious. They don’t want to pig out every day with double decker beef burgers or cheesy pizza," explains Ahsan. "Our shawarmas are light but filling. Our portion sizes could rival a burger, it’s more filling than a Subway sandwich, I would say."
Healthy, pocket-friendly meals that satisfy big appetites? We thought we were in a miracle restaurant!
Where to go
Pita's located on Bukhari Commercial’s Lane 12, which also houses the popular Chai Master dhaaba. It’s tricky to find using Google Maps, so the owners have these easy-to-follow directional videos up on Pita's Facebook page to help you find your way.
When to go
Pita’s open for dinner from 6pm to 12am, except on weekends when it’s open till 1am.
What to eat
Pita offers a range of eight shawarmas, but what we were most interested in trying out were their Original Beiruti shawarmas.
Available in chicken and beef, the Beirutis boast remarkably clean, simple flavours and were palate-pleasers from the first bite! These are Pita's answer to the dearth of authentic shawarmas in Karachi — and they've followed the original recipe to the tee.
"An authentic Lebanese shawarma is very simple,” shares Hassaan, who owes his Lebanese food knowledge to a life spent in Dubai. "It has chicken or beef, which is very lightly spiced, which is accompanied by a very sharp garlic sauce, fries and pickles."
While we enjoyed the simplicity of the seasoning, the surprise of the fries, what gives the Beiruti its special kick are the pickles that provide relief when flavours could have gotten monotonous.
We noted that the garlic sauce was also spot-on and that the meats' seasoning carried a slightly strong taste of cardamom, but it's not like that ruined the taste for us.
Pita's shawarmas are currently wrapped in saj bread. It's a healthy option (also available in whole wheat) that "lets you quickly get to the meat and fun parts", as Ahsan says, because it's a light covering like a extra-thin chapati or tortilla. Shawarmas wrapped in pita bread will be available at Pita soon (no, we didn't miss the irony of that).
After the Beirutis, nothing could quite compete. Ahsan shared how they're Pita's most popular items and are particularly a hit with Saudi expats in Karachi who attest to the taste's authenticity.
But the Pita duo also borrowed signature flavours from around the world and "brought them home" with their fusion shawarmas. If you want to get adventurous, here’s the lowdown on the fusion shawarmas we tried.
We like Chinese food, but do we want its flavours in a shawarma?
The meat, pickles and fries are accompanied by a cabbage salad in this shawarma, but we have to say the sauce is really interesting. The in-house Bang Bang sauce, Hassaan shares, is a combination of sriracha and sweet chilli. Avowed fans of Asian food could give it a try.
Ahsan told us the Kolachi is one of the most popular fusion choices at Pita and we were curious to find out how Pita attempted to desi-fy shawarmas. Surprisingly, it wasn't a hit on our table.
This could be because the flavours didn't come together as well as the other fusion shawarmas. The Kolachi's tikka sauce had a runny consistency, almost like chutney, which soaked up the saj bread and also made the shawarmas' tomato-onion mix extra mushy. This may be an unpopular opinion, but we wouldn't order this again.
One of us has a huge bias for spicy food, so naturally the Spicy Gringo was right up her alley.
While Hassaan cautioned us against the spice level, it was nothing she couldn't handle and did quite enjoy the creamy yet spicy green chili-mayo sauce that makes this shawarma unique. While we loved the original Beiruti, Spicy Gringo could be an easy second favourite.
Ahsan shared how this shawarma is Pita's underdog — it gets overshadowed by the more exciting options on the menu, but is one of the owners' favourites.
Creamy with a hint of BBQ, this shawarma boasts burger ingredients in a saj wrap! The meat comes coated in mushrooms, caramelised onions and a smokey BBQ mayo. The Wild West has definite comfort food appeal.
Shawarma Rice Bowls
Pita also offers 'shawarma rice bowls', which feature shawarma ingredients layered over a bed of lightly buttered rice. This is a dish that divided us.
Some thought it's a great comfort food item to be enjoyed on off-days. The only reservation they had was the presence of fries in this dish. If potatoes had to in the dish, they'd much rather they were cubed or roasted, basically presented in some form other than fries.
Others thought the dish was a definite miss. The flavours didn't come together, the textures conflicted and each bite felt like a cumbersome mouthful.
Safe to say, the shawarma rice bowl is not a dish for everybody.
Apart from soft drinks, Pita serves lemonades, fruit smoothies, pina colada and a drink they've dubbed Apple Fizz. We tried the peach lemonade, which was super refreshing and water-based instead of 7Up-based, which we really liked. The Apple Fizz, which is a carbonated apple drink spruced up with hints of citrus, is a offers a good change of taste from regular soft drinks.
From the desserts menu, we had the option to choose between brownie and icecream and churros. Always hunting for good churros in the city, we decided to give Pita's a try. Unfortunately, the churros were tough on the inside with a biscuity crunch rather than a soft crisp.
However, we have to give props to Pita for making one of the best salted caramel sauces around! It has the right almost toffee -like flavour with a semisweet yet burnt aftertaste that one wants in good caramel and it is all perfectly balanced with the salt.
Damage on the pocket
One of the most winning attributes of Pita is its pocket-friendliness. All the items on the menu are under Rs 500, with shawarmas ranging between Rs300-Rs420. Appetisers, desserts and drinks are all under Rs300!