It’s THAT time of the year.
The time for the annual nom-nom fest, the ultimate almost-winter treat, the time when you cheat the cheat day. We’re talking about Lahore Eat!
The 2019 edition of the three-day food fiesta kicked off on its expansive home ground (pun intended) of Jilani Park (where it all started) on Friday with Sunday being the last day.
Not only will one find around 70 stalls at the festival running the whole gastronomic gamut from hardcore traditional – chholay bhatooray, hareesa, gol gappay – to downright foreign – pretzels, churros, chimichangas, there’s also live wrestling, musical performances and a play area for kids.
On a bright, warm Saturday afternoon, we headed off to Jilani Park to check out if this year Eat had what it takes to satisfy a Lahori’s appetite and tickle the taste buds.
On reaching there, we realised us Lahoris really are lazy when it comes to not just waking up early, but also getting out of the house on a holiday, because the venue was sparsely populated.
But, nothing holds us back when it comes to food, so only a few hours later the crowd had swelled to a decent number.
Now covering all the stalls is nearly impossible especially when one’s on a budget. So we decided to try and squeeze in a five-course meal in Rs1,000 (because all the kiosks here have a price cap of Rs400).
We kicked off the food tour with a traditional Kashmiri soup, called Om Dudh, from Waza.
It turned out to be quite an interesting and exciting revelation. It was a hearty, subtly flavoured broth of milk, yoghurt, chicken stock, butter and a handful of herbs and spices.
We could see ourselves relishing more of this broth come winter.
Just as Awesamosas does at almost every food fest, this time also it pulled out for the first time, something unique from its culinary hat to gauge public response: the Botilicious BBQ available in three variations – Peri Pataka, Malai Tarragon, Satay Tikka.
We tried the Satay Tikka and Malai Tarragon and were mighty impressed with the former.
Satay Tikka was four tender pieces of chicken on a skewer barbecued to perfection with hints of peanut, which we thought should have been slightly more profound. But this one leaves you wanting for more, so all’s well that ends well, right?
Malai Tarragon was kinda damp squib, if we could call it that. Not that there was anything wrong with the barbecuing, but it was as good as any malai boti you’d find out there.
Price for a skewer of four botis: Rs150.
This plate of seven gol gappas filled with yoghurt, diced potato, tomato and onion, tamarind chutney and chaat masala was great for sharing.
Although nothing meetha about it as the name might suggest, it sure does excite the taste buds with the tangy chutney.
After savouring the Kashmiri soup, we just had to return to the Waza kiosk to check out what other flavours of the breathtaking valley in the north they had to offer.
The Wari Kukkar caught our fancy and we got ourselves a serving. Wari Kukkar is a deep-fried piece of chicken marinated in Kashmiri Wari spices. Now this one had some heat to it!
However, it was tender inside, cooked to perfection and faintly crispy on the outside. This Kashmiri place looks promising alright.
We spotted a stall, Chilliate, apparently selling Mexican fare, so we decided to give it a shot after much deliberation. Our order was a chimichanga.
Let us say that while it may not look that appealing or appetising, one bit into it and it’s a riot. The chimichanga had spicy shredded chicken, refried beans, loads of cheese and tomato, bell pepper and onion all packaged into a flour tortilla, folded into a rectangular packet and fried.
This spicy, cheesy comforting chimichanga served with garlic mayonnaise was surprisingly delightful, though we just wish it was fried a bit longer to crisp up the tortilla shell.
Naturally, with the meal ending, we were dying for something sweet to soothe our palates. This is when we spotted this kulfi stall. But wait! Kulfi Shulfi isn’t what you’d expect.
These guys make kulfis in a host of quirky flavours – Snickers, date, rosewater and Candi to name a few. We chose the Candi Crush kulfi, which was a bit of a letdown.
Had it been a regular kulfi, we wouldn’t have complained because it tasted great for a normal almond kulfi. We kept looking for some Candi flavour, but alas!
We also tried an ice lolly from Pop Bar. Now we had been hearing a bit about Pop Bar on social media and were waiting for the right opportunity to give it a shot. And we found that at Lahore Eat!
From a wide range of options, we got the strawberry and lime lolly. We felt this lacked punch and flavour the same way the kulfi did. While we did get fruity bits in the lolly, the overall flavours of both strawberry and lime were missing.
Yet, this holds a lot of promise and we’d definitely give it another go with some other flavour next time.
In the midst of all this madness, we also managed to grab a few bites of the flagship chilli-packed tawa chicken piece by Baranh that sells like hot cakes at their restaurant.
And then the Dairy Milk Mousse by Pink Pistachio also warrants mention because it tasted as good as it looked with that slice of kiwi on top of soft creamy chocolate mousse and a crumble at the bottom.
But overall, we missed the novelty, the innovation, the exciting food at this year’s Lahore Eat. Even some of the regulars were missing. Hoping for some more creativity and deliciousness next year