Three foods I tried in 2021 in Karachi that made my tastebuds dance and two that killed the music

A Karachiite’s journey to exploring food that’s foreign to her.
Published 30 Dec, 2021 11:15am

If you're from Karachi, you likely have a palette that rages against anything basic or bland, and know your way around food. Being a non-foodie Karachiite is like sitting on an unbolted treasure chest but refusing to take a peek inside. I can’t relate — the city of lights is a city of taste and I’m always on the lookout for new flavours or methods to experiment with food. In line with this spirit, this year I tried five things that were foreign to my tongue.

I have to admit, the search for untried and untested food was not easy. There were some items already on my wish-list and others I added after multiple brainstorming sessions. To summarise, I have compiled a list of five things, some of which I didn’t know existed before 2021 and others I just hadn’t gotten the chance (or the guts) to try.

Pesto sauce

Pesto sauce has been one of those things I’ve eyed the longest before swooping in — I don’t know if it’s colour or the child in me's natural avoidance of greens but our paths crossed later than I’d liked. And did I like? Yes, very much.

If you’ve familiarised yourself with Italian cuisine, this might just be for you. The main ingredients include basil, garlic and olive oil blended together with nuts, cheese and parsley. It’s a very earthy flavour, and frankly, the colour adds an interesting visual to the food if aesthetics are part of your game plan.

Photo: Pesto Pakistan/Instagram
Photo: Pesto Pakistan/Instagram

I would recommend the pesto pasta from Butlers and the smoked chicken sandwich with basil pesto mayo from Paul’s.

Fair warning though: pesto’s zesty flavour may not be for everyone so proceed at your own risk.

Baos

I would like to start this by admitting I am a seasonal burger lover, meaning my love comes and goes and it’s very specific. So when I tell you this was good, it really was good. I like my burgers non-threatening in size — I should be the one to devour them, not the other way around — so cute baos are the perfect fit for my appetite. Handcrafted and steamed, they’re soft pillows keeping the filling safe.

I tried Bao Bae's Chicken Karaage Bao and Braised Beef Bao, the latter of which was a winner for me. Both were distinct in their flavours and the purple cabbage in the Karaage Bao was a visual delight. The peanut butter flavoured Braised Beef Bao though and the rich nutty flavour is the kind of innovation I like — who’d think of adding peanut butter to a burger?!

Photo: Tooba Haq Photography for Bao Bae/Instagram
Photo: Tooba Haq Photography for Bao Bae/Instagram

Hot pot

Even though hot pot has existed in Pakistan for a while now, the hot pot concept took off during the pandemic and has been all the rage ever since. Karachiites are always up for trying something new and ever since the Korean processed ramyeon obsession has taken off, there’s been a shift towards anything ramen or ramyeon.

Photo: Wang Wang Karachi/Instagram
Photo: Wang Wang Karachi/Instagram

I headed over to Wang Wang for this one on a Tuesday night for a smooth trial but what would you know? Even on a weekday the place was filled to the brim — overflowing even. An hour’s wait later, I was finally able to get what it’s all about — hot pot is not a food you try, it’s a whole dining experience. Being handed the cooking reins, you’re able to create for yourself an experience that’s out of the box where the logistics of fine dining are concerned.

So even if you don’t enjoy the food — which I did — hot pot is worth at least a try.

With a wide selection of sides to add to the broth, you’re sure to enjoy the different flavours and textures, adjusted to your choice of spice level.

The fairy light setting at night is another bonus if ambiance matters to you — and it should because what’s a place without great ambiance?

Mille Feuille

To say I was disappointed with the Mille Feuille at Paul's would be an understatement because I'd really hyped it up. I mean, puff pastry and chocolate slapped together? I was thinking of something that elicited a chef's kiss like croissants but this just tasted like chocolate in baklava, except not half as good.

To give credit where it's due, the quantity of the chocolate spread was hearty and that had me looking forward to it even more because, hey, we're all chocolate lovers here (and if you're not, know that I am suspicious of you) but the flavours just didn't work for me.

I would like to be fair and consider it just being a bad batch but based on my experience, I would sadly not recommend.

Eggnog

I was terrified for this one. Dear reader, I did this for you. For someone who is not a big fan of eggs, a drink that utilises raw eggs was a bold choice but a drink I needed for my list and I don’t know if it was Christmas time that spurred this idea in my head but I took the leap and did it for the ‘gram. Or rather, for the Images.

The verdict? Liquid custard. Make of that what you will but the mixture thickens as you cook it and I'm guessing that's the raw egg solidifying (help!) but if I were to be entirely candid, it was not the worst. I can see myself drinking a warm cuppa if I was thrown into the streets with nothing to fend off the cold with — yes anything for that warmth, even this eggy custard.

I feel that the spices really helped with the flavouring — nutmeg and cinnamon for the win! But frankly, I would not choose to drink this. A few sips and that was it for me.

Ultimate verdict: I can understand why you'd choose it, but myself? I'm good. Me and my coffee against the world.