Eat Festival begins with flavour, delights and musical vibes

Eat Festival begins with flavour, delights and musical vibes

This year the three-day food festival opened at the Beach Park in Clifton, Karachi on Friday.
13 Jan, 2024

Offering a wide variety of food stalls and serving a diverse range of sweet and savoury culinary delights, as well as an exciting evening line-up of musical artists, the three-day 11th Eat Festival Karachi 2024 opened at the Beach Park in Clifton on Friday.

Awaited the entire year and thronged by youth mostly, the Eat Festival deserves to be explored for its offerings for people of other ages, too, because they were there, too, if one cared to see. There was something to tantalise all taste buds.

Seven-month-old Zidane was being offered everything that his parents tried. “But he likes chocolates best,” his mother Ayesha told Dawn.

Senior citizen Rukhsana Barakzai, who was visiting from Quetta, said that she was looking for a steaming hot cup of tea. “I searched for plain tea, nothing fancy, for two hours until I reached this stall,” she said while comfortably seated before a counter inside a very green place with two big silver thermoses offering the desired hot beverage to her. “I am in Karachi here to visit my daughter, who is roaming about somewhere tasting different things. But I love my tea. When she remembers her mother she will know where to find me,” said the sweet lady smiling.

Another elderly lady, Nusrat Fasih, was found resting on a bench as she happily watched the other visitors around her. When asked why she was not eating anything, she smiled and said that she was feeling quite full after enjoying an Arabian paratha.

Two more ladies around her age, who also happened to be stall vendors, seemed to have dumped their responsibilities on the shoulders of their children, Shoaib and Arooba, before heading off to enjoy themselves.

Shoaib, son of Sumaiyya, was screaming at the top of his voice, trying to sell his mother’s Tikyani biryani and dal kachori while his wife Arooba, daughter of Nazneen, was minding the cash counter. Both said that their mothers had done their job by creating the unique dishes and left it to them to sell.

According to Shoaib, his mother and mother-in-law had created their own unique spices to come up with a tikka-flavour biryani, which they had named ‘Tikyani’ biryani. They even named their stall Tikyani.

Besides the food, it was also fun to read the creatively given names to the stalls. Another biryani stall was called ‘Jani Biryani’, a stall selling waffles was called ‘Wafflix’, a bakery was endearingly called ‘Dear Croissant’. A Chinese food stall was called ‘Pak-Shanghai Chinese Food’.

People wait for their turn to get what they desire the most at the festival.—Fahim Siddiqi /White Star
People wait for their turn to get what they desire the most at the festival.—Fahim Siddiqi /White Star

One might wonder why they didn’t name it ‘Pak-China Food’ instead. But who had the time to ask such things when all these places were only interested in conversations around sales? More interesting stall names included ‘De Calzone’, ‘75 Degree Hot’, ‘Yak Grill’, ‘Sweetistry’, etc.

The place didn’t have just food stalls. There were stalls selling imitation jewellery, chains, bracelets, earrings, fun accessories such as headbands that lit up in different colour lights, t-shirts and hoodies.

For those who like to take lots and lots of pictures to record their happy memories, there were plenty of photo booths along with various props and things to have their pictures taken against such as that yellow Vespa scooter, tonga, bus, etc.

Although the entrance ticket to the festival is Rs750 each, the visitors didn’t seem to mind much even after paying that initial amount and then paying more for all the food they bought. One visitor, Fatima Nazir, said that she has been a regular at the festival for the past two years and didn’t even remember what the entrance fee was last year or the year before that. “Who cares about the money when you are having so much fun,” she asked, munching on her mixed plate of cheesy potato fries and Cheetos, which she wasn’t even sure how much she had paid for.

Although the simplest of food items such as a plate of biryani or khowsuey cost more than Rs400 or Rs700, there were also company stalls belonging to businesses such as Ahmed Foods, Youngs Foods, National Foods, etc., where the prices were kept quite reasonable, starting from Rs150.

But the best part of the Eat Festival is giving a break to not the big businesses but to new names and home chefs. One such young entrepreneur, Sania Bilal, co-owner of Cinnamon Rush, who introduced themselves to the city in last year’s Eat Festival, was found to be enjoying the festival with her friends like any other young visitor there.

When asked where her stall was located at the festival, Sania informed me that she was taking a break this year from having a stall at the festival but she was selling her cinnamon rolls and coffee online now. “My older sister, Angela Bilal, with whom I had set up a stall here last year, is in London pursuing her Masters now. She has also been offered a job as the head baker of an eatery in London,” the youngster shared with Dawn.

This year, like it has done for new young chefs and eateries, the Eat Festival also used its platform to introduce budding musicians. There was a big stage at the far end of the stalls where they were proving their mettle by entertaining the crowds.

Header image: A large number of people throng Beach Park in Clifton to enjoy local delicacies on the first day of the annual Karachi Eat Festival on Friday. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

Originally published in Dawn, January 13th, 2024