I'm a diehard Karachiite! Karachi is the centre of all things cosmopolitan, modern, tolerant — and absolutely the only foodie manna in the country, despite frivolous claims from other cities.

I’ve grown up in this absolutely maximum city, all the while loving its diverse people, and its sublime and varied cuisine palette. Any one debating my claim please visit the city and see how many different ethnicities live here and bring with them food, flavour, culture and feast.

As for me, fangirling Karachi’s food culture, well, let it be known that’s been my greatest inspiration. Therefore today, I’d like all of you, my fellow hardy Karachiites, to focus on a happy food memory and rebuild from it. Others are also welcome to come along for this culinary excursion.

Here’s one memory of mine from mid-’80s. Saturday morning visits to Empress Market were one of my favourite things to do once a month. My mom armed with a sauda list (grocery list), my dad with his enthusiasm, our driver Jahangir with non-stop chatter, and me just tagging along for the joy of it.

Empress Market at the time was impressive rather than pretentious, unlike its namesake, Queen Victoria. The bazaar was a rectangular single-storey building with a large central atrium and four galleries surrounding it. The building was a Gothic structure, with its frontage housing a tall central clock tower.

The Market was completed in the year 1889 to commemorate the then Empress of India, Queen Victoria. It was built solely for being a trading market for shops and stalls. The road adjacent to the colonial building was a disorderly spectacle of life and liberty, colloquially Karachi.

Temporarily forget about your woes with piping hot pakorras and kachoris

I stepped out of the car and followed my parents through the cacophony; the horns of the motors, the loud calls of the vendors, the traffic police screeching to control the uncontrollable, a throng of people everywhere. Absorbing the Saturday morning sights, I walked purposefully towards the entrance, squeezing my girth to avoid bumping into people, but only momentarily, until I caught a delicious whiff of the pakorras and kachoris frying close by. My nose would lead me to it and, soon enough, I would be eating pakorras and kachoris on a cloudy September afternoon.

Pakorray

Ingredients

2 cup gram flour
2 green chillies, chopped
2 medium sized potato, sliced
2 to 3 boiled eggs, sliced
1 small eggplant, sliced
Spinach leaves
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder to taste
1 teaspoon ajwain,
1 teaspoon coriander seeds,
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (pan roasted and roughly ground)
1 teaspoon baking powder (level)

Method

Mix ingredients, eyeball the amount of water, and deep fry until crisp and crunchy. Enjoy with chaat masala, yoghurt, chutney or ketchup.

Note: Use any vegetable of preference to make pakorras.

Kachori

Ingredients

Dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon oil
Approximately 1/4 cup cold water

Method

Mix flour, salt and oil, adding chilled water gradually, mix gently, do not knead, leaving the dough soft. Cover, and set at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Filling

1/4 cup, moong daal
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, coarsely ground
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon, mango powder
Salt according to taste
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoon water
Oil for deep fry

Method

Rub daal in a damp cloth and grind in a coffee grinder to powder. Roast in a heated pan, adding oil and roast over medium heat for a couple of minutes until daal changes colour. Stir continuously. Turn off heat, mix all spices and cool. Add two tablespoons of warm water, stir well, and cover with damp cloth and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

Method To Make Kachori

Knead dough for a minute, divide into 12 equal parts, take a dough ball and flatten the edges and make three-inch discs; leaving the centre thicker than edges. Form a cup, and place a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Pull the edges of the disc to wrap the daal filling, complete filling discs, and let sit for a few minutes. Set the kachoris on a surface with the seams facing up, and using the base of your palm flatten into three-inch discs.

Heat oil over medium heat, and deep-fry on medium-low heat (for crispy result) for three to four minutes each side, turning once they puff. Fry until golden-brown on both sides. Do not fry on high heat.

Serve with desired chutney or subzi. You can store at room temperature in an airtight jar for a week.

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 13th, 2020