KARACHI: While all kinds of sweet and spicy savoury items and chaat are a hit during the holy month of Ramazan and roadside stalls do good business selling them all, there is one kind of street food that surprisingly does not find much popularity with the palate during this time, and that is Kathiawari chholay.
A popular Memon delicacy, this sticky and soupy chickpea dish is cooked without using any cooking oil, and thus it is supposed to be quite a healthy alternative to the other oily stuff that people are used to consuming around this time of year. But wherever one used to find a Kathiawary chholay vendor, there was none to be found during Ramazan. “Have some Qalandari chaat instead,” offered the guy selling Qalandari chaat at Pakistan Chowk when asked about Kathiawari chholay.
Popular, oil-free Memon delicacy is comparatively healthy
There was another popular place known for selling it off I.I. Chundrigar Road, but the man who had the shop there was sitting enjoying life with shutters down. “I will reopen after Ramazan. Kathiawari chholay is a morning and afternoon snack, it does not sell well during Ramazan,” said Mohammad Nadeem.
Not giving up on the dish, one then found oneself in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Burnes Road. Persistence pays off. Soon one found oneself face to face with a cart with the words ‘Kathiawari chholay’ written on it in big bold letters. Adil Shah, the cart vendor, told Dawn that people enjoy the dish with soft buns. “The bun bread absorbs the sticky curried water the chickpeas have been cooked in,” he said.
“It is not samosa, kachori, or pakora, which happen to be the big Ramazan favourites, so it sells better after Ramazan. Although business is slow, I still manage to sell from here. It also depends on where one is selling. It’s also a cheap dish. Besides, I have some regular customers.”
Removing a portion of the lid from his huge cauldron sitting over a slow flame, Shah said it is a simple dish to make but takes time. “The chickpeas need to be cooking in the water for a long time to become soft. Once soft, you add in some flour mixed in some water to thicken the gravy. Then it takes on a nihari-like texture, though it has its own taste, to be relished with condiments such as thinly-sliced onions, lime, etc.
“Most people who enjoy their Kathiawari chholay don’t necessarily like to cook them. That’s where people like myself come in,” smiled Shah.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021