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Iftar, the trendy way

August 04, 2012

Karachi now brims with food lovers who love to step out of their houses to eat – photo by Fahim Siddiqui/White Star

KARACHI, Aug 4: Who would have ever imagined that one day chicken schezwan and prawn on toast would be considered as food items to break the fast with? Not just that, these days there are restaurants in Karachi that serve juicy cheese burgers with fried chips as Iftar deals.

Those who believe only technology has taken giant steps to help the world progress by leaps and bounds, they should know that traditional food has given way to newer cuisines with a great degree of success too.

Traditionally things that one gets to eat at Iftar is a plate of fruit chaat, a bowl of chick pea and potato mix, dates, pakoras and a pitcher of sherbet. This is very much the case even now.

But for those who like to eat out, and Karachi now brims with food lovers who love to step out of their houses to eat, their taste buds for Iftar yearn for something ‘different’. The myriad of restaurants in the city provide them with just that: something different.

Nowadays among the many eateries that (fasting or not fasting) Karachiites turn to minutes before Iftar include a seafood restaurant (of all the places), a burger joint and a pizza parlour.

Seafood, for some odd reason, is making its presence felt. There are people who love to indulge in prawn-chomping at dusk. This has even surprised those who work at the restaurant.

“We have special Iftar deals in boxes. These boxes contain all kinds of food, including seafood. And foodies like that. If you ask about the number of people who visit us, I can tell you that each year the number increases. While we serve food at Iftar, we also deliver our stuff at people’s doorsteps,” said Talha, an order-taker at a seafood restaurant.

This may all sound mouth-watering, but when it comes to the rates at which these deals are sold, not everyone can afford them. A pack of a dozen chicken wonton costs no less than Rs300. But then only those who have enough money generally eat out. And there is no dearth of such people in Karachi.

Add to all of this a new trend. Chinese food is in with a certain section of the fasting public. In this case, they order food for home delivery as not many Chinese restaurants offer dine-in facilities at Iftar. “People order all kinds of dishes. It may be hard to believe, but there are some who call us to home-deliver sushi to them. Chicken manchurian and chicken schezwan are also regular items. Perhaps the one dish that never loses its charm is chicken chowmein,” said Imran who works at a known Chinese takeaway restaurant.

There is a different side to this scenario as well. The mushrooming of restaurants, especially in upscale localities, has dented the business of established eateries. A case in point is a restaurant at Khayaban-i-Tauheed. Anil, who works here, said: “This year we are getting 40 to 50 customers on a daily basis. Last year, and the years before that, the situation was different. We used to have a much bigger crowd. A few reasons could be given for it, for example inflation has skyrocketed. Perhaps the more convincing reason is that each year countless new eating places and coffee shops open up. This affects the business of the ones already in the market. As far as what food people prefer at Iftar, well, it’s the normal stuff (pakoras and dates), but for the main course they like to have all kinds of cuisines ranging from Italian to continental to desi.”

The eating-out trend has its pluses and minuses. If, on the one hand, it refreshes traditional values with a dash of contemporariness, on the other, it also points to a certain kind of commercialism that has crept into every aspect of our lives.