KARACHI: When you enter the Hussainabad food street in Pakistan’s bustling commercial capital of Karachi, the first thing that hits you is the aroma of kata-kat stir-fried meat, crispy parathas, and a deep-fried whole chicken dish popularly known as chargha.
Located in the prominent Federal B Area, the locality has been a thriving food center since at least the 1980s, though it was formally converted into a food street in 2016 by then Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar.
The narrow street is sandwiched between a row of buildings on both sides and on most nights is jampacked with pedestrians on the lookout for their favorite foods. On the weekends, there is barely enough space for people to walk freely.
Today, there are over 50 stalls and restaurants on the two-kilometer-long stretch of street, selling a variety of dishes ranging from fast and street foods like chaat and samosas, barbecue, haleem and nihari stews, ice creams, shakes, and other desserts and specialties.
A customer favorite is kata-kat, a stir-fried dish prepared from beef and organ meats on a flat griddle known as a tawa. The dish’s name is an onomatopoeia from the sound of two sharp knives constantly hitting the tawa as the meat is cooked.
“Our kata-kat is delivered to Germany, China, Kenya, Canada, USA, Dubai, and Malaysia,” Mohammad Imran, the manager at the 42-year-old Bolan Restaurant, told Arab News. “We get orders, then we send [it in] tin packs. A lot of people come from Karachi [and] interior Sindh.”
Bolan Restaurant’s kata-kat is made of kidney, liver, brain, and heart cooked in mild spices and topped with green chilies.
“The food here is very delicious,” Imran said as he inspected platefuls of kata-kat being prepared for customers.
Speaking about the history of the street, Imran remembered it as a small market up until a few years ago.
“There wasn’t much [here] 15-20 years ago,” he said. “It used to be a small market but ever since the food street has been established, it has developed a lot.”
Tayyabi’z Restaurant, which opened in 1967, is another old eatery that for years only served boiled eggs and minced meat parathas, but expanded its menu as Hussainabad’s popularity as a hub of food grew, its owner told Arab News.
“Now we have gravy, karahi, kata-kat, brain masala, Balochi tikka, special barbeque platter, and much more,” Mohammad Moosa said.
Tayyabi’z Balochi tikka is a must-try, different from usual tikkas for being deep-fried after it is barbequed, and served with a thick gravy and topped with green and red chilies, and various spice mixes like garam and chaat masala.
Another customer favorite is the grilled chargha at Ghousia Fast Food, crispy on the edges and very soft inside, said Kamran Gul, who has been making the dish for the last 17 years.
“Grilled chargha is famous for its spices, you won’t get this taste anywhere [else] in Pakistan,” Gul told Arab News. “We ground whole spices ourselves instead of using ready-made spices from the market.”
Instructor Faizan Gaba, 30, testified to the unique taste and quality of food at Hussainabad.
“Ghousia Fast Food, they were the first ones to launch Grill Chargha which has been copied by many now. However, the taste and spice they offer is hard to find anywhere else in the city and the country,” Gaba told Arab News.
“People feel an attachment with the food offered here because it is tasteful yet affordable. There are numerous options at the food street, beyond the main meals, and a vibrant environment for a family outing.”