Flamingo Chaat: An Everlasting Love
My love affair with Flamingo Chaat began many years ago, on a moonlit winter night, in 2006. I was newly married, and newly homesick. My heart yearned for the cool autumn breeze of Islamabad, the omnipresent view of Margalla Hills, and my samosa chaat, from MashaAllah Chaat Corner in Super Market.
What did I have in Karachi? Muggy days and slightly bearable evenings, the cacophony of noise, mischief, and mayhem that is Boat Basin, and a husband trying to shove a spoonful of chaat into my face. It wasn’t the most auspicious of introductions. Yet, when I had that spoonful of chaat my world changed.
I thought I had discovered the ultimate chaat. When I regaled the discovery to my Karachi friends, I was proven wrong. They patted my head and called me “their sweet summer child”.
Flamingo has been around for decades in Boating Basin. An unassuming, blue and red establishment, right around the corner from Subway and Roll Inn. Parking is almost impossible to find, and although there’s a seating area outside, many prefer to be served in their cars. There are a plethora of menu items, from rolls to bun kebabs, from milkshakes to tea, but let’s get real. Everyone is really there for the chaat.
My husband and I can be found there every weekend for our standard order of two mixed chaats, a plate of fries and a Pepsi to share. Before I write a soliloquy on the beauty that is this chaat, let’s take a gander at it from the visual aspect. What a sight! A pile of cholay and aloo (potato chunks), with a big fat dahi barra nestled in the middle, topped with crisp onions, and then liberally coated with sweet yogurt, tangy tamarind chutney, chaat masala, and topped with a veritable pile of crunchy papri.
Now, one would think that these ingredients are quite basic and can be easily worked out at home. So what justifies the fandom of this chaat? There is a special something in this chaat, a certain ooh-la-la element, that elevates it from A Chaat to The Chaat. I don’t know if it’s the chutney, the yogurt, or what, but it is something that no one can duplicate.
The first bite is heaven. A fat little dahi bara made with lentil. Mellow and mild in flavor, soft and perfect in texture. Paired with chunks of boiled potato, cholay which are at that elusive level of being perfectly cooked but with a slight bite to them, and pockets of chaat masala peppered throughout, waiting to be discovered. Green earthy bursts of coriander sprinkled on top, that amazing sweet yogurt surrounding the plate, just begging to be mixed in with that incredible chutney/masala sauce. It’s all there. Take a sip of ice-cold Pepsi when the chaat masala hits your tongue, and that mouthful, right there, is perfection. (FYI, love the old school glass Pepsi bottles).
The bill is next to nothing. What else can you want? Seasons will come and go, the Earth will continue to rotate on its axis, and Flamingo Chaat will always be the best. A beacon in the dark to chaat aficionados, levels above the rest. Islamabad will always be my home turf, but Karachi wins The Battle of the Chaats.