How To: Desi Food in Lahore
Lahore’s boiling. The very suggestion of eating desi food in Lahore outdoors could get you beaten up. But depriving yourself of some karahi-stirred goodness is a cruel injustice. Contrary to what your whiny friend wants you to believe (we all have one), it’s pretty easy to hoodwink the weather. But there are rules.
If you think halwa puri in Model Town Park on a Sunday afternoon is a good idea, you’re sorely mistaken.
Just realizing that’s a bad idea? Read on.
Bear with me for a bit and you’ll know exactly where and when you should enjoy desi food in Lahore.
We decided to do a fun little video to showcase what Lahore has to offer to its residents. You can check out the exact locations on where to procure these items within Lahore in the list below, but for now, we would love to hear your feedback on our video below. We love arguing, so if you wanna argue, please comment on the video and we will get an argument specialist on the line before you can say, “no, but..”
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Okay, so we mentioned this one already. This is the only dish on the list that is a must all year round. But that’s probably because there is absolutely NO alternative to halwa puri. And anyone who tells you that a paratha can replace a puri is a liar who shouldn’t be trusted with anything. Anything.
WHERE: CHACHA BASA, TAJ MAHAL SWEETS, FAZL-E-HAQ
WHEN: 6 – 10 AM, FRIDAY – SUNDAY
A slightly healthier, but equally delicious breakfast alternative. People underestimate the power of well-cooked channay. They can make you agreeable even before you’ve had your morning tea. It is said that the more your naan dips into your channay, the more positive your day will be. Tried and tested.
If you’re feeling extra-festive, pair your channay with a kulcha instead of naan. It makes all the difference, even if you can’t tell the difference between a naan and a kulcha (shame on you).
WHERE: SADIQ (GAWALMANDI), GOGA (MODEL TOWN)
WHEN: 6 – 11 AM, SUNDAY – SATURDAY (YAAS)
If you live in Lahore and have never had nihari then have you really lived? Cooked in the bone marrow of an animal (halal) of your choice, and spices that take you back to daadi ke haath ka pissa hua masala, this rich stew invented the concept of flavorful bursts. Pair it with naan or, if you’re ever so slightly Kashmiri , with boiled rice. The latter is not that popular, so it’s okay if you shake your head at it. Or at me. I’d rather me than it.
Lahore has received a lot of flak over the years for not having good biryani. I recently jumped off this bandwagon after stepping into Barkat Market one fine day. Needless to say, my life changed. And my approach to desi food in Lahore evolved. Not many people can make biryani as quickly as my mom (LOVE YA, MOM!), but apparently there are places that can make amazing biryani in Lahore. Well, I’ll be!
WHERE: KARACHI BIRYANI, JAIDI, KARACHI NASEEB BIRYANI
WHEN: 12 – 12, EVERYDAY
If you’re simply not in the mood for a proper breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can have a few (dozen) gol gappay. Keep your Snapchat on the ready for some incriminating videos of your gang. While there are many gol gappa vendors on street corners, their hygiene tends to be questionable. Don’t want food poisoning? Consider our recommendations.
WHERE: LIBERTY GOL GAPPAY, LAHORE CHATKHARA
WHEN: 6 PM – 12 AM, EVERYDAY
Alternatively, you could also head on over to Ajmal, opposite Marvel Hotel on DHA’s Khayaban-e-Iqbal Road for some kickass gol gappa goodness. Bit random, but you won’t be sorry!
Lahore may not have its biryani in order, but it sure has karahi locked down. Whether you’re roaming around Moon Market or a commercial area of DHA, you’ll find amazingly-tasting karahi of all shapes, sizes (and prices). Then again, it would be unfair to mention karahi without giving a shout out to the hub of all things desi; Lakshmi Chowk.
WHERE: BUTT KARAHI, CHANDNI CHOWK, SPICE OF KASHMIR
WHEN: 2 – 10 PM, FRIDAY – SUNDAY
Here’s the deal. I made it a point to add handi to this list because it’s often sidelined by karahi. Hypocritically so: almost everyone going on and on about how spectacular karahi is ends up taking large servings of handi as well. So, like, what gives?
The difference between a karahi and handi is their level of subtlety. A karahi has large and apparent diced tomatoes, onions, green chillies and (at times) ginger. The masala barely gets across the whole table before it’s finished.
A handi, however, does not exhibit every ingredient put into it. What you have in front of you is a gravy, with perhaps some chopped almonds to garnish it with. I love this humility. And the fact that they have enough gravy to go around. Hence, I refuse to stay silent in the face of this discrimination.
WHERE: BUNDU KHAN, SHAH JAHAN GRILL, HAVELI
WHEN: 7 PM – 10 PM, FRIDAY – SUNDAY
Weekends are for quality time with friends or the fam and obviously eating desi food in Lahore. And quality time entails some good desi barbecue. Since, again, it’s too hot to light up some coal and barbecue at home, going to one of your favorite tikka spots is a safe (sane) bet.
Essentially, anything that can be thrown on an ingithi qualifies as a barbecue. But that’s little information in a world full of idiots, so let me break it down. Chicken, beef, lamb, mutton and rabbit meat is shaped in different ways, and marinated in a variety of spices to create mouthwatering barbecue.
The results? Ribs (mutton), bihari kebab (beef), tawa piece (chicken), takatak (lamb) and sajji (rabbit, as well as chicken). Each have a distinct flavor, not just because of the choice of meat, but because of the variety of spices used is their marinades.
WHERE: NADEEM TIKKA, ARIF CHATKHARA, BALOCH SAJJI
WHEN: 7 PM – 12 PM, FRIDAY – SUNDAY
Now that I’ve caught a hold of you, I’m not letting you go without understanding the importance of kheer. The beauty that is white rice is used to make this brilliant dessert. It is usually served in utensils made out of clay, called a thooti. As a result, kheer tends to be called thooti as well. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of kheer spots in Lahore. But there are some restaurants and sweet shops that serve delicious kheer.
WHERE: GOURMET GRILL, JALAL SONS, CHASHNI
WHEN: 6 PM TO THE EARLY HOURS OF TWILIGHT
Even your whiny friend can’t complain on the prospect of kulfa. It’s the perfect summer escape, as I’ve already clarified. It also makes for an excellent sweet-dish to follow a hearty, meaty meal that has left you perspiring.
Lahore was recently blessed with the gift that is Royal Kulfi. It’s available everywhere; from petrol pumps to their own outlets to a kiosk at Packages Mall. But there are other failsafe kulfa spots as well. If you’re looking for desi food in Lahore, kulfi should be on your list.
WHERE: ROYAL KULFI, BENAZIR KULFA, CHAMAN ICE CREAM
WHEN: ALL DAY, ANY DAY
Now wasn’t that simple? The next time someone tells you “it’s too hot for desi food in Lahore” you tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about. Teach ‘em a thing or two! You got this!