Mamtu de Hunza: Hunza in Anarkali
Foggy winters introduce hues of black and white to the Lahori landscape. In moments of twilight, depressive thoughts tend to make their way into cozy offices and warm bedrooms. You desire a change of pace, preferably in an environment you have yet to discover. I have just the place for you, hidden within the mud-strewn tumult of Anarkali Food Street. Camouflaged by a shop of old jackets lies a portal to a world far away from the din and smog. Mamtu de Hunza is your one-stop escape to everything Gilgit, sans the view.
In a Nutshell:
- A window to Hunza in the middle of Anarkali
- Ambiance is deflating, at first
- Nostalgic experiences for bored millennials
- A shoestring budget? No problem
- Try the Mamtu (Gilgiti dumplings)
- Step out of your comfort zone
How would you like it if delicacies from a city covered in sugary white ice in Northern Pakistan were to be served to you in Lahore on a platter with vinegar and red and dark purple sauces during that unnamed time between lunch and dinner?
I went to relish the Gilgiti cuisine alone, and was momentarily discouraged by the dull and gloomy appearance of the place. Still, I went up the fatally narrow stairs – like the ones I imagine on the way to prison cells – with only a tiny flashlight. Voila! Colorful walls and numerous paintings illuminated by hanging lights surrounded me. I could not believe that such a beautiful place existed within Anarkali. Even the spots where the paint had peeled off were covered with paintings of various styles and sizes. Divided into two sections, the Gilgiti eatery showcased plastic chairs on one end. Green carpeted covered the rest, where you could sit on the floor. In a dark, secluded corner, stood a devilish figure with an exuberantly white smile.
I ordered a half-dozen mamtu at Mamtu de Hunza and found them at my table within a few minutes. Mamtu are innocent envelopes made of flour, with minced meat and tiny threads of vegetables. I bit into one after dipping it in vinegar and chilli sauce. The texture of the wrapper and its contents is light and consistent. A dozen mamtu disappeared into my my stomach like a handful of peanuts. I felt obligated to order another round as soon as I had finished the first.
In the meantime, I ordered a cup of tea from the nearby Abbasi stall. With plenty of tea leaves and a little sugar, the golden tea with its aroma and viscous feel put the brown water they serve in fancy cafes to shame. An Urdu song about a lover played. I sipped the tea and observed the splendid artwork.
Despite its sweet name, life’s chaos inflicts Anarkali with drear. Yet art sustains itself. Mamtu de Hunza is a charming epiphany rising in tea steam and yellow light. Eateries like these deserve to be visited at least once for raw refreshments and brutish beauty. The fare is frugal but one leaves rich in spite.