City Food – Ramazan Food Stalls, Frere Road

Karachi truly becomes City of Lights during Ramazan. There is a sense of festivity in the streets that you only experience during Ramazan. People choose to spend time outdoors turning dead streets into vibrant public spaces. While regular spots like Burns road are perennial favorites of Karachi wallahs, there are certain other spontaneous food spots that popup for brief period. There’s a collection of dozen or so stalls, a little further from Tayyebiyah Jamat Khana on Frere road which has turned into a Ramazan attraction for residents of the area and beyond.

We get dropped at Pakistan Chowk and walk along Outram road towards Haqqani Chowk at around nine o clock. Outram road is a visual treat from Pakistan Chowk end. Several stone buildings provide an exquisite backdrop to post Iftar frenzy. During Ramazan, the transaction time reduces and you see a lot of people going out for shopping and running errands post Iftar. Almost every shop, no matter selling what, has a queue of customers. Especially the ones selling food. We cross some chai khanas packed to maximum with groups sipping tea and chatting. We cross a lot of women, in numbers that one does not see during rest of the year.

There are eight to ten stalls depending on the day you visit the informal setup. Most of them are run by Bohri gentlemen from the neighborhood. The stalls are small with one or two stoves. Kaleji with Bun Kebab is the popular choice and there are three food stalls serving it. All three have different variations and our favorite is one with harra masala. The plate costs 120 rupees. There are several chat wallas with different variations of potato centered recipe. However we find it quite ordinary, except for one gentlemen whose khattay aalo has right amount of spice mix. It costs between 40 to 50 rupees for one serving. Sadly not much of authentic Bohri food is on the menu therefore we get excited when we find Malpura on one of the stalls. Fried deep in a karhai full of oil, it is little too sweet for our liking. The highlight of the street is a stall offering Limca soda which is very refreshing for current weather. The stall is managed by a kid and has about a dozen flavors to offer. There are some traditional choices such as Haleem, Pasta and chicken corn soup. The place is popular with people from neighborhood and otherwise. Within half an hour we see a lot of bikes and cars stopping and people circling the stalls.

The Limca stall offers the drink in plastic cup, a lot of which we find lying in the street. Garbage, just like rest of the Karachi is an issue here. We also find sewerage water in one corner. In the backdrop I see a beautiful building, abandoned and left to decay. The place can depress you if you don’t appreciate the context and if you don’t like observing people in a casual setting. This place is lively and vibrant despite all its issues. A great public space has to be accessible first. Accessible and sociable for ordinary people! This city has a lot of gated parks and spaces now which are dead at this very hour.

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