Pakistani kebabs, biryanis cook up feast at IITF

“It’s the love of Indian foodies that draws me here again and again. Thousands have enjoyed our traditional kebabs, biryanis and Karachi halwas,” Shahid A  Bundu Khan of the Al-Haj Bundu Khan chain of restaurants said.

Khan, who has been coming to the capital for the trade fair since 2003, owns a chain of restaurants spanning Pakistan, Dubai and London. The popularity of the kebabs could be judged by the rush of foodies. “This is my first experience with Pakistani kebabs and I find them distinct. They are far more soft and less oily than what I’ve ever tasted,” said 22-year-old Amit Goel, a law student from south Delhi, while finishing off his second serving in front of Hall 6 of Pragati Maidan.

According to Khan, the authentic spices that he brings from across the border and his unique way of preparation make his kebabs irresistible.

“The authentic masala provides the best taste in the meat. Our special dish, kadai gosht, is prepared over a long period of time so that all the flavours are absorbed well,” Khan said.

He added that while he sources masalas from across the border and buys the meat from the capital’s Ghazipur abattoir.  Though Khan claims that most of his kebab varieties find takers in India, he said people have a special liking for reshot kebabs and chicken and mutton botis. “Reshmi kebabs are my favourite. They are thin and filling. Then, I like roasted chicken leg pieces. I pity my vegetarian friends, they are missing a magnificent treat,” said Uttam Bhagat, 29, a visitor.

“I have been approached many times to branch out to India. But now I feel that in some time, I may also open my own restaurant here,” Khan said.

And it’s not just the food that is in high demand, the ingredients from Pakistan are also disappearing off the shelves. Four companies from across the border have brought with them a huge variety of masalas, pastes and spices.  Habib Oil Mills marketing manager Mustafa Hassan Qureshi said so keen were Pakistani companies to cater to the Indian market that they tinkered with masalas to suit the desi taste. “We have especially developed four to five types of masalas for the Indian market. They are pav bhaji, chhole and curry masalas. The masalas can go well with vegetarian foods as well as non-veg food,” Qureshi said.

Treat for art lovers

The fair has a lot to offer for art lovers.  Authentic tribal face masks, wall-hangings in bright colours and paintings depicting waterfalls of west Africa are a huge draw at the Ghana stall.

“We have brought in a range of products which represent the culture and beauty of the entire west African region,” Eunieoo, who represents the Odekl Ghana company’s stall, said.

According to Eunieoo, the handicrafts at her stall are mostly wood-carved items such as pens, face masks, wall hangings and jewellery.

“Ghana’s wood carved items are very famous around the world. It is due to the intricate work that goes in detailing everything,” Eunieoo said, pointing towards the detailed workmanship on a face mask with metal embroidery.

“The tradition of wooden masks goes to back many-many centuries. In our culture, it represents the identity of the person who wears it, and the tribe, language and heritage he belongs to,” she said.

The west African country’s stall also exhibits wood-carved replica of birds like kingfisher and sparrows.

“Ghana has thousands of species of birds, like kingfisher,” she said.

Apart from the handicrafts, the stall also features a variety of musical instruments like drums and handmade bongos.

“I also teach my customers  a few tunes from Ghana as these tunes are real easy,” Eunieoo said. Asked about the response to her products, she said: “This is my first time here and a lot of people have been coming and buying various items.”

She added that most buyers also inquire about the folklore behind the items and her country.

“They (buyers) are also interested in knowing the meaning behind face masks and other wall hanging. They are interested in Ghana,” she said, adding there were many similarities between Indian and Ghanian handicrafts. Small handicrafts like pens and wind chimes range between Rs 200-Rs1,000 while face masks and paintings starts cost anywhere from Rs 1,000 to Rs 22,000. Customers on their part showed a special interest towards Ghanian jewellery and paintings.

“This is a new thing for us, especially the bead jewellery and leather bangles,” said south Delhi resident Impali Seth. Eunieoo said that apart from sales, she also received retailing proposals.

“Some Indian businessmen have contacted me with proposals for retailing my product here and we are keenly following it.”

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