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Khyber food festival opens with Khattak dance

Khyber food festival opens with Khattak dance

KARACHI: The aroma of mutton roast, yakhni pulao, dumpukht lamb and chapli kebabs sizzling on the tawa beckoned as the waiters in Chitrali caps or pakol and black and silver waistcoats or koti over crisp white shalwar kameez served hot roti in a changair, cool lassi or hot kahwa at the four-day Khyber Food Festival that commenced at Marco Polo restaurant at Pearl Continental Karachi here on Thursday.

The red table napkins instantly reminded one of a scene from a popular Pushto flick where the hero brings out his red handkerchief and breaks into Khattak dance to celebrate a happy occasion. Up ahead on the dance floor, four Khattak dancers in their traditional attire were doing just that.

“Being a Pakhtun myself I didn’t have too much of a problem planning a menu for the festival,” Chef Akhtar Hussain, who hails from Buner told Dawn. “Most of the dishes here comprise mutton though we have chicken and fish, too. We Pakhtuns like mutton. As for the fish, the only difference here is that in Peshawar you’ll get river fish while here we have ocean fish,” he smiled.

The meat was cooked with such precision that the flesh separated from the bone at the slightest of touch and the meat simply melted in the mouth. “The dishes don’t have too much masala and are cooked using salt and black pepper mostly in order to bring out the real taste of the meat. That’s how they like it in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” explained Waqas Ali, a junior chef.

The desert bar also had plenty of mithai as well as various halwa of which the anjeer halwa was most liked. Serving hot Peshawari kahwa with pieces of fresh lime, young waiter Khalid Khan, also a proud Pakhtun, said the tea after a rich meal of mutton, chicken, fish, etc, was a must as it helped digest the food better.

After the meal, one also felt like reaching for a red napkin joining the Khattak dancers on the floor up ahead, which could also help digest the heavy food, but the ‘only for display’ note on the cart laden with dried fruit near the kahwa table swiftly brought one back to Karachi from Khyber!

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2015

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