Tag Archives: lahore

Tao Yuan-Chinese food with a Desi touch

19 Aug

Photo courtesy: Flagstaff Restaurants

Chinese food has gained popularity in Pakistan in a relatively short span of time. Does it have anything to do with the simplicity of the cuisine or Pakistan’s diplomatic ties with China? Well… I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, you have more Chinese eateries in Lahore than in any other city of Pakistan.

In the heart of Lahore on Main Boulevard Gulberg, right opposite Hafiz Centre (famous IT retail plaza) , is the Chinese-food lover’s sanctuary –  Tao Yuan. Tao Yuan has been serving top quality Chinese food to the food-loving people of Lahore, for well over a decade now.

I think that’s Tao Yuan (written as Tai Wah) on the map. Sorry if it’s wrong… nevertheless, this is the street where it’s at

If you’re a person who’s all about fancy shmancy ambiance, then Tao Yuan is, by no means, a place for you. It does not have fancy Chinese art on the walls or anything else which might get you to think of it as an ambassador of Chinese culture. Yes, apparently that’s how Chinese restaurants in Pakistan demonstrate their “China-ness”. Quite on the contrary, at Tao Yuan, you’ll see shabbily dressed waiters who aren’t particularly welcoming, and a small television set which never has anything interesting to watch on it.

You must be thinking, this place does not sound like somewhere I would like to have my next meal, right? Well, you couldn’t be more wrong! Tao Yuan sells some mouth-watering dishes that simply kindle your senses; the entire experience being enhanced purely by the food on your plate. Just forget about the waiters, the TV set or the lack of art around you. For the price that they sell the food at, and consistent quality that they have to offer, I visit the place regularly with my colleagues after work. Not being big fans of any appetizers, we like to order the main course straight away. Tao Yuan has a vast array of dishes to select from but fearing any unpleasant culinary experience, I stick to ordering the standard menu that I have perfected over the years –  thanks to my friends Omer Ali and Kashif Mustafa.

Yes, I ain't much of a photographer, and yes, the food looks straight-up horrible. You couldn't be more right about the former, and more wrong about the latter

“Chicken noodles” are a must-have at Tao Yuan and I can say this with full confidence. Their chef seems to have rubbed shoulders with an Iron Chef China or something, because his use of spices with vegetables is unlike any other garam-masala and oil-laden Chinese food found locally (case in point: Agha’s Chinese food); and of course, there’s LOTS of chicken on the plate.

For those who would like to venture into something more exciting, “Tao Yuan Special noodles” offers an addition of two different meats including beef and shrimps. “Tao Yuan special rice” is another dish that  a lot of the Chinese-food-loving people would be delighted to have. I have had the same dish under various names in other restaurants, however, this particular dish is head and shoulders above the rest. Countless flavors are fused together to bring this rice dish on a plate but the crunch of the almonds, coupled with the sweetness of the pineapple, is something that words just can’t describe. Another must-order for me is the “Chicken with almonds,” which is the only curry on our standard menu. Whilst many people like to order Chicken Manchurian, I seriously believe that having what is nothing more than tomato ketchup and chicken thrown in together, is just a waste of your money. In protest, I order this almond slash chicken dish. Surprisingly, this dish has the shortest table life and is considerably popular for its simple flavour. The last dish to land on our table is always the “Spring Chicken”. I have never understood where the management got this name from – it is neither “spring-y” nor does it have any use of spring onions in it. To me, it is some plainly-marinated chicken bathed in a batter and deep fried. It doesn’t have any complicated flavours that challenge the taste buds, and quite honestly… it doesn’t need to.

Tao Yuan Special Rice

The food at Tao Yuan might not be the stuff of Michelin-star and the food inspectors might raise concerns about the hygiene of the place as well, but one thing is certain, adding a personal touch to the food, Tao Yuan Chinese restaurant would certainly give any contemporary Chinese eatery a run for their money, based entirely on merit. So next time you’re short on cash and are looking for a nice dining experience, drop by “Tao Yuan” and their zombie-like waiters would unwillingly serve you food worth cherishing.

Pizza Chronicles-Rahat Bakery Islamabad

30 Jul

A city which is mostly known for its bureaucratic and political lifestyle, Islamabad is not very famous when it comes to food. For people like me who belong to Lahore, a culinary journey in the capital city of Pakistan can prove to be quite awkward, especially since food does not seem to be a priority for the residents here.

In recent times though, I was constantly told by my brother, who happened to work in Islamabad for a while, that Rahat Bakery in the Blue Area sells some exotic baked items, which are second to none when it comes to the taste. In particular, he added that the pizza sold by this bakery was finger-licking. When I did some additional research, I discovered that it was one of the foods in Islamabad that were spoken of very highly, and strongly recommended.

It wasn’t until a week back,  that I got the chance to visit Islamabad and taste a pizza that had alluded me for almost two years now. Located in what seemed to be one of the most posh areas of Islamabad, Rahat Bakery stood grand in the blue area and welcomed me in all grandeur. The place is the first “genuine bakery” I have ever visited in Pakistan, and I say that because most of the items sold there were being baked fresh – right before our eyes!

My friends and I ordered the Sausage pizza which was surprisingly not very overly priced. The 13-inch pizza cost us Rs. 795, which compared to a lot of its counterparts in Lahore was relatively economical. One can imagine the popularity of the pizzas served at Rahat by the fact that we had to wait close to 40 minutes to get our hands on our order. Since the bakery itself was overcrowded, we decided to wait for our order outside and spent our time on the stairs chit chatting. After a long wait, when I finally took a bite of the first slice, I knew that the wait was totally worth it. Nothing compares to a piece of freshly baked pizza. Although, the thin crust is not something I am normally fond of, the nice blend of spices and the generous spread of sausages and cheese were a thorough delight. Every bite had a different taste to it and the pleasure of eating it grew by the minute. In my vies, the best thing about it was the simplicity with which the baker had treated the pizza. Very often, we find that pizzas are treated complicatedly in an effort to infuse too many flavours. As a consequence, they end up ruining the entire pizza. This certainly was not the case with the Sausage pizza that i had at the Rahat Bakery. Maybe it’s just me; maybe the 40 minutes of waiting made me devour and relish every bite! However, I don’t think that was entirely the case. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a pizza, that in its most simple form has been filling and delicious.

If you are a genuine pizza lover, if you really believe in tasting simple food and most importantly, if you are planning to visit Islamabad any time soon, do try Rahat Bakery’s pizza and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

 

UPDATE: Directions to Rahat Bakery, Islamabad (A on the map)

Andaa-Daal Fry

22 Jul

Rising inflation poses a great threat to many of the large food businesses all across Pakistan. However, like many cities Lahore has a large presence of Dhabbas where one can find cheap,yet high quality food which is rather comforting in nature. Close to Jinnah hospital, in faisal town Lahore, one can gorge upon the very famous Andaa-Daal Fry. This simple dish made with channa daal and a nice infusion of egg is served with tandoori roti and is further accompanied with fresh salad and mint chutney. Madinah hotel is just one of the many Dhabbas that sells its version of the dish and it truly is a treat for any food lover who is looking for a low budget yet tasty dining experience.

Hygiene is not something that the sellers of this dish pay special attention too since the regular customers come from a humble background who are not likely to pay attention to such things. For those people who are particular about it, they should rather not venture into having the dish altogether. You might come across people who advice you to reinvent this dish at home but my suggestion to you would be otherwise. I don’t know why, but for some odd reason the taste a plate of Andaa-Daal fry holds at a dhabba can never be matched at home. The low hygiene environment, the cooking environment in general all sum up to give this simple dish a royal touch.

So, the next time you happen to be in faisal town, i would suggest you to drop by the Madinah hotel and do try this delicious marrige of daal and egg. Only after tasting this beautiful dish can one truly understand how comforting and satisfying can the most simplest of dishes be in life.