The night before the feasting, a text pops up, advising a light breakfast the following morning. Hungover, your writer over-corrects and set off in the Sunday sun - hot, empty-stomached and ready to throw a tantrum - to Ghiza Kitchen, a Pakhtoon home dining experience. The effect is a little like that of Babar returning to the gardens of Kabul after a long, dusty campaign in Haryana.
For a couple of months now, filmmaker Himayath Khan and his wife Azra, of Karachi origin, have been hosting a twice-monthly, family-style meal, where guests enjoy authentic Pakistani and Afghani home cooking. As our return gift on the day they invite us home - the location, in north Bangalore, is classified until you’ve signed up - we take city stand-up comic Aamer Peeran, who’s been missing the taste of his own Karachi-born and raised mama’s cooking.
Ghiza’s greetings begin with a restorative glass of ice-cold sherbet, reminiscent of our Roohafza childhoods - apt, considering the toddler style meltdown the heat has almost induced - and we glug it greedily just as the first course arrives.
“Menasinakai bajji!” the Bangaloreans exclaim as we bite into the familiar-looking snack. In fact, it’s a whole new treat: these large green chillies have been stuffed with a savoury chicken filling. A reverent hush falls over the room. With every chew realisation dawns that this is going to be serious business. We gird our loins just in time: Himayath bears down with a steaming kadai of slow-cooked mutton in a fragrant broth, accompanied by two types of pulao.
“Menasinakai bajji!” the Bangaloreans exclaim as we bite into the familiar-looking snack. In fact, it’s a whole new treat: these large green chillies have been stuffed with a savoury chicken filling.
As we ladle the meat and potatoes onto buttery, pearlescent rice studded with raisins, Himayath assures us that this is (relatively) healthy eating - the meat has no added oil, and is cooked in its own fat. A spoonful in, we accept this evident lie because it would be too rude to spoil our own enjoyment of this succulent beauty.
The Khans can host up to fifteen people at a time, but we’re grateful for a small crowd of five at our meal, the fewer with whom to do away with all formalities. Aamer, acerbic to the point of being offensive on stage, is reduced to his most benign self. We never expected to witness tameez from this foul-mouthed comic, but Dum Afghani has made him come undone.
But there is little opportunity to revel in Aamer’s downfall. The Khans ambush us with tender khosh mazaa shami - delicately herbed mince mutton patties - that melt in our mouth as we pretend to take a small break from the business of proper eating. A smoky charsi tikka shows up, indicating to this formerly vegetarian writer what a good tandoori chicken is supposed to taste like (we need to talk, north India). Soda settles our tummies, and we wonder out loud who will hop off this food train first. Chests are beaten and wagers placed.
Finally, nalli nihari - a mutton and marrow gravy, emblematic of Pakistani cooking and what Aamer is really here for - is brought in with what can only be described as fanfare. It gleams promisingly in the afternoon light filtering in through the balcony doors prompting us all to take a picture for the ‘gram (and to give ourselves a few extra moments). We tear off a shard of soft, fluffy kulcha and dip it into the gravy. Our tongues tingle at the tang and spice that floods our mouths. Aamer is sobbing into his plate with joy. Time slows down and things blur into a beautiful haze.
Finally, nalli nihari - a mutton and marrow gravy, emblematic of Pakistani cooking and what Aamer is really here for - is brought in with what can only be described as fanfare.
It takes cold mountains of lab-e-janan to bring us back to the plane of mortal existence. The soothing softness of custard and fruit is a perfectly simple end to this monumental meal. We are overcome with affection towards our fellow diners - our sweet companions in this culinary conquest - as we scrape our cut glass bowls clean. Dates stuffed with a delicate cream are offered as a final refreshment, but we finally admit defeat and beg off. We slowly gather our things, listening to Aamer promising to call his mother more often, and wrangle an iftaar invitation to boot. We suspect the Khans have just made Ramzan that much harder for some people - all the more reason to return soon.
Getting There: The next feast will take place on May 20. Follow the instructions on the Ghiza Kitchen Facebook page here to sign up. The experience will set you back Rs. 1550 per head.
Accessibility: While the experience involves floor seating, arrangements can be made for table seating on request. Mention any accommodations to Himayath at the time of booking.
Sushmita Sundaram writes about funny people, odd things, and anything edible. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.
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