While my understanding of Urdu is limited, I did however, establish that Shola means ‘spark’ in Urdu. What became abundantly clear during the unveiling of the new dining menu at Chef Aida Khan’s Shola Karachi Kitchen was that there was certainly a spark of genius in deciding to extend the opening hours of the White City based restaurant to allow diners to enjoy the dinner menu in addition to the existing walk-in and lunch offerings.
By focusing on simple, honest and traditional recipes passed down from generations, we were able to enjoy some exciting and flavoursome dishes that had been prepared, using traditional cooking techniques and fresh ingredients; the masala pastes are prepared fresh and the spices are roasted and ground on site.
The dining concept at Shola is based on sharing the dishes, making the overall experience feel more casual and homely but still luxurious. The dishes are influenced by the various South Asian cultures and cuisines found within Karachi. For example, there was a distinct Indian influence found with the vegetarian dishes such as the Palak Paneer, a spinach dish with cubes of cheese, deliciously crunchy pakoras or the refreshingly cool, cucumber salad and raita.
Our mains included chicken biryani that had been steamed for up to two hours. Each mouthful of steaming rice and tender marinated chicken captured the rich aromas of delicate spices and fried onions. The succulent barbecue lamb shoulder was a popular dish too. The marinade consists of no less than 24 spices and the meat is left to soak for up to 48 hours. The succulent pieces of lamb are charcoal grilled on a Mibrasa oven with the resulting dish packed with a multitude of flavours.
I took great pleasure in dunking Naan Khata, a semolina based cookie made with cardamon into my blue rimmed, white metal mug filled with Doodpathi Chai, a sweet masala based milky tea. This took me back to my childhood years, where such delights were often being prepared at home by my mother. This is exactly the type of atmosphere that Chef Aida is looking to create at Shola. She summarised it well by saying’…We hope to bring back the intimate atmosphere that is ultimately the inspiration behind Shola – a familiar dimension of simple, clean cooking, the way it has been done in Karachi households for decades’.
To discover more, visit www.sholakitchen.com
By Umesh Patel