Welcome to Karachi! The largest metropolis of Pakistan that inhabits a whopping 16.5 million population and stands as the 11th largest city in the world. The diverse ethnicities never let this city sleep and have made it so culturally rich that you would never get bored of exploring it.
To the south is the Arabian Sea, the most popular attraction for many which makes Karachi the largest industrial hub of the country. A city so rich in culture, is best known for exceptionally good food. Be it the local cuisine or taste from across the border, you will find almost anything to satisfy your craving.
To celebrate the best taste in the city and support new vendors, the first Karachi Eat Festival was organized in 2014 at the famous landmark of Frere Hall and since it began an annual festival. This foodie utopia brings enticing cuisine in one place and it has been growing ever since.
Each year, the festival attendance is significantly growing and attracts celebrities and even tourists. Packed with fusion flavors, music, and tons of activities for kids, Karachi Eat is now the largest and the most anticipated festival for foodies in the country.
My first visit to Karachi Eat Festival was in January 2018 with my friend DB when the venue was shifted to a park near my house. It was a three-day, fun-filled weekend and the attendance was nearly 300,000! As far as my memory can recall, there were 125 food stalls and vendors were invited from other cities to participate.
Since the festival was huge, I could hardly take a complete tour and taste everything. There were several cuisines to taste from including the local Karachi street food, Indian, Thai, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Japanese, and so much more all in one place. There were performances by singers at night and crowd had already started to gather.
The first thing I tried was a Burmese/Pakistani fusion yellow curry called Khaowsuey packed with spicy condiments and served with noodles, and it was just amazing. Since then, it became one of my favorite foods.
Its food stall was jam packed, but surprisingly the service was quick. Since the festival, that khaowsuey place has become one of the leading places in the city that makes the best Burmese fusion cuisine.
Our next stop was at a taco stall. I had never tried this signature Mexican food before, and I thought this is the closest I could get to taste tacos. I ordered Steak Taco and it actually had the taste of steak with some sour and tangy feeling, something that Pakistanis love to add in everything that they cook.
There was already some hype of this new burger joint in the city, but I didn’t get the chance to try it. As we moved further and deeper into the stalls, there was the stall of this new burger place! My friend and I waited for five minutes in the queue and ordered this burger whose name I’ve forgotten. We shared it and it was huge that we had to open our mouths wide. The sauce was dripping and the thick patty was juicy. My friend and I then visited the restaurant some months later.
To our left were stalls of drinks in hundreds of flavors, colors, and sizes. Since it was the winter of January, my friend and I decided to get some coffee and gear ourselves up for the performances by singers which was the upcoming major segment of the event. We tried cappuccino from the Brew Factory and prepared ourselves for the concert.
The crowd flocked towards the stage for the back-to-back performances by people’s favorite singers. Although, a huge crowd surrounded the stage area, but it didn’t divert the rush from the stalls. Families were still entering the park and the stalls were getting even busier.
My next visit to the Karachi Eat Festival was in the following year in 2019. This time, the venue was the Beach Park and attracted a much bigger crowd. The ticket price was slightly higher than the last year and a small amount of it was redeemable.
We were a group of three hungry foodies on the lookout for new things to eat. We were told that this year the number of stalls will be less due to quality control reasons, but new eateries will be making their entry to serve the best food.
Our first stall was the much anticipated and hyped corn dogs from a new eatery. I don’t exactly remember which flavor I tried, but it was mushroom something and it was delicious! We three friends purchased three different flavors which were served by creamy dips. This is the advantage of living in a metropolis. New places keep opening up and you get to try something new every now and then.
A new stall was serving various comfort foods and we tried their Fish and Chips, Loaded Fries, and Lemonade. Everything was being served at a discounted price as compared to the same food that is offered at a higher rate outside the festival.
The crowd was getting bigger and the stalls were getting busier. The creativity brought to food was incredible. There were gelato tacos, galaxy cone that is sure to wake up the child in you for its rainbow colored cone and sprinkles. There were so many flavors in popcorn that we could actually see people having a hard time in deciding which ones to try.
We had ice-lollies from a new stall in different colors and they were so refreshing. The many popping colors on the menu attracted mostly children and it was a big hit that year. New ice-cream stalls were the show stealer and we were not surprised when we tasted them. The cheese and mince-filled breads called “Naans” were amongst popular stalls and are still the talk of the town.
The mini burgers with mini grilled patties were amongst our favorite. They were easier to eat and tasted so good! As a meat lover, I could not resist the mutton ribs which were so succulent. You could smell the ribs from a fairly good distance. The best part about the entire food gala was the pleasant weather that kept the entire event engaged and comfortable.
Since the venue was shifted to the Beach Park that year, a green location adjacent to the beach, it experienced drizzle all day. Hot cappuccinos and flavored teas were there to keep us warm. There was a huge play area for kids and bands were invited to perform. Outside the park, there was a big parking lot with ample space. I guess this was one of the reasons for the change in venue as a much bigger crowd was expected than last year.
There was no wonder that a food festival of this magnitude was all over the news and social media. With so much coverage on every channel, Karachi Eat Festival set the bar high each year and did not disappoint its crowd. We saw people in wheelchairs having the best time that serves as a testament to the success of the event.
Unfortunately, I could not attend the festival in 2020 and then it was cancelled the next year following the Covid-19 pandemic. If it happens by the end of 2021, I am sure it must be a tremendous event once again with much more to explore and eat. It served as a great platform for new entrepreneurs entering the food business which helped them establish restaurants and introduce new taste.