Melissa’s recently had the pleasure of hosting chef, food stylist and cooking instructor, Kausar Ahmed, who just came out with her very first cookbook, “The Karachi Kitchen.” The focus of Ahmed’s cookbook is to connect people around the world through food. These recipes are based on classic and contemporary flavors of Pakistan, showcasing the culinary arts of a multi-cultural region that sits at the intersection of South Asia. After the kitchen event, we caught up with Chef Ahmed to ask her more about Karachi culture and the cuisine that makes this region so unique.
Q: How is the Karachi kitchen unique from the typical household kitchen?
Kausar Ahmed: When I launched “The Karachi Kitchen,” the goal was to connect and reach out to people from around the world and become a part of the typical household kitchen through unique flavors, history, culture and stories which relate to everyone. It is this unique (or common) combination that makes it stand out.
Q: We’re excited to experience a whole new world of flavor through your cookbook. Can you give us a taste of what flavor profiles one can expect with these recipes?
KA: You will be experiencing a variety of Asian inspired flavor profiles when cooking from the cookbook recipes, all mainly a combination of spices; sweet, earthy, spicy, pungent, fruity, sour, nutty and savory blends.
Q: What are some produce items we can find in our grocery stores in the U.S. that are also commonly found in Pakistani cuisine, and more specifically, Karachi?
Q: What are some produce items that you wish were more available in the U.S. at local grocery stores?
Q: If someone is unfamiliar with this type of cuisine, but looking to try something new, what is the first recipe they should try from the book?
KA: The green chicken and the orange salad; both are easy and flavorful recipes that will leave you with a curiosity to try the other recipes.
Q: We loved all of the recipes that call for green chiles in your cookbook, especially since we just finished Hatch season and have a ton of roasted peppers in the freezer. When thinking about all of the incredible produce that Melissa’s offers at local grocery stores, what are some great Melissa’s produce picks + “The Karachi Kitchen” recipe pairings that you can think of?
Hatch Chiles + Stuffed Green Peppers
Cara Cara Oranges + Orange salad
Fresh coconut+ Khao Suey
Q: The dessert section especially caught our eye with Halloween right around the corner. Is Halloween celebrated in Karachi? What are some traditional holidays celebrated in that region that we might not know about, and are there any celebratory dishes centered around that time?
KA: Karachi is a cosmopolitan city consisting of multiple cultures and religions. Halloween has become a part of celebrations in Karachi every year, especially with the younger generation being more welcoming and eager to host Halloween parties with costumes, decor and food. It has become a trend for cafes to do window dressings and have beautiful Halloween-themed pastry items. Christmas is also celebrated just like we celebrate Eid, as we have a large Christian community, but it is not only Christians who join in on the celebrations, but the public in general. There are Christmas parties and lunches; you see beautiful decorated stores and malls and festive holiday spirit all around. I grew up being exposed to all cultures and celebrations and love going to the church to be a part of the Christmas carols. Ramzan (Month of fasting) followed by a celebration of is, Eid ul-Fitr, the traditional Muslim celebration. The traditional Eid dish is Sheer Khurma, a festive vermicelli pudding with milk, toasted vermicelli, sugar, saffron, pistachios, drop of rose water and almonds (which are lightly fried before adding), and slow-cooked until it becomes a medium-thick consistency. It is traditionally the first thing eaten after the morning prayers. The second yearly big celebration is, Eid ul Adha, which is celebrated by cooking all kinds of meat marinated in spices, slow-cooked, fried, baked and mostly BBQed served with piping hot naan freshly made at the neighborhood tandoor.
Q: What are some notable South Asian, European, and Middle Eastern influences in Karachi cuisine?
KA: Major influences have been Persian, Indian and Chinese cuisine and the love of pastries from European influence.
Q: If our readers ever make it out to Karachi, what’s the first thing they should eat?
KA: They should eat freshly made BBQ food, which ranges from meat, vegetables and seafood. My favorite is a restaurant called Bar.B.Q. Tonight.
Q: Describe Karachi in one sentence to someone looking for an adventure.
KA: A city that never sleeps and is full of delicious food.
Ahmed is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and currently works as a freelance food consultant, stylist and educator. She is working on her next cookbook and spends her time between Karachi and California. Get in touch with Chef Ahmed at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit kausarahmed.net.
Watch Chef Kausar Ahmed cook live in Melissa’s kitchen!