Chai Shai or Chai Wala… what’s your verdict?
A highly revered national favourite and a breakfast staple in most households across the country, chai and paratha have gathered a special place and following in cafes in Karachi’s Defence.
Paratha, a crisp, flaky, buttery flatbread, layered to perfection, is perhaps the desi and proud cousin of the French croissant. Put together, a steaming hot cup of chai and the two make a divine pair that continues to appease countless foodie palates.
Whether you enjoy your paratha with keema, stuffed with cheese and chicken or perhaps something sweet like jam or even Nutella, the ‘chai walas’ in Karachi have you covered and scrambling for more.
A drive around Khayaban-e-Bokhari in Karachi’s Defence and you’ll be able to spot plastic chairs cozily placed with boys and girls and families relishing chai and paratha under ferry lights.
While there are many such modern twists to a ‘dhaaba’ in the area, we take a close look at two serving the most customers – standing side by side and divided only by an alleyway – ‘Chai Shai’ and ‘Chai Wala’.
While a pop art wall inspired by Pakistani cinema seems to be all the charm of ‘Chai Shai’, ‘Chai Wala’ is more inspired by truck art. However, both boast almost similar menus.
But taste-wise they are not all that similar. The pizza paratha and BBQ paratha at ‘Chai Shai’ arrived looking impressive but were a little doughy and not crisp. While the filling had a good flavour, there was really too much in each paratha. On the other hand, the pizza paratha at ‘Chai Wala’ stayed true to its name, oozing with cheese, crispy, piping hot and a perfect fusion of desi and fast food.
Another one, quite popular among the patrons is the ‘Nutella paratha’ which is served hot, crisp and amply lathered with Nutella. This one too was better at ‘Chai Wala’.
While the chai at both dhaabas was just how we like it, ‘Chai Wala’ once again emerged triumphant in making Kashmiri chai. ‘Chai Wala’s’ Kashmiri chai was outstanding, boasting the perfect pink colour, aromatic, flavourful and was served with chopped pistachios. It was utterly refreshing.
If all this sounds too filling for you, for a simpler paratha try the zeera paratha which has a rather unique and interesting taste.
While dhaaba dining may not be for everyone, the food is surely not to be missed. These places offer a unique and modern twist to dhaabas making everyone feel warm and comfortable. A must-visit for a change of scenery and food choice, we just wish they would also open for breakfast.