By Adeel Saeed
PESHAWAR, Nov 14 (APP):The aroma of mutton grilled on skewers, thick white smoke coming out of smoldering charcoal and clattering of spoons against black woksare characters exemplifying ambiance of Namak Mandi or Salt Market, a foodies’ dreamland and hallmark of Peshawar cuisine because of its
inimitable taste of lamb karahi and BBQ tikka.
Peshawarites swank over the taste of traditionally cooked Namak Mandi food as `irresistible’ and even mouth watering having no match with items offered by renowned eateries set up in the width and breadth of the country.
“Succulent mutton barbequed on charcoal or fried in lamb fat, the meal is rarely found in any other part of the country with same savor,” claims Salman Qureshi, a city dweller who works as Medical
Representative with a multinational Pharmaceutical company.
“Being working as Medical Rep I travel to different parts of the country, but could not find the taste and ambiance prevailing at Namak Mandi,” Salman shares his viewpoint.
“Once who visits and dines in Namak Mandi keeps on yearning of revisiting the place to enjoy food that forces eaters to lick fingers for enjoyment till the last morsel,” Salman told APP.
“The recipe of our dish is very simple, we barbeque fresh meat with only sprinkling salt over it or fry it in wok by adding only tomatoes, green chillies, garlic and animal fat instead of cooking oil,” apprises Muhammad Iqbal a shopkeeper in Namak Mandi who inherited this business from his father.
“The uniqueness of taste is because of the culinary skill and dexterity of our chefs working in Namak Mandi from the last several decades,” Iqbal added.
A number of people tried to replicate Namak Mandi type food in other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan, but could not succeed in developing the taste being enjoyed by people here in Peshawar, Iqbal claimed.
There are around 40 shops in Namak Mandi of Karahi-Tikka and all of them are selling around 45 mounds (1800 kg) of meat on daily basis to customers coming from different parts of the country, Iqbal revealed.
He said, “the price of per kg of mutton nowadays is Rs. 1400 and the total cost of per month consumption of lamb meat in Namak Mandi on the basis of 1800 kg sale on daily basis is around Rs. 200 million.”
Iqbal also informed that about 60 years back price of per kg of mutton at Namak Mandi was Rs. Five and with the passage of time it started increasing. Even in late 80’s and early 90’s the price of per
kg lamb meat was Rs. 100 per kg, he went on to say.
Iqbal said increase in price of wheat had dented their business and also affected customers who reduced visits to Namak Mandi for enjoying their favorite dish.
“Earlier we used to visit Namak Mandi with friends and contribution per head on American system basis was hardly around Rs. 150 to 200,” said Muhammad Shakil , a businessman and a meat lover.
“Now we cherish that time to come back so that we can frequent Namak Mandi for satiating our hunger for unique barbeque and traditional karahi,” Shakeel expressed his inner feelings.
He said, “now per head contribution for a dinner with friends has jumped to Rs. 700 to 800, compelling us to reduce our enjoyment of gathering over a sumptuous feast.”
With return of peace and visits of international vloggers to Peshawar to see rich culture, traditions, architecture and food of the ancient city has also catapult popularity of Namak Mandi at global level.
People from across the globe are expressing their desire of visiting Peshawar to enjoy the taste of Namak Mandi’s feast.
In comments on websites related to visits of different vloggers to Peshawar, people express their sentiments of being impressed by the environment of Namak Mandi and their wish of visiting the place.
“That is incredibly delicious, it’s seasoned perfectly with salt and natural fat flavor,” comments Trevor James, a Canadian born food and travel vlogger who is also known as “The Food Ranger” on Youtube.
Famous for his street food tours that were viewed over 410 million times on Youtube, Trevor James said about Namak Mandi food during his visit to Peshawar in 2019, `amazing that was fantastic’.
Realizing increase in visits of food lovers to Namak Mandi, the District government of Peshawar in August 2019 established a `Food Street’ comprising small wooden huts with old architectural look
having a traditional touch of sitting on cotton rugs with bolster for back support.