My whirlwind trip through Pakistan continued as I arrived in its capital city! Join me as I go on a tour of the oldest Pakistani street food market in Islamabad and try Butt Karahi in the capital of Pakistan!
My evening began at the Aabpara Market with my friend Rashid from Manaky. Aabpara Market is a bustling commercial zone in the F10 sector near the center Islamabad. It dates back to 1960, making it the oldest market in Islamabad.
With seemingly an endless number of vendors, Aabpara Market is a one-stop shop for everything from street food to household goods to clothing. It’s very comprehensive!
My first stop was a golgappa, or pani puri, vendor on the side of the road. He serves you the puris, which he pre-fills with potatoes, chutney, and dahi, or yogurt.
Then, he gives you a bowl of pani on the side. You dip the puris into the pani yourself! It’s a little different from the way I’m used to eating pani puri on the street, but I liked it!
The puris are nice and crunchy, and the way the pani and dahi washed over my palate reminded me again of why it’s my favorite street food of all time!
Then, we headed into the market! Immediately, I saw some vendors selling live chickens. If you buy one, they’ll kill and butcher it for you! Other nearby vendors sold clothing, jalebi, and gulab jamun.
The gulab jamun was so good! They were nice and hot, and very sweet because of the sugar syrup. These were more egg-shaped than the usual balls.
Then I tried some super sweet jalebi and a fried biscuit. It was nice and crispy and would have been great with some chai.
Next, I visited a vendor at Abbasi Dry Fruit who sold nuts and dried fruit. I could see almonds, cashews, pistachios, dates, honey, and more. Their mixed nuts were excellent!
Then, I tried some nuggets made from brown sugar, walnuts, almonds, and cardamom. They were sweet and very tasty! It was a nutty ball of sweetness!
Deeper into the market were more vendors selling sugarcane, more snacks, and more. We saw a vendor selling gardening tools like scissors, knives, and saws. Past him was an alley of electronics where you can buy phones and different kiosks.
Past that were vendors selling samosas, potato fritters, and chai. The chai was really hot and milky, with a nice amount of cardamom.
Further on were vendors selling chicken, chicken seekh kebabs, and more. Then, Rashid and I drove 2 minutes to Melody Food Street, where there are a lot of vendors and restaurants!
To the left and right are restaurants. The first vendor I saw sold samosas, rolls, and vegetable pakoras. The veg pakora was crunchy and flavorful.
Next, I found a vendor selling raw fish from Karachi, which were coated in masala and came with greens and lemon. We saw another selling chicken karahi.
The market wasn’t as packed because it was Wednesday. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, fresh mutton and beef aren’t allowed, so only chicken and frozen mutton are available. But on the weekend, it becomes more lively. There was also a fruit stand and a guy selling paan at Rana Bhai Shahi Paandan Waly!
The vendor there puts the paan in your mouth and then throws rose petals on you. He has lots of different types of paan, including dry fruit paan, chocolate paan, coconut paan, strawberry paan, and more.
I didn’t know which one he’d make for me but it was super sweet and flavorful. It was hard to chew but super yummy. I loved the guy and his outfit, as well as the photos of celebrities and the prime minister on his wall!
The paan gave me so much energy right away! I felt electric! It’s a different kind of buzz than what you get from caffeine. You truly feel alive!
Then, Rashid and I drove to F10 to get some dinner. This area has been around for a long time, but only developed into a popular food hub in the past 3 years. All of the vendors there are from different cities in Pakistan!
Immediately, I saw cooks barbecuing chicken chargha, grilling kebabs, and making karahi outside of Haaj. The aroma of all the meat cooking made my mouth water. It all smelled so good!
For chargha, they grill the chicken vertically. I’d seen it all over Pakistan but hadn’t tried it yet. They also sell taka-tak, a specialty from Lahore, at Butt Karahi.
Taka-tak contains brain and chicken! The name of the dish comes from the sound of the knives clanging as they cook it!
Then, I ran into Sulmeen from Manaky, who brought me to Pakistan! Then, we saw guys making mutton karahi and chicken karahi. The aroma and sounds were incredible.
In this part of Islamabad, the best place to eat is at Butt Karahi, which started in Lahore, Pakistan and is known for its incredible flavors. They’ve now expanded to Islamabad and Karachi. Their karahi is famous!
We started with some cucumber, which we dipped into some raita with cumin. It was very tasty and fresh! Then, we ordered their specialty, chicken karahi cooked in butter. We also had fried mutton chops, garlic naan, and a special chicken tikka. I couldn’t wait to dive in!
The karahi contained ginger, red chilies, and coriander and contains a nice gravy. The garlic naan was super flavorful!
Then, I jumped on the drumstick in the chicken karahi. It was heavenly! The ginger and chilies added some heat and a kick and blew my mind! I loved how hearty and rich it was!
The chicken neck meat in the karahi had its own flavor! Then, I added raw onion and added it to my naan, chicken, and gravy. It added some acidity and a nice crunch!
The mutton chops were well-done, and had a nice char on the outside. But while the exterior was nice and crispy, the meat closest to the bone was packed with flavor! The fat on it was outstanding!
I learned that the reason they eat with their hands in Pakistan is because of the Muslim religion, and was something followed by the prophet Mohammed. Also, the enzymes on your fingertips are said to help break down the food and actually add flavor!
The chicken tikka was super tender and fell apart immediately. It was moist and a little charred. Adding the gravy from the chicken karahi made it even better.
Next, we jumped on the chicken seekh kebabs. We ate it with kalonji naan, which contains fennel seeds. The aroma was incredible and the two together was a marriage made in heaven!
Then, Sulmeen and I drove to Jamil Sweets in another restaurant row. They have about 25 different types of sweets, including kaju farfi, gulab jamun, and rasgulla. The sweets shop dates back to 1964 back in Rawalpindi!
We got five of their specialties, starting with the gulab jamun. It’s super soft and sweet and was extremely hot! The sugar syrup was also tasty! It’s the best winter dessert!
Next was laddu, farfi, mix mithai, kaju sweet, and khopra mithai. The khopra mithai is made from coconut and is almost overwhelming with the amount of coconut in it. It’s dense and crumbly, and I loved it!
Next was the kaju sweet, which contains cashews and is coated in an edible silver foil. It’s so good! It’s bite-sized, sugary, and quite dense!
What a sweet and decadent way to end my tour of the oldest Pakistani street food market in Islamabad and my experience trying Butt Karahi in the capital of Pakistan! Huge thanks to Sulmeen and Rashid from Manaky for making this a night I will never forget!
Curious to explore more activities in Islamabad? Dive into this article to discover what else the city has to offer!
I hope you liked coming with me to Islamabad to have Butt Karahi in the capital of Pakistan! If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment below. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any of my travel/food adventures around the world!