Straight from the chef’s home to your doorstep
From Mongolian delight by Kublai’s Kitchen to delicious desserts by Pink Ivy and frozen foods by Noor’s Kitchen, Islamabad’s home food businesses offer a wide variety of delectable delights
By Sanam Zeb
The homemade food delivery business in the capital is really coming of age. With stories of restaurants being shut down for unhygienic kitchens and for using substandard ingredients, some women in Islamabad have taken matters into their own hands and have begun offering homemade food for delivery or takeout.
The first of these home-based enterprises is Pink Ivy, a dessert delivery and takeaway service based in Sector E-11. The owner, Fareeha Hassan Shamsi, says she opened shop because she could not find fresh and fluffy cupcakes anywhere in the city.
“Someone who is as crazy about sweets as I am will know that the cupcakes sold at bakeries are not really fresh because their texture is chewy and they are harder than they are supposed to be. It just speaks of the low-quality ingredients they must be made with,” she said.
Ms Shamsi then set about making her own cupcakes and soon, they became popular with her friends and family. “I started experimenting with other desserts as well and everyone would say, ‘you could sell these’. So I thought, why not.”
Fareeha has now expanded the menu to include panna cotta desserts, flavoured breads, ice creams, mousse, cakes and, of course, cupcakes.
Pink Ivy’s specialty, however, is bite-sized cheese cakes. The fresh mini strawberry cheese cake is a medley of textures; a crumbly base made from wheat crackers, and velvety smooth cheese topped with a slice of fresh strawberry.
The Vanilla and Nutella panna cotta is another decadent Italian delight; a smooth and velvety cream dessert thickened with gelatin that comes in a serving big enough for two.
Asked how she achieved such smooth textures, Fareeha said: “This comes from using fresh cream; if bakeries were using fresh cream, their desserts would taste just as smooth.
Fareeha is also experimenting with her own ice cream and has already perfected a homemade strawberry cheesecake and Oreo ice cream, as well as chocolate brownie ice cream with swirls of fudge sauce.
“For me, Pink Ivy is a lot more about satisfying my own sweet tooth. I don’t put anything in these items that I will not give my own children,” she concluded.
Kublai’s Kitchen is another home-based eatery that offers a healthy mix of protein and fresh vegetables. Specialising in bowls of oriental food, Kublai’s offers three serving sizes; the warrior, the conqueror and the emperor, in ascending order.
The dishes are based around four types of protein: beef, chicken, prawns and tofu. Customers then select five vegetables from a long list, which will be stir fried with the protein of their choice and carious sauces to taste. Each bowl is served with a portion of either whole wheat noodles or brown rice.
All the bowls come with a crushed chilli sauce made with olive oil. The meats are juicy and the vegetables are surprisingly fresh and crunchy compared to what one gets at other restaurants.
The sesame basil chicken is one of the most popular items on the menu.
Tender strips of chicken are cooked with a light peanut and sesame sauce and tossed with fresh basil, carrots, onion and zucchini.
The staff recommends that you mix the whole thing with whole wheat noodles and add a sprinkling of peanuts – provided separately – on top.
The sesame peanut chicken is another top selling item. The chicken is cooked in a creamy peanut and hoisin sauce and stir fried with corn, cabbage and sweet bell peppers.
The restaurant was started by four friends looking for something different to eat. They realised there were not many options for healthy food.
One of the owners, Samar Hussein, said her mother returned from a trip to Mongolia with stories about the food that was very customisable, which is where the idea came from.
The eatery is now working on another menu in which all the items will have less than 550 calories and will also include a high protein brownie.
Kubalai’s caters to vegetarians and has included tofu and zucchini noodles in its menu. Utensils for cooking vegetarian and meat based foods are kept separate and are labelled to avoid being switched.
“We know people are very conscious about cleanliness as well and you often hear about how a restaurant you frequented turned out to have a disgusting kitchen. So, we decided to periodically upload pictures of our kitchen so people can be assured that they are eating from a clean place,” Ms Hussein said.
Doing away with the usual doubts about the quality of ingredients and the expiry of frozen foods, Noor’s Kitchen offers made-to-order, freshly frozen foods and delivers the products a day after an order is put in.
Their chicken cheese and jalapeno samosas have garnered quite a reputation among housewives in the twin cities, becoming a must-serve item at parties. They go best with homemade chutneys, including the now famous imli khajoor chutney and the curry patta and tomato chutney
The frozen items include somewhat untraditional flavours as well including chicken tikka samosas and rolls, mutton samosas and Chinese vegetable rolls.
The menu also includes chicken fajita and breast fillets, which are cooked without any oil.
Chicken strips are marinated in lime juice, olive oil, minced garlic, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, ground cumin and salt and then baked before being frozen. The strips are ready to eat and only need to be heated in a pan or in an oven.
“Keeping the kitchen clean and using healthy ingredients is very important to me because my children also eat the items that I make to sell,” said Noorain Khalid, the owner.
This write-up was originally published in Dawn.