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Face to face with International Chef and Co-Founder of SHOLA Karachi Kitchen – Aida Khan

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Aida Khan, the entrepreneur and chef behind Islamabad’s traditional cuisine destination, Karachi Kitchen, proudly extended her culinary prowess by introducing her establishment: SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, in the heart of West London, White City, positioned where the BBC used to be.

Aida Khan has already been serving her Karachi offerings in Supper Clubs in London and in March 2019, opened her first restaurant SHOLA Karachi Kitchen in West London. With her first restaurant in London, Khan aims to explore the real flavours of Pakistan laden in tradition. Aida Khan’s nostalgia for Karachi’s bustling food markets with authentic flavorful food was an inspiration for SHOLA’s first permanent residence in White City. Aida also hopes to shed light on how Pakistani food can be clean and healthy – appealing to vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters. With the menu comprising of 50% grilled food, SHOLA takes one back to the foundations of Pakistani cooking. 

With SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, Aida Khan aims to bring back the era of simple, clean cooking, the way it has been done in the sub-continent’s family kitchens for centuries. At SHOLA Karachi Kitchen, Khan and her team of expert chefs use only the highest quality ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.

In Pakistan, currently offering takeaway home-deliveries primarily in Islamabad, SHOLA embraces hearty, artisanal traditional soul food combining the traditional flavours, aromas and authentic spices of Karachi.

Aida comes from a family with a deep passion for food. From an early age, she learnt how to cook traditional family food from her mother, and inherited her love for food through her father’s passion to eat.  Her fondest childhood memories are of early morning drives to Karachi markets with her father, in search of the fluffiest poori or the sweetest halwa for breakfast. Since moving to London, traditional Pakistani family recipes play an integral part at home, whether its cooking with her boys, or feeding the tribes of friends and extended family who turn up to feast on her delicious meals. Bringing Pakistani food back into people’s lives, and through SHOLA, putting Pakistani cuisine on the London food map, Khan hopes to open more branches of SHOLA across the globe and more specifically, in Pakistan.

SHOLA Karachi Kitchen is located at Shop 9-12, Trade Centre, F-7, Jinnah Super in Islamabad for takeaway and delivery. In London, the restaurant is located at Unit 6, West Works, White City Place, Wood Lane. 

Aida Khan speaks exclusively to Daily Paperazzi about her passion project.

How did your journey begin to eventually become a seasoned chef? 

I moved to London about 9 years ago to do my MSc. at SOAS. My son was 2 years old then and I couldn’t help but notice a lack of authentic Pakistani restaurants we could eat at or order in from, when that desi food craving hit. I inevitably ended up cooking a lot more at home and hosting many evenings for friends looking for a taste of home and finally decided to take it on as full on task to bring our food to London. I started out by hosting supper clubs and eventually expanded to catering events and then the opportunity came up to open Shola so I finally took the plunge! 

What was your first big break?

I had done various caterings and private events but my first big break was when I hosted a Gourmet Karachi Supper Club at a private members’ club in London. It was sold out instantly with 60 people attending, I definitely had a lot of nerves that day but also realized that this is absolutely something I want to pursue. 

Did you go to culinary school? What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?

I did an Essential Cookery Certification at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, which is a professional course aimed towards people who want to develop their cooking skills and learn the techniques and science behind how ingredients work. Each class was very hands-on and you had to produce a selection of dishes. Apart from cooking skills, the course also helped with time management and being able to plan and execute a well-rounded menu. We also learnt menu costing/pricing and essentially how to make the best of your budget and ingredients. It was a spectacular experience and despite my many years of cooking it has given me the right tools to feel more confident cooking in a professional environment. It also taught me how to handle large orders and get service right. 

SHOLA Karachi Kitchen has greatly added to the culinary map of London. Why did you choose to serve Pakistani cuisine over others? 

Because that’s what I feel I know best. I can bring authenticity to the food offering based on personal experiences. It’s also one of my favorite cuisines and I felt it was under represented in London. 

Currently, the Karachi Kitchen’s chapter in Islamabad is take-away & delivery only. Can we expect a dine-in restaurant in future?

For now, this works but never say never is something I learnt early on. 

What’s your biggest nightmare to date?

Sending food out that is below standard just because it was not tasted. 

What do you do to stay current on new trends? Describe two or three of the most interesting industry trends?

I follow various blogs and read up a lot on Chefs. I am fascinated with the science behind cooking and love looking at different techniques to ensure consistent flavors. As our food is really traditional I have actually found myself going back to using methods the way they were down in our grandparents’ kitchens. A pestle and mortar are incredibly essential in my kitchen just because there is an unparalleled depth of flavor that can be achieved with the masalas ground in one. I am also a huge advocate of low and slow cooking for even flavors. 

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Creating delicious food that is reminiscent of flavors from my childhood. When you get that nostalgic feeling as soon as you taste a dish – that to me is winning. 

What is your favorite meal to cook?

It really depends on the day. At the restaurant I love creating a Karahi or Biryani. Both have such interesting techniques. At home, I love trying out different marinades with grilled fish. Tahini and Harissa are a firm favorite in my repertoire these days.

Do you have a favorite ingredient?

I love using curry leaves. Maybe it’s my mother’s Hyderabadi influence but the scent of curry leaves frying literally takes me back home every time. 

If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?

My father – sadly he passed away many years ago, before I had ever even thought of taking this on as a career. He would be my toughest critic yet strongest advocate. He was a huge foodie so the feedback would have been genuine ☺ 

In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions about chefs in Pakistani context?

That it’s all one pot cooking and we have some sort of mother sauce that we throw everything in. Pakistani cooking is incredibly complex and we have so many steps and flavors involved, when done right.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Happy. Doing what I love to do with just a little more time for holidays.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?  

You really need to want to do this to make it work. It’s not something you can go into halfhearted. You also need to believe in yourself, there will always be criticism and there will always be praise. Learn how to filter both in such a way that it’s always productive. Trust yourself and your palate. 

Entertainment

Lock-down is temporary but Father’s day is permanent

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He is the person who started working hard even before your birth to give you a safe space full of warmth and comfort. It is rightfully said that no person in this world would be happy to see you more successful than him except for your father.
A father is the first superhero in a child’s life, the one he\she would always look up to, for love guidance, goals and unlimited demands.

Since most of the major events are being celebrated in a situation of complete lockdown in the country, we have got some sweet and doable ideas to surprise your dads on this Father’s Day.

Throw A Lunch Party


Isn’t it true that most of the dads are foodies and they can never say no to a dish made by their kids? On this special day, make his favorite dishes. Pamper him the whole day and do not forget to prepare something sweet for the evening tea.

Origami Nuts In Collaboration With OvenCraft


Yummy in his tummy!!! Origami Nuts has designed this cute basket of sweet banana crumble bread in collaboration with Oven craft. The appearance is cute and is definitely a perfect pick to show love and dedication on this special day to your fathers.

Kitchen Kahani’s Breakfast

Almost every dad is a nihari lover and especially in this lockdown when we cannot go and dine out, Kitchen Kahani is offering  “Nashta with Abbu”. We are already melting at the name. You can order home-cooked beef Nihari to surprise your Abbus with a scrumptious desi nashta.

Customized Basket By Happy String

If your abba loves to eat junk, this can be an economical and a fancy present for him. Get his favorite chocolates and other edibles packed in a beautifully wrapped basket and brighten up your father’s mood with something sweet and salty.
Father’s Day DIY Cookie Kit


For young fathers, to have an interactive activity with small kids, Delish is offering customized DIY Cookie kits where you can make your own cookies with your kids while sitting at your home. Isn’t it a great yet adorably creative idea?

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Features

Imdaad- A Dire Necessity in this Global Pandemic

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Pakistan, as we know it, has a well-established reputation of being one of the most charitable nations. Having to face several natural disasters and a debilitating disease-induced economic crisis over the span of a year has greatly fueled our philanthropic efforts.

As we reflect upon the ongoing destruction being caused by the spread of the Coronavirus, our hearts are left shattered while our minds are perplexed.

The heart-rending reality kicks in: even if the virus doesn’t end more lives, hunger caused by unemployment surely will.

Meet Manahil Naveed, a 17-year-old who embarked on a journey to give back to the needy by founding her own charitable organization by the name of Imdaad.

Imdaad is a non-profit organization working against the clock to provide food and hygiene packages to families living beneath the poverty line in Lahore. So far, their team has managed to deliver these packages to more than 50 families in need. As they work solely off donations, the people of Pakistan have generously extended their hands to help Imdaad’s cause.

This is what she has to say:

“Tuning into the news every day and witnessing the number of cases rapidly grow along with the effects of this growth managed to create this undying feeling of sadness within me. Witnessing small businesses shutting down, I couldn’t help but be concerned about how the poverty-struck families of daily wage laborers would manage to find their next meal.”

While many of us want to help the needy during this pandemic, the majority are rightfully afraid to be in close proximity to others.

This is where Team Imdaad steps in. They bridge the gap between the generosity of potential donors and their fear of catching the virus by being around large groups of donees.

Using the best protective gear out there, Imdaad’s team buys and packages ration bags to ultimately be handed to the destitute, all while ensuring that each recipient is truly in need by asking trustworthy sources such as local heads and representatives of other NGOs.

We will end this piece on a little saying Manahil has used as Imdaad’s slogan: “Hamdardi Imaan hai.”

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Entertainment

Our Favorite Fashion Divas that have Evolved Over Time

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While reading the title, you must be thinking about the acting skills and how these ladies have made their name in the drama and film industry. But no, here we are talking about the fashion game of these actresses that have taken us all by surprise. Perking up their style statement and emerging as few of the finest actresses in terms of being glamorous and presentable, they have absolutely conquered the fashion world. 

These are our favorite Divas who have proved that working on oneself is never a selfish thing and this hard work can eventually help you in the long run.

 

Saboor Aly 

Starting from soaps and not so glamorous dramas, we never saw Saboor Aly dressing up as impressively as she does now. Probably, this is the social fashion awareness that some choose to pick and some don’t. And, we have to say that Saboor is doing quite well with her dress sense while earning a huge fan following at a great pace. She is one of those finest actresses who keep us hooked to their gram-game as something cool and happening just pops up out of nowhere anytime and any occasion.

 

Nausheen Shah 

Our fancy-pants; Nausheen Shah has instantly beefed up her fashion game and we cannot stop admiring her taste and style in whatever she wears. She has definitely come a long way. Also known for carrying bold statements just like in a recent awards show, her hairstyle was quite eccentric perfectly aligning with a blingy Hussain Rehar attire.

Sadia Ghaffar

Her vibrant tops, glowing face and quirky pants have got our attention and we, indisputably, give her the award of being the most stylish actress among the lot. This was never the scenario from the day she joined the Entertainment industry so, she came this far and has definitely grown into a woman who keeps herself up-to-date in every trend and fashion.

Iqra Aziz 

Our recent favorite bride, Iqra has polished herself over time and we love how effortlessly she carries every outfit in sheer grace and pizzazz. Recently, she has been appointed as the face of Al-Karam and this was all a result of gradual progress and immense effort she has put into building her powerful aura and strong-headed personality that beautifully harmonizes with her chic and classic sense of styling. 

Sonya Hussyn

 

If Sonya had a synonym, it would be the word “grace”. We love her for her impactful persona, the way she dresses up and the way she owns everything she wears with undying confidence. There are very few celebrities who have evolved to be steezy and sassy in a way that they know what they should actually wear. Unlike some who do not even know their body type. Sonya Hussyn proves that style is always within, you can improve with time but class remains constant.

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