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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. 

Beauty

Bridal Couture Week Day 1

The 17th edition of the biggest bridal show extravaganza, Bridal Couture Week (BCW).

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Abrar ul Haq performs his Chamkeeli at BCW Lahore

Show one of the bridal extravaganza kicked off with Fahad Hussayn’s collection Labyagawachi trousseau bridal collection.

It was followed by Aisha Imran’s Shadi Mubarik in romantic hues for the charismatic classic bride.

The next was Almirah with its collection Ethnic Seams which drew its inspiration from the splendour and intimacy of Eastern art.

It was followed by Samsara Couture House’s Hayal, inspired from the tulip era in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Zonia Anwaar came next with her collection Zoella which was modern yet infused traditional techniques with her signature cuts for the young millennial brides.

Ziggi Menswear’s monochromatic collection Fana – ‘Annihilation of the Self’ which was constructed using luxe fabrics, rich embroideries and motifs inspired from Sufism.

Nitasha Bilal Haute Couture showcased Abooro with her vision of beautiful Mughal legacy, blending them with her revivalist techniques of kora dabka and was awarded the Pantene Rising Star for her beautiful debut collection.

Haris Shakeel who amalgamated embroideries with block and screen printing in his collection Ishq.

Next was Royal Tag’s very aristocratic menswear collection The Royal Ceremony, inspired by the majestic Syon House and Garden in London.

Day one came to an end with globally acclaimed master couturier Nilofer Shahid’s collection Dastaan e Firdaus.

Day one of the three-day bridal extravaganza had an amazing line-up of celebrities walking for the designers – the bhangra king Abrar Ul Haq walked for Fahad Hussayn and Minal Khan showcased for for Aisha Imran. The veteran actor Aijaz Aslam was show stopper for Almirah, while the undisputed queen of our entertainment industry, Saba Qamar graced the ramp for Samsara Couture House whereas Nausheen Shah walked for Zonia Anwaar. Noor Khan walked and ‘Soch The Band’ performed for Nitasha Bilal Haute Couture while Kinza Hashmi closed the show for Haris Shakeel.

The eternal Adnan Siddiqui walked the ramp for Royal Tag and Sarah Khan added allure to Nilofer Shahid’s timeless pieces.

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Features

5 Life Changing Habits to Improve your Weight-loss Potential

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With ever-increasing trends of Keto, Banana, and GM diets, weight loss has become more of a trend instead of having a healthy lifestyle. As much as it is important to exercise and follow a proper diet schedule, we also need to closely monitor our everyday activities. It is mostly the habits that impede our weight loss process. If you are trying everything and still not losing weight; these are the habits you need to incorporate in your everyday routine to speed up your weight loss.

Proper water intake

There is no better fat and appetite killer than drinking a lot of water. Not only does it resolve your health concerns, but it also keeps your skin glowing and acne-free. Start drinking 8-10 glasses of water and you will witness a noticeable difference in your lifestyle and your weight loss journey as well. Another logic behind drinking water before every meal is to make oneself feel fuller so in order to reduce the calorie intake.

Take steps

The worst habit that is firmly ingrained in our lifestyle is “no walk”. We have started depending on machines and helpers around us that eventually makes us lazy and takes away the activity time from our everyday exercise. The most helpful habit is to take steps after every task. Here is a way to incorporate this habit into your routine. Every time you need to pick up anything from a distance, get up and take it instead of asking someone to help you. Take the stairs instead of escalators or elevators. Third and the most important step is to stop using the phone to convey a message to someone. Instead, take steps and keep the healthy habit of walking in your routine.

Cut down on sugar

Even if you are working out every day but still taking sugar, it will prolong your weight loss process. However, if you cut out the sugar intake, the chances of losing weight will increase. Start with cutting sugar beverages, energy, and sports drinks. If you have a habit of eating a whole piece of dessert after food, cut the quantity. These baby steps will help you eliminate the sugary items from your diet completely. 

No meals after 7 p.m.

Restrict your diet in the window of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. because the lesser the number of hours in which you eat, the lesser will be the calorie intake. There is no as such strong evidence but only logical reasoning that calories you consume in the day get burnt up with the activities you do, whereas, the calories taken at night sit in your system and turn into fat. 

7-9 hours sleep

Lack of sleep can cause you fatigue, which would result in low physical activity. If you take proper sleep, your metabolism works faster and your mood also remains fresh. Moreover, the study also says that you burn calories while you are sleeping. Apart from that, to have a healthy lifestyle, a proper sleeping pattern is quite essential. Sleep deprivation can ruin the whole schedule of the next day making you less motivated and more exhausted. 

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Fashion

5 New Collections that Quickly Stole our Attention

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Every now and then, we are on the lookout to find clothes that perfectly align with modern-day trends. Every single week, one or the other clothing brand comes up with a new collection. But, do they really offer something new, unique and up to the mark? This is a tricky question. One should not just wear a dress that has a brand tag but should go for comfortability and the variety that it offers. For us, the most appropriate style is the one done with experimentation or the one that brings something out of the box. Behind each collection, there should always be a vision to bring something new, quirky and fun to wear.

These are 5 new collections that we absolutely loved and they have all the elements of class and sass that you need to pull any event.

Shisha AW ‘19 by Zara Shahjahan

Adorned with dainty and minimal sheesha work, these basic attires paired along delicate organza dupattas are sewn with a fair share of subtle oomph and grace. Immersed in sophistication, Zara Shahjahan’s new collection has got an edge to fit in the aura of any sumptuous event.

“Across the subcontinent, shisha embroidery has grown to be a symbol of identity, with various and particular styles of embellishment adopted across regions and borders. At home, it is commonly associated with Sindh, Pakistan but it is a practice that spans across Asia and afar, including Eastern Sumatra. It is claimed that the technique was introduced by the Mughals in the 16th century to the Indian subcontinent, with the Persian term ‘shisheh’ transferring over to Urdu/Hindi. We continue to look towards references that feel like home at Zara Shahjahan, and this technique is one that is heavily employed in this collection, hence aptly named ‘Shisha’. Take a closer look.” – Zara Shahjahan

Shahnoor by Anum Hassan

Dainty, refreshing and quirky!!! Anum Hassan’s Shahnoor is a mix of charming and vivacious hues merged with lively patterns and coruscating details embedded in each outfit. 

“Shahnoor means “royal glow”. I took the inspiration from my niece as her name is Shahnoor. So, the theme was to come up with bright and colorful patterns giving joyous vibes. To give it a subtle look, we have used darker tones as well. The main idea was to bring a range that is affordable for everyone. We have used a lot of stonework and threadwork on it. Its a fusion of tradition and modernity that goes very well with today’s trends.” – Anum Hassan

Lela AW’19 by Natasia Paul

We were totally awe-struck by Natasia Paul’s debut collection. This is probably a rare embodiment of classic and contemporary coming together on a plain canvas. Each piece radiates royalty with a sheer glam incorporating modern age captivating details. Whattay treat!!! 

 “Lela” is my first collection so goes without saying how special it is to me. The inspiration for “Lela” comes from gypsies around the world. I find the gypsy aesthetic quite appealing; it’s flamboyant, feminine and easy at the same time. They symbolise a nomadic lifestyle, freedom and progression. It feels like a wonderful fantasy as they’ve been able to escape from the hustling life that we have, but their reality is far from it.” – Natasia Paul

Saheli by Zainab Salman

Keeping in mind the erratic fashion trends, Zainab Salman’s new collection Saheli is a pure portrait of traditionality soused in elegance and exceptional craftsmanship. 

“Our new Bridal Campaign “Saheli” is about celebrating our legacy, empowering our craft and sharing a precious bond with the people we love. The pieces exude the deeply rooted, old-world charm. This collection is a translation of passion and love from our craftsmen and their expertise of turning materials into heirlooms, that can be cherished for the generations to come – Every piece in this collection has been curated with a lot of care and a lot of attention has been given to the detailing.” – Zainab Salman

Noor-ul-Ain by Asifa Nabeel

 Asifa Nabeel’s Noor-ul-ain creates magic with its fine craft and celebrates the glorious tradition with its vibrant hues, celestial cuts and magnificent embroidery put together in every outfit.

“This collection is a remembrance of the beautiful forgotten eras. We have brought rich palettes, golds and stunning embroideries to keep the old school glamour intact. It’s created for the people who cherish their past and are in love with their present. It’s a bridge between the past and present. It’s an old tale, called: Noor-al-Ain.” – Asifa Nabeel

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