Lahore breakfasts are a glutton’s fantasy
Goat Trotters in Lahore
It was peak summer time in Lahore, Pakistan. We were aimlessly wandering around Food Street—naturally, a whole street dedicated to only food.
A hawker tried to approach us with menu cards. When we ask him for his personal recommendation, he paused and shrugged, then pointed to a small establishment where a man was neatly assembling hundreds of balls of dough in front of the cavernous black wok. As with most restaurants in the area, there is no door (and often, no name either). It is divided into two sections: the family section and the ‘men only’ section on the first floor. When we entered, a family was already seated inside; their little girl drinking creamy lassi from a large steel glass twice the size of her head.
There is no menu card; the server just parrote the list of available breakfast items to us. We placed our order: murgh channay (chicken and chickpeas), paye (goat trotters) and poori (a flaky bread).
The food arrived moments later; the star was bowl of paye, in a delicious bone broth simmered for hours, meat and gelatinous fat melding together to become a glutton’s fantasy. The dish is a popular lunch and dinner option but also a much-loved weekend breakfast/brunch item, rich and greasy, and so hallowed in parts of the country that it defies class and social strata.
It’s so popular that Pakistan’s current Minister for Railways is occasionally seen frequenting the old Rawalpindi food street sampling paye, among other delicacies. And former prime minister Nawar Sharif’s fondness for nihari paye became a viral meme—and a savage punch line for his political opponents.
We dove in, soaking poori in the delicious curry. It is said that there are two ways to judge a plate of paye: a) the stickier the fingers the better and b) the extent of paye-induced thirst. We polish off the remaining traces, sucking all the flavor out of the bones.
In a world where food consumption is often aspirational or a marker of social status, a simple bowl of paye in a small restaurant is a great leveller. It takes me back to childhood days of steaming bowls of paye, slurping the plate clean and laughing at my sticky fingers glued together.