Paratha Party: Redefining Street Food in the Capital

Ever since Islamabad’s establishment as the capital in 1960, there hasn’t really been a notable “street food” scene in the city. Yes, a fair share of notable brick and mortar restaurants have popped up, but there’s still something amiss.

Enter Waseem Siddique, a startup-entrepreneur from Lahore – undoubtedly the City of Food  in Pakistan – who had an idea: to create a dhaba (kiosk) in the capital that served fresh home-made food with quality ingredients. Reminiscent of Lahore, with it’s ‘Gogay Channay, Phajjay Pai, Waris Nihari, and Chaman Ice Cream’, Waseem was determined to become a pioneer of quality street food in Islamabad.

Waseem says, ‘Lahore is blessed with a wide variety of options. Every five minutes’ walk will introduce you to another magical food joint. Your mind might tell you to stop, but your heart will force you to try out something new, something different; something, desi’.

Paratha Party brings the dhaba scene more commonly associated with Lahore to the capital of Pakistan

A marketer by profession, Waseem wanted to use his expertise and training at his previous jobs to “improve the experience of having desi food”. However, it took one special night in Lahore to bring about the ‘epiphany’ of starting Paratha Party. He and his wife were in Paratha Gali in Lahore, munching on delicious Aloo Parathas, when suddenly an idea popped up.

Waseem states it as follows: “branding a simple Pakistani product (the paratha) making it experience-worthy, pumping in some value additions (most notably home-made ingredients), and eventually cracking it in to a food-chain”. He states that he managed to bring this product to life in 2 years by extensive brainstorming and perfecting the recipe.

The startup has three branches in Islamabad but plans to expand to 20+ outlets by 2017

The question on everyone’s minds though, is ‘How is Paratha Party a startup’? Waseem says that his product is disruptive by properly ‘catering to the typical foodie’s expectations: quality ingredients, authentic recipes, and respect for his presence at the food outlet’ – unfortunately, a perfect combination of three is lacking in typical food outlets across the country.

Paratha Party goes a step further by providing healthy food options, by offering parathas cooked in either (1) ghee (2) desi ghee OR (3) olive oil. Though they have an outlet in E/11 and F-10 Markaz in Islamabad, their conspicuous descriptiveness lies in their partnership with EatOye, by catering to online customers who want to experience a home-delivered authentic desi meal from a rustic, yet quality-rich outlet in Islamabad.

Paratha Party won the Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Startup Expo 2015

Their association with the startup ecosystem in Pakistan eventually led to bigger things: namely their participation at the 2015 Startup Expo in Pakistan. After having set up a stall alongside 100 other startups at the Pak-China Friendship Centre in Islamabad, they were awarded the Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year award. Waseem’s significant other, Sabeeha, delivered a short speech where she thanked everyone. The main takeaway of the speech definitely had to be her affirmation in “believing in a crazy idea, and executing it”

Though Islamabad doesn’t share quite the same history and culture as Lahore, Karachi, or Peshawar, it is no wonder their street food scene isn’t quite developed. Though a nascent cosmopolitan city, Islamabad’s residents and street vendors from other cities are giving back culturally to the city, bit by bit. Paratha Party’s plans, however, are more immediate – to have 20+ outlets in Islamabad by the year 2017.

Some of the unique flavors on offer include Chicken Cheese, Barfi and Nutella parathas

Waseem says that Islamabad has great potential in terms of catering to an audience that likes eating out. He urges restaurant in owners in Islamabad to promote the food scene in Islamabad by offering the highest level of customer service, packed with ‘respect’ to the end consumer.

Uniqueness in the menu is also key to establishing a proper food culture. Peshawar has its Chappli Kebab. Rawalpindi has its DeGrato. Karachi has its Sindhi Biryani. Lahore has its Murgh Cholas. Eventually, he’d like it to see his vision carried on by fellow restauranteurs of Islamabad:  introducing food that can become part of the budding culture of the cosmopolitan capital, Islamabad.

  • Cleanliness issues. When they shifted inside the shop for a while, there were mice all over the place. When pointed out, the staff wasn’t very cooperative. Stopped going there from then.

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