Halwa Puri on a Sunday

Posted on December 27, 2009
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Food
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Owais Mughal

This past sunday I got chance to buy halwa puri breakfast for the family. My brother and I drove to a halwa puri vendor near Aisha Manzil in Federal-B-Area. It is called Dhamthal sweets Bakers and Nimko. Time was around noon and I was surprised to find a long queue of people waiting to buy breakfast. When we left home I thought we’ll have hard time finding breakfast, but seeing the crowd it seemed like whole city now eats breakfast fashionably late.

Dhamthal sweets had set up breakfast tables on a covered side walk. On one table a whole cricket team was sitting and enjoying greasy puris with boistering talk of cricket heroics. At another table a whole extended family was sharing family gossips over niwalas of sweet halwa.

Customer cars were double parked on the main road interjected with motorcycles between them. Amidst all this hustle bustle a queue of take away customers was waving around the sidewalk like a snake. This queue was atleast twenty five people long and I was standing at position 25.

Look at the photo below which I took on the occasion and it shows the scene that I described above.

People were hungry but still full of manners. I had to ask the person infront of me to move aside a bit so when I asked him:

bhai saheb zara hatiyay ga

he replied polietly:

aaiye saheb aaiye

I was impressed but my impression was quite short lived as very soon I heard a middle aged lady shouting at the management. She was complaining that whole queue comprised of men and the Dhamthal management didn’t make adequate arrangements for women customers. Many people in the queue agreed with her and the matter was escalated to the manager-on-duty who was feeling very important in this escalation.

While all this action was going on the queue kept moving quite fast. Within five minutes I had advanced to position number ten. At this time I saw another matter which surprised and un-surprised me at the same time. A guy wearing police uniform and accompanied with a Dhamthal employee, bypassed the whole queue and went directly to the distribution point where the escorting employee told the cashier:

ye police ka aadmi hai – is ko pehle do

I was surprised that such blatant disregard of common social etiquettes by police was still going on – but then a part of me was not surprised at all.

Within few more minutes I reached the top of the queue, paid money to the cashier and another guy started filling our breakfast in a brown bag. The line behind me was still 25 or so people long.

As I was paying for the breakfast, a person just walked to the cashier and demanded that he be served breakfast right then. He had come up prepared with some excuse on why he could not wait in the long queue but the cashier was not buying it. A heated argument ensued with lots of arms and hand gestures. Finally the customer walked off without buying any thing.

While all this was going on the lady who had earlier escalated her complaints to the manager was still arguing. The manager who had earlier felt important now looked quite bored and was scratching his face with one hand and his head with the other. He was trying to find a way out. At this instance I remember one sentence of the complainig lady which went like this:

ab mein line mein khaRa karne ke liye mard kahaaN se laaoN. kia mard market mein milte haiN?

Quite a few people were on her side by now and I saw many people moving their heads up and down in agreement with her.

Finally the manager reached a deal by shouting to his staff:

oye yaar, is amma ko hamesha pehlay naashta dia karo

This solution seemed to pacify everyone including the lady and after that it was business as usual.

The photo below shows the price list of other things for sale at Dhamthal sweets Bakers and Nimko. I wonder why the word ‘Pak’ is added to all the eateries?

We brought the breakfast home. By then the time was well past noon and I thought it was time well spent. The 30 minutes experience of buying breakfast was a live course on human anthropology and behaviors of Pakistani society.

The breakfast itself proved to be a good buy. There were ‘puris’ in it as well as two different curries made from chick peas and potatoes (tarkaari). There were some pickles to go with the curries and above all there was a very tasty halwa (sweet dessert). After eating this heavy duty meal nobody in our family was ready to have another meal for several hours.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of buying and eating halwa puri from a local vendor after several years.

Photo Credits: Title photo by Ejaz Khan

42 Comments on “Halwa Puri on a Sunday”

  1. Shauki says:
    December 27th, 2009 1:51 am

    Kia yaad dila diya… Owais

  2. Ahmed Shah says:
    December 27th, 2009 2:00 am

    Zabardast write up. Keep them coming!

  3. Ghazanfar Ali says:
    December 27th, 2009 2:32 am

    Now you have given me the urge to have the same today!

  4. Jassem Rauf says:
    December 27th, 2009 4:01 am

    This post is highly insensitive of others…especially those who did not have halwa puri today.

    I will now have to live through the agony of knowing that hundreds of thousand have nourished themselves with such delectable treats while I had to settle upon a slice of plain toast with tea.

  5. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    December 27th, 2009 4:44 am

    A great yummilicious post. I wonder whether Dhatmal Sweets provide better Puris than Water Pump?

  6. Lutf says:
    December 27th, 2009 8:25 am

    Has anyone counted the exact calories in a halwa puri meal?

  7. Owais Mughal says:
    December 27th, 2009 8:34 am

    @Lutf. thousands of calories :)
    @Adnan. I’ve not tried Water Pump breakfast. I am sure it is as good as or better than Dhamthal’s.
    @Jaseem Saheb. Tomorrow is a new day :) You’ll have another chance of getting halwa puri.

  8. Sehrish says:
    December 27th, 2009 8:51 am

    Well, an interesting story written in a very good manner with each scene depicted perfectly. I agree with you as Karachi is a very populated city so it takes too long for even a chore to be done in a public place. However,things are opposite in Isloo. I bet if u were in Isloo you were never been to write this interesting story of breakfast coz here its too less crowd of people & works can be done easily within time. .

    Anyways i love eating halwapuri…

  9. mazbut says:
    December 27th, 2009 9:19 am

    very interesting and useful article. Congrats!

  10. Nihari says:
    December 27th, 2009 10:12 am

    This reminds me of two great places I used to go. Bhai Babu’s shop at Riaz masjid in Dehli Mercantile society….His halwa puri is stuff of the legends. the second one is Ahmed Halwai behind Memon masjid who sold the Chinioti/Punjabi version of the same with Lassi….Hai why dont they sell it thru courier.

  11. December 27th, 2009 10:36 am

    Thanks for sharing. Brings back memories of Pakistan from frigid Canada.

    It’s Sunday morning here, but the most I can go out for is Coffee and Doughnuts!

  12. December 27th, 2009 10:40 am

    I hate it when ATP posts such things which make me miss Pakistan more than ever!

  13. Sridhar says:
    December 27th, 2009 11:32 am

    Owais,

    Very interesting article. Reminds me for some reason of the festival called “Kanchak” (celebrated in North India) when neighborhood children are invited home and fed Halwa-Puri-Chana and given money. It was a great feeling to be fed delicious food (by multiple neighbors) and get money for that!

    Another fact you might find interesting. You ask why the sweets have the word “Pak” at the end. It comes from the Tamil word “Paagu”, which stands for sugar syrup. Over time, the word has been corrupted to “Pak” and the meaning has altered to mean a sweet of some kind, not just sugar syrup. The word has the same meaning in (or has been adapted into) other south Indian languages – Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.

    One of the most famous sweets from South India is Mysore Pak, made of Besan, Ghee and Sugar (like a Besan Barfi). Another sweet is Doodh Pak, made of milk as the name suggests. In the past, the term “Pak” in names of sweets was used exclusively in the four Southern states of India. It then travelled to Bombay. From there to many other parts of India (though it is still relatively rare in North India). I don’t know how it traveled to Karachi, but am reasonably sure the origins lie in the Tamil word! Perhaps your Halwai traces his origins to South India! Or perhaps he saw the term in his travels and found it interesting, due to the Urdu meaning denoting pureness.

    Keep these posts coming! Have a safe trip back from Karachi. Happy New Year!

    Sridhar

  14. Owais Mughal says:
    December 27th, 2009 12:08 pm

    Sridhar, thanks for the details on the word ‘pak’ as used in sweets. This is very informative for me.

  15. Ahmad Zubair Moghal says:
    December 27th, 2009 12:18 pm

    Brilliant article again….tasty & mouth watering one too!!!Probably timed to perfection..its sunday again!I am forunate enough to have tried Dhamthal sweets Baker’s tasty hulwa puri and went through pretty much the same circumstances.I have always been a huge huge fan of sweets and specially halwa puri….oh yes..halwa puri rocks!I’m lost some where in the memmory lane,bringing back all those sweet memories.Back in lahore,i remember after i was done with my high school exams and i was free,we friends used to go to JALLO park every sunday for early morning tape ball cricket matches.Jallo was about 20 miles from where we lived and we had to reach there by 7 AM by all means.One of our fantisies on our way going there was to have HALWA PURI…yah..and that too at around 6 in the morning.Interestingly we never went to the same shop twice,so we travelled to most of the famous sweet shops in Lahore.Lahore was always open to serve us mind blowing,freshly made puris straight from ‘karahi’ with yummy halwa and curry(I love halwa).Those 2-3 months are some thing i can never forget,simply out of this world.Although playing hardcore tape ball cricket matches stuffed with halwa puri sounds insane but i guess that halwa puri kept our energies and spirits high all through the thrilling cricket till afternoon.

  16. memoona saqlain says:
    December 27th, 2009 12:23 pm

    wow, yummy and mouthwatering, u know i cant’t resist hulwa puri and at pakistai buffets my first selection is this sweet dish. i also love the present day mehndi menues because of halwa puri. entertaing our guests in lahore with this delicious meal has become a tradition with us and especially our guests from islamabad love it as in islamabad there is a dearth of tasty food.

  17. Owais Mughal says:
    December 27th, 2009 12:31 pm

    Ahmad, thanks for your comments here. Lahore is indeed famous for the greatest variety and tasty food so I am sure you had great time in all your trips to taste different ‘halwa-puri’ places.

    Playing cricket after ‘halwa-puri’ breakfast is next to impossible :) So I must congratulate you if you and friends achieved this feat.

    For many years in my secondary school we used to play cricket every friday after dawn and then went for ‘halwa-puri’ breakfast (11 a.m.) but we never dared eating it before the match :) Therefore I am impressed!

  18. December 27th, 2009 12:45 pm

    Some comments from the ATP Facebok Page:

    - “Halwa puri my favrt”
    - “to ham kia karein :p”
    - “yeah vry delicious brkfast……..bt this sunday halwa puri nt available 4r 10th muhrum……….”
    - “bhej do yaar…”
    - ” i lov’in it….. and missing it. yar i enjoyed alot but know i missed themmm….”
    - “delicious”
    - “yum yum”
    - “its a special breakfast in my city too. :)”
    - “ahmmmm ahmmmmmm…jeo LahOrIeX……..”
    - “ALL THINGS PAKISTAN!!!”

  19. Ahmad Zubair Moghal says:
    December 27th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Yah having halwa-puri breakfast before match sounds strange even to me now but we have actually tried and tested it more than once,dont really know how we managed to play with that.Probably we never really cared for anything when it came to cricket,such was the craze back then:)!!But that early morning look out for sweet shops and then yummy breakfast,that was a treat in itself!!

  20. Nadeem Ahsan says:
    December 27th, 2009 1:50 pm

    Hey Murtaza, If you live in Toronto, you should go a great place at the corner of Dundas and Hurontario for wonderful Halwa Puri!

    Owais, Thank you for the post. Halwa Puri is becoming a global food item. The whole world loves it. But most importantly, it is relevant to know that Pakistanis love Halwa Puri. Pakistanis will do everything for Halwa Puri. Even Wait for hours to relish their every day common man’s food.

  21. Midnight's Child says:
    December 27th, 2009 2:49 pm

    Not strictly about halwa puri, but still gastronomic, and related to Ashura. As I prepared Haleem for family and friends, I pondered on how Haleem is now served in season and out on all sorts of occasions, including distribution to the poor after fatheha etc. I have even seen it offered at “smart” dinner parties, which was certainly never the case when I was a child. Was my family or our circle unusual in this ?

  22. Bushra says:
    December 27th, 2009 5:13 pm

    Good comment about Haleem.

    It used to be that ‘special’ dishes were for special occasions and time. Now, it is convenient to get them anytime and all the time, but that makes them ‘less special”

  23. Sufi says:
    December 27th, 2009 9:47 pm

    Owais

    I was out with friends all night and ended up at Dhamthal because of no seating arrangement at Nasir (The famous Water Pump Halwa Puri vendor). Though I have tried Dhamthal many times before, it was for the first time that I was eating at Dhamthal. My past experiences of buying a take away course of Halwa Puri has been similar but yesterday eating there was no fun.

    1. I found it strange to go to the counter and buy ‘tokens’ even when I am eating in, perhaps I do not have any friend ‘waiters’.
    2. There was a complete disregard from the management. We are 5 friends and ordered 15 puris. And one reason why we chose to eat Halwa Puri out on the road, dirty tables, was to have it fresh. We gave the tokens to the waiter and told him to bring our Puris in installments. He could not understand how to manage that and brought all 15 puris together and we had to rush our eating experience.
    3. Every time I called the ‘floor manager’ to ask for some chana, he would call the waiters and not even come close to me to tell me that its coming. I have been to all kinds of restaurants in Pakistan, and I found it unusual.

    I blamed the people for all of this because it is because even when we are treated wrong, we still do not stop using the services and the business owners never learn.

    That said, I am a huge fan of Halwa Puri, and travel extensively to try new vendors. The chana and Halwa were very nice at Dhamthal. Halwa had a very rich flavor. Puris on the other hand were thin, but I think that should be the trend at most vendors (I was eating Halwa Puri after a year).

    Nasir’s (Water Pump) Halwa Puri is very nice as well. My favorite Halwa Puri in Karachi would be at Siddiq Sweets (I hope that is still the name). It is located at the Bombay Bazaar (Bheem Pura) behind cloth market in Saddar. Please correct me on the location or names if I am wrong, but I have been going there since 20 years. It is still by far the best Halwa Puri I have had. In case you plan to eat, please try to ignore the heroinechee beggars. A company of 4 can enjoy it in a car. They do have a seating arrangements. The chaye from the pathan across is very nice as well. Chana is top notch, with each chana daana separate from the other. They also serve lassi, which is okay. Halwa is good too. For the veterans, they also have maal poora (bread made of soojhi and halwa). If you are eating there, try getting a Puri Paratha from the chayewaala.

    Happy Eating!

    PS. I had major digestive issues, but it was because of the amount of Halwa Puri I had consumed =)

  24. Nihari says:
    December 28th, 2009 1:24 am

    @Sufi…you are so correct …and sorry in my earlier comment, i confused Siddiq with Ahmed. Indeed his puri is top notch

  25. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    December 28th, 2009 2:18 am

    @Sufi Mian:

    Thanks for letting me know the name “Nasir”,the famous puri wala at water pump who gives finest Halwa(maybe in desi ghee)

    Owais, you did not mention the price of a puri. It’s sad to say that due to inflation the price of puri in my area is Rs.7/Puri.

  26. Owais Mughal says:
    December 28th, 2009 3:03 am

    @sufi.
    I am sure there are several places better than Dhamtal. It is the only place I got to sample so far. I’ll try Nasir’s at Water pump next time.
    @Adnan. yes inflationary price of puri indeed came as a surprise for me.

  27. Faraz Shams says:
    December 28th, 2009 5:46 am

    Getting breakfast at noon is only possible in Karachi. Try doing that in ISB, and you will only get back stares.

  28. Adnan says:
    December 28th, 2009 8:11 am

    Thanks for this mouth watering post.

  29. Rohail says:
    December 28th, 2009 8:42 am

    ab mein line mein khaRa karne ke liye mard kahaaN se laaoN. kia mard market mein milte haiN?

    hahahhaha

    WAt a Sentence by lady……………………

    i also Live near Dhamthal and often visit the BAKERY………Reading a whole Article on ATP abt Dhamthal is just awsome…………..

  30. December 28th, 2009 8:48 am

    Some more comments from the ATP Facebook page:

    - “very interesting and funny articulation..”
    - “halwa puri hmmm good breakfast spacial on sunday….”
    - “out of 100 Sundays I do Halwa Puri Nashta on 90 at least :)”
    - “Best Halwa Puri…anarkali bazar in Lahore, no contest!”
    - “where in Anarkali….because that used to be my neighborhood…Is it purani anarkali you are talking about??”
    - ” hmm halwa puri”

  31. Aziz says:
    December 28th, 2009 1:52 pm

    Good post. I remember going to a halwa puri place in Soldier Bazar around 11 in the morning. I was smart enough to take my 8 year old sister to stand in the ladies line while I wait by the car ;). Yeah…I know not nice of me to use my sister to cut line but hey…that is what little sisters are for…aren’t they?

    I agree with Sridhar. Pak means sweet. There are more Pak items than listed on the menu board. Most famous are Khopra (coconut) Pak, Baida (Anda/Egg) Pak and Doodh (Milk) Pak.

    If anyone knows where to get good halwa puri in Dallas, please please let me know.

  32. Midnight's Child says:
    December 29th, 2009 8:32 am

    @Bushra

  33. Midnight's Child says:
    December 29th, 2009 8:33 am

    @Bushra “It used to be that ’special’ dishes were for special occasions and time. Now, it is convenient to get them anytime and all the time, but that makes them ‘less special”

    Apart from being a delicious breakfast dish, Halwa Puri was traditionally served on Shabe-be- Raat. Does anyone still follow this practice ?

  34. Ch. Aslam says:
    December 29th, 2009 7:16 pm

    Mazza aa gaya yaar.

    Reading this was the next best thing to actually eating it :-)

  35. Ali says:
    January 1st, 2010 1:22 am

    damthal is sweet and tasty.. just like this post.. mouth-watering!

  36. ASAD says:
    January 3rd, 2010 11:31 am

    Even thinking about this on a Sunday is a treat :-)

  37. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    January 3rd, 2010 1:20 pm

    Do they provide other than Sunday?

  38. Owais Mughal says:
    January 4th, 2010 11:13 am

    I am not sure if it is available on weekdays or not.

  39. Farrukh Bokhari says:
    January 9th, 2010 6:21 pm

    I used to live in Dastagir Block 9 near Muslim school and Dasatgir Girl School here there used to A Rafiq Sweet their Hawa Puri i remember best. Don’t know if they are still there. Thanks for this make me miss my days in Karachi……….. I miss Karachi very much………

  40. Asma says:
    January 15th, 2010 6:04 pm

    Thisbrought back somany memires of our visits to karachi!! halva puri.!!!! mmm miss those days :(( we get it here in uk but it works out to be quite expensive plus u only get about 3 puris..!! pointless!!

  41. sunny says:
    August 4th, 2010 4:34 pm

    breakfast of halwa puri is available at dhamthal all the week. 365 days in the year exept 10 moharam ul haram.

  42. imran says:
    August 4th, 2010 4:52 pm

    i tried many shop 4 break fast but i think it is the best halwa puri in karachi as well as pakistan. I try its another items like cakes, sweets and samosas and i like all the items available at dhamthal . And i foud halwa puri availabe here all days from 5 am in the morning till 1 pm. Hay na zabardast timings.

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