Think dessert, or "meetha", and Pakistan's tantalizing mithai heritage comes to mind, with the local tradition of generously distributing these succulent delights on any festive occasion,- delights that are produced by frying different combinations of milk, sugar, dry fruit, nuts, essences, flavors, and various derivative dairy products generously in ghee, - the joy is spread through "the sweet tooth" whenever celebration is called for. Whether the festive occasion is a wedding, academic milestone, birth, job promotion or any other achievement, the tradition of making everyone's "moon meetha" (mouths sweetened) would be incomplete without a box of mithai. More often than not, mithai is relished with glee, despite its richness necessitating portion control. Just the amazing taste of these colorful globules of sweet, milky or nutty indulgence dripping with sugar and fat wins unanimously over any half-hearted attempts at self-control.
S. Abdul Khaliq is one of the vintage names in the sweetmart or mithai industry of the South Asian IndoPak subcontinent. They have been in business for a time spanning over a century, starting in the 19th century (1835 to be exact), when the current business became commercialized, now boast a global, international presence. The logo of S. Abdul Khaliq proclaims "Shahi Halwa Sohan Merchant" under the penciled sketch of the maternal grandfather of the current owner, Mr Farrukh Ahmed Bari. The business offers a total of 200 kinds of sweetmeats.
Before S. Abdul Khaliq Sweets became themega mithai mogul that it is today, it originated as a modest halwa selling initiative, with one of the owning family's ancestors serving the famous Habshi Halwa to the mogul emperor Humayun when the latter was in exile in Persia during the 1500's. This resulted in S. Abdul Khaliq being chosen as the official halwai of the mogul emperors for the next 3 hundred years.
Today, S. Abdul Khaliq - the business - has 3 thriving branches in Karachi, with plans to open up 2 more in the coming years. It exports its sweet products to different locations abroad as well. It has a full platter to offer: from its main mithai spread, among which the sohan and habshi halwas rule the roost and undoubtedly reign supreme over the hearts of loyal customers to this day, to its baked goodies such as cakes and Arabian baklava, to a scattering of savory snacks and nimco, 2 of the eatery's branches in Karachi, located in Bahadurabad and Clifton respectively, additionally go the extra mile and also provide traditional halwa puri breakfast on Sundays. Two additional unique dishes can also be availed from S. Abdul Khaliq during their Sunday breakfast: the Arabi paratha,- a rectangular-shaped "pocket" of dough uncannily resembling the samosa that is stuffed with chicken and egg, and the Qeema bhari kachori's: small kachori's filled with mince.
I also tried their halwa puri Sundaybreakfast and can vouch for its excellent taste,- the puri's were large and just the right combination of crisp and soft. The channa tarkari was mildly spicy, cooked to a picture-perfect, well-combined, tender stew, as was the kalonji-enthused aaloo tarkari and the sticky, orange-colored sooji halwa. Although I think any customer would prefer an aaloo tarkari with peels taken off the potatoes first, and wouldn't appreciate or enjoy the decided crunch of small stones in the unsifted channa.
Mr Farrukh Bari describes how, despite the growing competition S. Abdul Khaliq is facing in the dessert and sweets industry of Pakistan due to the growing trend of smaller, home-based baking and catering businesses cropping up, S. Abdul Khaliq has only witnessed a drop in its bakery sales, with the sweetmeats business remaining unaffected. This is because of the vintage value of their traditional products, primarily mithai and halwa.
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