Lahore Food Street – Story behind It Food For Thought

Pakistanis are so fond of food that we decided to have entire streets dedicated to this local favorite. Also known as ‘food streets’, these areas are completely dedicated to the art of eating out. From toddlers to teenagers, food streets attract all sorts of customers who come to partake of the delicious foods being sold there.

Lined with food stalls and restaurants, eating at a food street on a somewhat regular basis has become a bit of a custom in Pakistan. Food streets in Lahore include Anarkali Food Street, Gawalmandi Food Street, and Lahore Fort Food Street.

So what is the history behind this iconic location?

After attaining independence, Gawalamandi was the sole developed area outside the walled city of Lahore at the time. After 1911, it was a residential community and was regarded as the ‘Gulberg’ of its time. Craftsmen and businessmen migrated from Amritsar and neighboring cities to Lahore. They ended up settling in Gawalmandi. Due to a surplus of labor, these new settlers chose to open small shops to make a living. The craftsmen opted to sell their skills whilst others put up food stalls to cater to hungry customers.

Eventually, the food stalls spread until every street corner was selling some unique food item; for example, some migrators started selling chickpea flour-coated fish, which is now popularly known as ‘Sardar Fish’. Descendants of pehlwans introduced yummy barbequing techniques along with the evergreen falooda and doodh-jalebi­.

Soon enough, the name Gawalmandi began to be associated with food even though there were other businesses operating in the area as well. It was not until the year 2000 that the idea of an entire street dedicated to just food came up. People weren’t very enthusiastic about the idea initially, especially with respect to the architectural structures and their preservation. With enough convincing though, the idea took off and it has been a roaring success ever since. The American consul general also paid a visit here, which garnered even more plus points.

In 2011, the Gawalmandi food street was closed down by the PML-N party on the pretext that it was blocking the roads and causing congestion. This affected the livelihoods of around 8000 to 10000 people. Another food street-replacement was set up on Fort Road, while Gawalamandi’s fate remained uncertain.

In 2013, the Punjab Chief Minister finally took notice of the negative impacts of the PML-N party’s decision and helped Gawalmandi open up again. The street is now stronger than ever, with quality controls and ever-increasing rates of customers, with some dining until dawn breaks out, and even staying for breakfast afterwards. The Lahore Food Street is that rare amalgamation of food, culture, and history.

Kluchit Staff
Neeshay Imran