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Spiced fish frenzy warms up winter dining scene in Pakistani cultural capital

Muhammad Ibrahim

LAHORE, Pakistan: While Lahore is known for its rich culinary culture and a range of high-end restaurants and roadside kiosks offering a variety of cuisines, some outlets that have served residents for decades refuse to adopt elaborate menus.

Siddique Fish Corner, or Siddique Machli Farosh, is one such eatery, a beacon for fish enthusiasts since its humble beginnings in 1970 in the congested Garhi Shahu neighborhood in Old Lahore. Today, there are dozens of branches spread across the length and breath of the city of over 11 million people and Pakistan’s second largest metropolis.

Though Siddique is busy year round, customers flock there in ever greater numbers in winter, drawn to the aroma and taste of freshly made tikkas and fried and grilled fish prepared in “special spices” and mustard oil.

“We make [fish] in mustard oil, pure mustard oil, with spices that we prepare ourselves,” Basharat Hussain, the manager of Siddique Fish Corner, told Arab News at one of the restaurant’s outlets. “We make spicy fish. That’s why people come from far to have a meal here.”

Customers line up to purchase fish outside Siddique Fish Corner in Lahore, Pakistan on December 2, 2023. (AN Photo)

“Mustard oil has no side effects. Even heart patients can eat it because it does not solidify.”

The shop sourced rohu fish (labeo rohita) from the Chenab River and had its own breeding farms on the outskirts of the city, the manager added.

Over the years, Siddique Fish Corner has earned a reputation for its distinct taste.

Fish is served to customers at Siddique Fish Corner in Lahore, Pakistan on December 2, 2023. (AN Photo)

“We have been eating here for years,” Naveed Suleman, a corporate employee and a regular patron, said as he waited for his order of fish tikkas.

“The taste of fish and the method of cooking here are very different. Because of their special spices, you see, it stands out from other outlets.”

For students like Mustafa Kharral, the eatery is more than just a restaurant: It’s a destination for creating winter memories with friends.

“As winter began, all of my friends planned to go out for dinner somewhere,” he told Arab News.

“So, I asked a few people [in my circle] and they suggested this place. Although I have been here before, but I brought these friends here [for the first time]. We are really enjoying this [fish].”