The town of Gujranwala holds a famous place in Pakistan for its love of two very wonderful things – Meat, and Wrestling (and I don’t know which one locals would pick first!).
In the town of Gujranwala, you’ll be searching out and feasting on street food fit for a World Champion. And in our case, you even get to meet the Champ himself!
Scroll down to get all the details about some Main Event-level street food in Gujranwala, Pakistan.
Spoiler Alert: There is a session of actual wrestling, and real wrestlers, mid-way through this article.
Just say, ‘Gujranwala
“You will visit Gujranwala?” they may ask, quickly sizing up your muscles. “Have you been there before?”
Simply mention the name of the town, ‘Gujranwala’ when traveling anywhere in Pakistan, and you’re sure to get a large and genuine smile.
…but then you’ll start to wonder why your new acquaintance is looking you over from head to toe.
The town is famous really for just two things. Mighty meals of meat, and world-class wrestlers who enjoy feasting on that meat daily.
Mighty Meats and Wrestling Feats
Driving the infamous GT Road (Grand Trunk Road) out of Lahore, you may already be hearing stories of what lies ahead of you – in the Punjab town of Gujranwala.
More than the wrestling, the tales of epic meal times work well to transition a mind (and our stomachs) – in our own car of 5 passengers, I have to say I was liking what I was hearing.
Our good friend (and travel guide) who was driving us there himself, did such a great job in planning this itinerary out for us, so let me take a quick moment here to thank Ali Naqi of Pakistan Travel Mart for setting us straight, as well as joining us, for the trip of a lifetime.
90 Minute Drive – Lahore to Gujranwala
Finishing off the drive into town, about 90 minutes from Lahore, all me to give you just a few details to help you understand the location of Gujranwala. As a region in the province of Punjab, it stretches North into the area of Kashmir. It is from this general area that centuries of champion wrestlers have come – a source of Legend throughout Pakistan.
Round 1 – Gujranwala Street Snacks
I would say you could do no better starting your visit than with wonderfully crunchy, ultra deep-fried snacks, Gujranwala-style.
The food here in Gujranwala is truly epic, but what’s also epic is the scale at which they are doing things.
Pakora frying in pans holding this much oil – the sight and even the sound is exciting. The mountains of frying potato are so large you can even hear it from down the street.
A large group of men relaxing, all sipping their mid-afternoon tea, the sight is both heart-warming, yet also hunger-inducing.
I couldn’t wait to join them, munching on plate after plate of the spicy potato treats. The perfect way to spend an afternoon in Gujranwala.
Break to “Ultimate Comfort Food” – Ali
Pakora is a combination of slices of potato and a smattering of very roughly chopped vegetables. In every bite you are likely to have a few entire cilantro leaves, some bits of tomato, maybe a spicy green chili, and also possibly a chunk of local vegetable as well, like mustard greens or spinach.
This snack stop was also serving hot roti to accompany their treats, which is something I have never seen before.
I was kicking myself now though, for being 32 years old, and never once having tried this combo!
Such a perfect pair, having a bite of still-sizzling hot pakora along with fresh roti bread, I never thought to try eating so many carbohydrates and starches at a single time.
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Our friend Ali though, was only too happy to show us his perfect bite. He actually claims pakora and roti as his ‘Ultimate Comfort Food.’
Chefs with a Passion for Hospitality
The food is unbelievable, but the people and their hospitality make everything even that much more amazing.
The man standing in front of the huge cauldron-size frying pans didn’t even accept money for our snacks! Incredible heart-warming displays of hospitality, all throughout this day.
(Note: I was now beginning to notice how all of the men here not only smile broadly, they also seem to share a similar broad physique as well)
I was appreciating the amount of glorious Gujranwala street food I should be eating if wanting to develop my own Wrestler’s build, and that’s when we came across the next item.
Excitement for All Your Senses
Seeing many camels carrying goods along the main GT road a few hours ago, I was starting to wonder how long it would be before we saw a camel in a more edible setting.
I didn’t wait too long, because thats exactly what these gorgeous little meat patties are full of.
Location: Near the Brandreth Gate, in Gujranwala Old Town (Google Maps)
Hours: Daily until around 6pm
Prices: Plate of Pakora 120PKR, Plate of Camel Kebabs 140KPR
Finally Finding Camel (parts of one anyways)
Similar in cooking style to a Chapli Kebab (buffalo/beef spicy mince cakes) or Shami Kebab (mix of ground meat and chick peas), the chef firmly places each hockey-puck size patty directly into the cooking pan with a bare hand.
Kebab fry chefs are sometimes recognizable from the unique, open-air convex frying plate they use. Much more often though, you find them by a large circle of stocky men. Jostling for entire plates of meat patties, waiting for them fresh from their favorite vendor.
By the way,all that extra liquid is actually pure camel fat, melting out and building up from dozens upon dozens of cooking patties.
These patties are delicious, and while I’ve read that camel can be very gamey, this must have been young camel. Each bite is wonderfully bouncy in texture, the chunks of meat as a whole are so incredibly tender.
What Does Camel Taste Like?
The high fat content and dense chewy meat combine to make each bite of camel incredibly addictive.
Notice how there is so insanely much fat in each patty that, as they cook, they decrease to only just half the size.
You may need to eat a dozen or more precious meat cakes until you get to see his secrets while watching the next round. No mincing, only stripping, his assistants pull all the meat by hand. You can really taste the meat fibers like this, different than meat that uses a grinder.
I would love to have these again.
I can only imagine how many young wrestlers visit each day, happily fueling their bodies after their training. Who says that ‘training’ can’t also be fun as well?
(Note: Like sheep, camels carry huge stores of fat in their bodies, so the cut of meat is important. The camel hump, like lamb butt, are the sought after cuts of meat in colder areas, such as Tashent, Uzbekistan.)
The Full Tour includes Actually Wrestling
Now, you may find yourself wanting the full tour of this awesome town, one that goes beyond food. If so, then make your way to any one of the local training gyms, they’re open each day from about 5-9pm.
Young boys fought first, very impressive and fun to watch, and some men here are training even up the age of 40.
They train hard, they would very much welcome guests, and I’m sure there’s no shortage of opponents if you want to join. (You should check out our video of this day in Gujranwala HERE.)
Local Traditions that have World Fame
It was great to watch the wrestling bouts, as its really a sport that attracts all ages of the community. Cool to see them in action too, preserving something so local.
Local, but still so famous, and so much of an important tradition to this beautiful part of the world.
The sport here is ‘Kushti,’ the bouts are ‘Danghal,’ and the style of wrestling they do here is ‘Pehlwani.’
I made the decision however, not to fight today, I felt like I needed to stay ready for a more sure success in my immediate future.
In this case, a win would involve ordering the next monstrous plate of barbecue meat.
Gujranwala Wrestler’s Street Food Diet
There actually is a ‘Wrestler’s Diet’ in the history of this area, and they call it the “Holy Trinity.”
It consists of ghee, which is local butter, milk, and almonds. Its design is for both nourishment and for weight gain, it is to be eaten throughout the day.
(We were searching for a little more than that, although we did enjoy fresh almonds in The Hunza Valley the following week.)
For now though, I can’t wait to tell you more about the final meal to complete our own Wrestler’s Diet.
It requires a bit of a drive outside of town actually, on the road that leads north to Mardan. We were going to be staying in a small village for the night, Kot Yousef, we were eating dinner on the way.
‘Meat-touring’ Pakistan’s GT Road
The GT road is absolutely full of journey-worthy restaurants (I am still having dreams of Taru Jabbar’s heavenly Chapli Kebab nightly), and Khizar Tikka Shop might be equally as glorious.
If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to watch the video from this amazing day here. As you may notice in the video, the exterior and the interior of Khizar Tikka Shop are very different – we chose to sit outside for the full experience, but the inside is actually quite a nice, clean restaurant.
Back to the Storefront Scene:
Parking in front of what may seem to be a bonfire, the size of the grill lit our eyes up like glowing embers.
The amount of grilling meat is extreme, and I could yet again see how a truck full of young wrestlers would like nothing more than to end their day’s training right here.
Just wait ’til you see the amount of meat they are cooking – I think their grill is about 15 meters long!
The Final Round
Our order included a karahi of beef, lamb and beef kebabs, and some world-changing flavorful lamb chops.
The first prize we received was a table directly in front of the monstrous grill itself.
Having the smoke from all that lamb blown directly onto our table, its almost like a test before the meal. They have multiple industrial size fans running, and a grill that may be 15 meters in length.
Just before the arrival of our own table’s dishes, I was actually sweating in anticipation.
The flavor of all the lamb is incredible, the karahi is a treat, but it is the chops that will blow your mind.
A marinade of perfection, a second bath of marinade applied while grilling, it is everything a lamb chop should be and more.
Not only for Wrestlers of course!
The Gola kebab too was stunning, and I love the way there is such a mix of texture going on. Every bite is full of smooth, tender meat, soft chunks of fat, and a small crunch from whole cumin and coriander seeds.
Pakistan really knows how to treat meat, and these are easily some of the most flavorful and aromatic meat-balls ever.
The Most Creamy Karahi in all Gujranwala
The plates will actually disappear before your eyes, and your table area (ring-side spectators) will quickly transform into a group of full and happy travelers.
Meat gets ultimate respect here in Gujranwala, but of course, also the jobs and people working for every step of the process. The serving staff, host, manager, and even owner himself, every single one of them came by our table to greet us. Wonderful.
Yet another day in Pakistan finding ourselves in disbelief at the variety of experiences they were treating us to constantly – never knowing what was going to happen next. And that’s part of the fun!
Name and Address: Khizar Tikka Shop in Gujranwala (Google Maps)
Prices: 800-1000 per meat dish
Hours: 12:15pm to 11:30pm
Bonus Rounds (Second Dessert)
I must note, in the modern age, the Wrestler’s Diet may include a few more things than the pure and simple diet plans of 150 years ago.
There are (apparently) many more contemporary dishes on the menu now, such as this creamy and sweet Gulab Jamun.
Using almost entirely syrup, together with just a bit of dough, making a great gulab jamun is all about the temperature of the cooking oil. The person controlling the pan pours the mix in ever so gently, drawing all of these wonderful shapes.
The orange color comes from its two main ingredients – Rose Water, and then a type of local Plum. This gives off a wonderful aroma as it cooks, and the gulab jamun you can have here even looks like a flower as well (beautiful design!).
A final treat to a great day, I also want to encourage you to read the next day’s article as well from Kot Yousef. We met another champion, got to ride some absolutely gorgeous horses, and see the traditional sport of “Tent-Pegging.” (see the video here)
I hope you enjoy reading about the details of this wonderful day in Gujranwala, Pakistan. The experience of life here for just a day, so fun, almost completely without plan.
I will always remember the hospitality, and the strength, but also the smiles, of the wrestlers, and of course – the Wrestler’s Diet of Street Food.
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