Lahore is one of Pakistan’s most fascinating cities, and a World-Class Haven of Street Food.
This Ultimate Guide to Street Food in Lahore includes all the details on how to get the best and biggest tastes of this amazing city.
Right now, I’m going to give you a plan for an incredible day of all-out street-food eating in Lahore.
Scroll down to learn more.
First Impressions of Lahore
Even arriving on a 1AM flight from Bangkok, our own trip to Lahore is starting off just great.
Eyes and stomach rejoice at such a wonderful welcome as this – almost every street-side restaurant in town is absolutely out the door with lines of customers.
I hope your imagination is right there with me too, even a one o’clock in the morning, already dreaming yet hungry for such Ultimate amounts of street food action.
We’re staying at the Hospitality Inn (near the Lahore Zoo), which is a great central location for travel to all the market areas, and all the best food spots.
Experience Lahore Through Food
I recommend starting this street-food tour at around 7am, in a downtown market area of Lahore.
Beginning each morning on foot is always a nice way to get first impressions of new destination – a bonus of course, is doing it while on the way to your first (of many) meals.
We’re Starting in Gawalmandi
Take your pick of Anarkali, Shah-Alami Market, or even Gawalmandi, as you’ll enjoy simply amazing amounts of street food in all three of these areas.
We are starting with the Gawalmandi area, but if you have time, you should also visit the Walled City near the Fort. Truly one of the coolest and most interesting places in all of Pakistan, there’s so many food destinations on our list for today though, that I did not include it in this Ultimate Guide.
First Breakfast – Halwa Puri
Look no further for a traditional Lahore breakfast than a sizzling halwa puri with a bowl of yellow dal (curry of yellow lentils).
The puri at Sadiq’s restaurant are always hot, the chef’s cooking technique makes each one so puffy and crisp. Have these with your dal, and order a second bowl of aloo curry to go with it (potato stew with masala spices).
Puri, Dal, Aloo Curry, and Tea
Finishing breakfast with a cup dud pathi milk tea is a great choice anywhere in Pakistan, and definitely a must after each meal today in Lahore. An entire meal at Sadiq Halwa Puri should cost around 640PKR (US$5).
Our own first taste of Pakistan was this exact meal in fact, and it was a great way to get to know Lahore through its food – a big thank you to our friend Ali for showing us the way, we miss you man, can’t wait for the next one!
Second Breakfast – Gawalmandi Food Street
Moving on to Gawalmandi proper now, continue your morning with street cart snacks.
The famous food street of Gawalmandi is glorious, and it seems this place is always bursting with activity. Morning markets are a fun mix of people anywhere, and Lahore’s markets are no different.
I love just standing on one of the main junction street corners here, its one experience in Lahore that I won’t soon forget.
Note: This is on Railway Road, near Shah-Alami (which is stop number 3 for today’s street food).
Street Carts of Lahore
Shopping at a hand cart like this one is easy, and here’s a few tips for what I usually do – food is a language that brings us all together, so let me assure you that you don’t need to worry about smaller details (like knowing what the item is called in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan).
Watch first for a second to see what a specific vendor is selling, and what bills other customers are using to pay.
Smile confidently, wait patiently, and just do what you would normally do as a customer anywhere (although honestly, in Pakistan I never felt taken advantage of even a single time).
Finally, its your turn in line for Lahore’s best street snacks, so get ready for some properly authentic local flavors of Pakistan.
Energize your Morning with Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes and masala seasoning, corn kernels and chick peas, or even sweet fresh-cut fruits, all these are great snacks to energize, and keep you fresh for the whole day in Lahore.
I just love seeing the ingenuity among vendors, like this man who re-uses old election posters, laying them atop a brown twine sack underneath his wares.
This vendor has everything ready, and his potatoes are even cut into bite-size sections to go. Swiping them up with a few folds of paper, he shakes on a blend of masala seasoning and salt, and you’re good to go.
These, along with many Chaat you’ll see below, are some of Pakistan’s most budget friendly meals – plates from carts like this will cost between 30 and 50 PKR (US$0.20-0.35).
Walnut Brittle Cake with Dates
There are many interesting and delicious looking snacks here each day, and I think this man selling a Date and Walnut cake takes a prize for ‘Tastiest Street Snack’ in Gawalmandi.
Wonderfully brittle in texture, his thin walnut cake just snaps apart in nice crunchy chunks each time you bite into it. Not as sweet as you might expect, and a toffee jaggery smell matches so nicely with rich walnut, finally finishing with the fruitiness of dates.
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His food is tasty, but also incredibly cheap, he asks for just 20PKR per piece.
Ingenuity at the Street-Cart Level
If I can pick just one of the many hand-held snacks to tell you about in Lahore, I probably will choose this black salt-cooking corn. Its tasty, its efficient, it even looks beautiful when you’re walking up!
Here’s what this vendor does.
Pulling kernels off a corn cob, and throwing in a precise handful of chickpeas, the vendor roasts both of these ingredients together in a large hot pan full of purely black Himalayan salt.
I’ve never seen this method of cooking before, and the effect on flavor is simply wonderful.
He is infusing every single kernel and grain with a gentle salty flavor, and besides that light and smokey flavor, you also have this great ambiance – its everything that a street-food-foodie travels to eat.
At only 25PKR per packet as well, I don’t know if street food in Lahore can get any better than this.
The Ambiance Just Can’t Be Beat
I find it fun to simply stand back and watch vendors like this at work. They move so fast, and are so good at what they do, they’ll usually be putting their snack packs together without even needing to look!
Smiling and easy-going, I love how this particular vendor re-uses paper, possibly from one of his son’s or daughter’s old exercise books. Get a tasty snack, and you’re even able to review a few multiplication tables on the way to filling your stomach.
The ambiance in Gawalmandi just can’t be beat, I highly recommend a visit.
Cool Drinks and Mid-Morning Sun
People of Pakistan usually don’t go a day without lassi, so right about now is a perfect time for a cup of this cool milky drink.
The seller you see in the photo is a true Gawalmandi superstar – though all lassi drinks come from a few basic ingredients, everyone in the area knows him – he makes a very special recipe (see the story below).
Making a Fresh Lassi
Each cup of lassi has to begin with the freshest of milk, which the seller themselves will blend on location – its hand-churned, sometimes even ferociously, a key to the lassi’s texture.
Adding in sugar (you can ask for no sugar if you want), the recipe is then complete with hints of flavor, either cinnamon or cardamom, traditionally up to each individual’s home recipe.
Note: Lassi is a cool beverage, and on the street like this there will likely be large chunks of ice in each cup. For those nervous about water-borne bacteria, maybe order yours without ice.
A multi-level blend of taste perfection, I could probably drink this one recipe of lassi long enough to risk having a week-long milk-mustache.
I will never forget this vendor, so let me tell you more about the incredible Lassi he makes.
A Back Story – an amazing Lassi recipe
Making it with buffalo curds, as well as buffalo’s milk, each of these he only uses when they’re less than a few hours old. He hand-churns some of the milk to butter for each and every batch of cups (look at the photo) – and he doesn’t make it until you order – every tall metal cup is made fresh, and this is how he guarantees both his high quality product, and honestly just just the most creamy lassi imaginable.
This amazing man has been perfecting his recipe of lassi for over 40 years, I promise its worth a trip to Gawalmandi, just to visit his lassi shop.
Grottoes, Abbeys, and a Short Rest
As your morning meals digest, it might be time for just a slight moment of rest.
Enter one of the small archways you see nearby, and enjoy a small view full of relics like this from the life of an older Lahore.
Entire families, relatives from all generations, move into city areas like Lahore and create housing communities just like this. You can see the process in action, visiting a small abbey like the one in the photo above.
Its common to see children playing, and people of all ages gathering, I enjoy learning today about the practice of nearly every home keeping pigeons on the rooftops in open enclosures high above.
Little touches and brief experiences like this give depth to the memories you’ll take home, I always remember unique touches of life like this from our own morning in Lahore, Pakistan today.
Ok. That’s enough rest, now back for more street food!
Shah Alami for Insane Amounts of Food
From the Gawalmandi area its just a short trip to Shah Alami.
Be ready with your camera now, because the busy-ness of these streets is some seriously high-energy – its one experience in Pakistan that every photographer will enjoy.
Enter Shah Alami, and you’ll find a massive selection of street food sold amidst an amazing rush of life.
Great scenes of the city unfold with buses blowing by, rickshaws in between each one, and giant numbers of people on bicycles, motorbikes, truck-beds, as those on foot navigate it all so well.
Kulfi in Shah Alami
Some of the first carts you may find in Shah Alami are those selling generations-old recipes of Frozen Cream Kulfi.
You can start to understand in just one day here how important milk and dairy products are to the food and food culture of Pakistan.
Pride in a Single Recipe
One thing you may see too is how extremely proud every single vendor is, how happy they are to be an emissary of their own example of their product.
Whether its a restaurant with seating for a thousand, or the cart selling to single people on foot, everyone is proud to tell you how long they’ve been in business, and why their own recipe is the one ‘you just have to try.’
Baba Kulfi Wala
Visit Baba Kulfi Wala, and take the risk of forever having ice cream seem bland.
Saying that he makes it by condensing milk is only half true – milk in cans for store purchase still have 40%-45% of the water remaining. This is much more water than Baba can accept for his recipe.
From the way that he explains, the Khoia (or Khoiya) in his Kulfi has by volume five times less water than plain milk. That’s less water content than a soft cheese! Baba’s Kulfi is almost pure milk protein and sugar.
Creamy, so satisfying, but the texture is the most interesting part to me. The taste is incredibly rich, and yet somehow so dry that its almost chalky. You can actually feel the fibers from the milk proteins, and it is incredible how dense each bite of this Kulfi is.
Now is the Perfect Time For Chaat
As the heat of the day really starts to hit, you may not want to eat a heavy meal.
Now then, is a perfect time to explore some options for chaat. Shah Alami has some of the best chana chaat in town, and one cart owner we met has been making this same dish here for 3 generations.
What is Chaat?
Chaat are small dishes, commonly found in market areas or anywhere with large amounts of people walking. These are more like snacks, meant to be eaten on the go.
The amount of flavor in a simple plate of chaat can blow your mind. Hitting every area on the tongue, as well as containing every texture a bite can hold.
Chaat chefs in Pakistan are true masters of their art, and no street food tour in Lahore is complete without at least one plate like this one.
One of the World’s Ultimate Foods
This version of chaat we had in the Shah Alami market area may just be one of the better snack plates on earth.
This single dish is crunchy, spicy, both crisp and sour, its creamy, rich, and so ultimately satisfying.
It also costs just 100PKR for each entire plate, so this probably is one of the World’s Ultimate Foods indeed.
The Recipe for a Perfect Chaat
This vendor starts his perfect blend with a mix of steamy chick peas and potatoes. Quickly adding in small scoops of mint chutney, masala spice yoghurt, and tamarind sauce, he flips these around for a few seconds (re-using a hollow coconut shell as a tool!).
Dropping this mix out onto a stainless steel plate, he tops it with small handfuls of crunchy red onions, shredded cilantro, and a few strips of green cabbage. There are many other cut veggies on his table, from which the customer can add for free, both a flavorful and a healthy overload.
I was in love after my first bite, and I think the 3 of us may have finished off several plates in under 100 seconds. The vendor was such a friendly man as well, and I would love to visit again.
Local Citrus Species for Fresh-Squeezed Juice
Keep your eyes open while walking down any busy street, and you’re sure to see beautiful fruit carts selling fresh juice.
Pakistan has many citrus fruits of local origin (all citrus fruit originates in South and SouthEast Asia), and while this may look like an orange, its name is ‘kinnow‘ in English (and in Urdu they call it memang, but we also heard the word ‘naranja’).
‘Kinnow’ – Your New Favorite Citrus from Pakistan
While the flavor is sour, its also wonderfully sweet, and with that lemony-pithy mouthfeel too I highly recommend this. Try a refreshing cup of juice at least once while walking around the streets of Lahore (or any major city in Pakistan).
Note: Also common to see carts selling fresh juice from golden and/or blood red pomegranates, and wow, what a better way to respect the ancient surrounding history here in Pakistan than this!
Decision Time in the Afternoon
Ok. If you’re following the food and snacks in the order above, then its probably late afternoon by now.
Allow me to be totally honest for a second, because one of two things may have happened here;
If you are seeing these recommendations in a more easy-going way, thinking of taking a couple of days to do it, well, then you should be happy to know that at least one dinner is in your near future.
If you’re like us though, and have a hard time controlling your appetite-led-excitement, then your schedule for an all-out Migrationology-style tour of Lahore is in full swing. There are two more things you absolutely can’t miss today – the ingredients for both of which are limited almost entirely to meat.
We had better get dinner started immediately.
The Dinner Rush Begins – Time for Fish Fry
The final two items of Lahore Street Food you simply can’t miss are deep fried river fish, and a massive feast of barbecue.
Its up to you which one comes first.
We’re on the way to Siddique Fish Corner (and the second stop will be Khalifa Balochi Sajji) and these final two destinations are both wonderful restaurants open late. Even better news too, is the fact that they are within walking distance of each other.
Just a few kilometers from the Gawalmandi area (here’s the Google Maps link), on the other side of Railway Colony. We are driving in a friend’s car, but a taxi ride would be a quick trip as well.
Fish Cooking Entirely in Mustard Seed Oil
The deep fried fish at Siddique’s is incredible. The way they cook it may have you thinking there’s even wasabi, or radish in the batter, but its entirely from the mustard oil they use to deep fry the fish instead.
The dipping sauce here though is what makes the meal, they’re perfecting a sauce here that is… Incredible. Drinkable. Amazing.
It is made mostly of apricot, and maybe some sour tamarind as well. There are also chilies, seeds of coriander, and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice.
No filter here either, when I say the dipping sauce is insane, you’ll actually tip the dishes back (we did) and drink whatever little bit that is left behind.
Although there is a little too much salt in the fish batter for my taste, each bite is so good I think I’m actually just as hungry as I was when I began eating. The meal is surprisingly light, the fish meat almost airy, a great first dinner for your evening here in Lahore.
Name: Siddique Fish Corner
Location: (Google Maps)
Hours: 12pm – 2am Daily, but on Sunday they close at midnight
Prices: 400PKR (US$3) per plate of fish
One final dish you really must have in Lahore is Sajji.
What better way to bring this day of Lahore Street Food to a close, than a visit to a 4-meter long grill displaying dozens of grilling chickens?
Every chicken sajji is cooking on a sword, and just before grilling, each one suspends in the air for all to see (and get quite hungry for as well…).
This is a dish from the Balochi influence on Pakistan’s cuisine, from Western Pakistan’s regional foods, sajji can be made with several different types of meat, but Khalifa Balochi Sajji specializes in Chicken.
Note: They also serve an incredible plate of Biriyani as well at Khalifa, I will say its a must-have combo to go with your chicken.
Name: Khalifa Balochi Sajji
Location: (Google Maps)
Hours: Open from dinner, until very late
Prices: Complimentary meal tonight, a huge thank you to Khalifa Balochi Sajji!
In Love with the Layers of Flavor
The chicken is absolutely delicious, due to a dry rub which covers it entirely.
Three layers of marinating happens before each chicken is ready, the first in line of the team of chefs rubbing in a mix of salt, pepper, and masala spices.
Removing not only just the feathers, but all the chicken’s skin as well, this allows all the sauces to penetrate even deeper into the meat as the chicken cooks, its even healthy this was as well (skin is where almost all the fat in chicken resides).
Next, while the chicken slowly rotates over a massive bed of hot coals, the grill-master (and young learning protegé at his hand) is constantly rubbing on oil, and more masala spices, covering every part of each chicken in his care.
Finally, the chicken is ready for your plate. Every ingredient is in balance, and the quality of meat combines with the beautifully pungent marinade to simply speak for itself.
Dining with the Owner Himself
Something I’ll never forget about this evening, is how many of the owners of (each food, each location) came to watch us eat. At Khalifa Balochi Sajji, the owner is so welcoming and hospitable, and so humble as you will see, sitting completely quietly (aside from his smile) obviously happy just witnessing our first bites of his outstanding chicken Sajji.
Not only enjoying his food, we were loving our first day here in his country as well, and the situation was just amazing – I will never forget this scene!
So heart-warming too is the welcome I am sure you will receive in Lahore, I hope that you love our recommendations for an amazing street-food tour here.
Do yourself a favor, apply for a Pakistan visa today. It will be well-worth the wait, and I can tell you truly that your stomach, and your heart, will thank you.
Final Thanks to Pakistan
I hope you enjoy these tips for a fantastic day of searching for the best of Lahore Street Food.
The food here is out of this world, its tasty, its fun, but actually what is even more memorable is the welcome you’re sure to receive. I am not exaggerating when I say, that on not one single street did we walk by without someone stopping us to smile, to chat, to shake our hand, and often to pay for our tea or coffee!
The entire trip in Pakistan can be truly a humbling experience, and I urge you to find out for yourself just how wonderful a place it is.
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