"There is coffee available everywhere, but there is no Pakistani tea," says the founder of Lahore Tea House, who's brought South Asian flavours and fragrant refreshments to a pop-up Adelaide Central Market stall.
Lahore Tea House wants to replace your morning coffee
Muhammad Aman Ullah migrated to Australia three years ago with the hopes of a better life. Like many migrants before him, he’s using food to win over new friends.
Lahore Tea House
Adelaide Central Market
Open ‘til 6 August 2022
“There are many restaurants, Pakistani restaurants, in Adelaide,” Muhammad tells CityMag over a bevy of steaming food. The assortment of rice-filled, aromatic dishes are lined up in front of his family’s multi-coloured, temporary Adelaide Central Market stall, Lahore Tea House.
“We went to those restaurants, but we didn’t like the taste,” Muhammad continues.
He’s standing next to his mother and two sisters, and to illustrate his point, indicates to a bowl of pretty golden orbs in a glass bowl. Next to a framed painting of Lahore, the Pakistani city where he grew up, he tells us this dessert is a traditional dish served at home.
The dish is called gujab uman, and it would appear during special occasions: weddings and festivals. There are dried strips of saffron sitting on top of the fried spheres, which Muhammad says doesn’t come cheap.
Using these ingredients in abundance is “expensive”, he says, but Muhammad doesn’t let price get in the way of making beautiful meals.
“People are happy to pay for the taste if it’s authentic,” he says. “Someone has commented [on Instagram saying] that she has been waiting for many years and she has tried every restaurant in Adelaide, and after six years she’s tasted authentic homemade food with a real authentic taste.”
Lahore Tea House has been operating as the Producer in Residence in the Adelaide Central Market since 19 July. The family aims to secure a permanent tenancy within the gourmet food hub, as a cafe, and they’re in negotiations with the help with of advocacy group Thrive Refugee Association.
Thrive helped Muhammad and his family land the pop-up opportunity after three years of COVID-19-thwarted business plans, which left the family with limited finances. After trying Muhammad’s food, someone from the organisation sent a request to the Central Market for a chance to share the food with Adelaide.
“Pakistani people, especially Lahori people, are foodies,” he says.
“When they invite someone to dinner they make five to six dishes.”
The aim of the eatery is to serve the kind of snackable Pakistani food that is best enjoyed with tea. For those uninitiated in the world of Pakistani cuisine, Muhammad says it’s big on goat and chickpeas, and famous dishes such as the long-riced biryani, crunchy samosa, saucy chicken korma and chapli and shami kebabs are in high rotation.
“And especially the Lahori burger. The Lahori burger is very famous. This is made with the lamp and chickpea lentils,” he says.
The tea – which Muhammad claims to drink every day – at Lahore Tea House comes in the form of karak and chai. Karak is water and milk, but the real kicker are the amalgam of spices, carefully selected and sourced by his mother, that breathe life into the beverage.
“It’s traditional to Lahore,” he says, smiling.
“There is coffee available everywhere – but there is no Pakistani tea.”
Lahore Tea House also serves the more well-known chai tea, which includes masala spices. (Those with an aversion to spice shouldn’t be worried – there’s no chilli.)
The reason Muhammad is committed to staying in the Adelaide Central Market is because it was the first place he did his grocery shopping as a new arrival. He visited a Cambodian grocer to collect vegetables before visiting a now-shuttered butcher for Halal mince.
“We still buy from [here] three years later, from House of Health. We are using it every day in our breakfast,” he says.
Even if they don’t get the tenancy, Muhammad knows in his heart he’s given it a crack.
“We are here to provide the best food to the people,” he says, before waving us goodbye.