Karachi Street Food – Fish Katakat at Masha Allah (Pakistan)

Karachi street food ranks near the very top of my list of all the reasons why I’d recommend someone to visit Pakistan.

There are so many incredible things to eat, exploring every option could easily take a lifetime.

When you are in such a vibrant place as Karachi, I love how you can find both those comforting tastes you’re hungry for, while also finding ingenuity among tradition as well.

Masha Allah is a great restaurant in Karachi, faithfully serving customers their version of ‘kata-kat‘ chopped meat – in this article I will share all the details with you.

Electric and charged setting for a real street food feast, Karachi style
Few places but Karachi can say ‘Street Food’ any better than this scene here.

Fish Kata-Kat at Masha Allah

Masha Allah is a local Karachi street food restaurant serving their version of the dish with the onomatopoeic name – ‘Kata-Kat.’

The dings and clangs of the chef’s chopping movements are the main reason for why this food has such a name, but there’s actually some fun disagreement whether its ‘tak-a-tak,’ or ‘kata-kat.’

What’s more important though, is that kata-kat traditionally (famously*) makes use of only leftover parts – those bits of meat that are not really needed for any other recipe (but can also easily be just as tasty).

Fish, Instead of Cow or Goat

At Masha Allah, using fish filets for their recipe instead of cow or goat parts, provides a wonderfully unique set of flavor possibilities. This was so incredibly tasty that we didn’t actually take time to search out the original,* so, while I can’t comment personally, I can definitely say that this fish is food you should visit Karachi just to try.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can use this link here (YouTube), it will jump to the section where we visit the Masha Allah Restaurant.

*Note: The more well-known version of kata-kat is full of offal – usually brains, testicles, and heart, of either cow or goat.

The original fish cart is still parked (and used) in front of Masha Allah restaurant
They are still serving from the original push-cart used when this dish began in 1960

The 1.5 Meter-wide Griddle

Making your own kata-kat at home might only require a frying pan.

However – when you’re wanting to serve a room so full of customers that even the seating is standing-room-only, you may need something a bit larger.

The restaurant itself is a small, elevated, almost bunker-like room, and it lies hidden behind their cooking-cart, one that is still in service since fish kata-kat’s first creation.

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A 1.5 meter-wide giant of a griddle fills almost the entire entrance to the restaurant. Sitting directly on top of the food cart, a four-wheeled wooden pedestal for all to see, its fun to watch the chef whipping up one plate after another of chopped fish delight.

Fish Kata-Kat at Masha Allah in Karachi
The pings and clangs that give Kata-kat (or Tak-a-tak) its name

The Original Fish Kata-kat Cart

Ordering a plate of fish isn’t difficult, but you may have to be ready to bump a few elbows.

The chef is cooking almost constantly, choosing fish filets off of a mound of fish that’s been sort of built onto the side of the hot-plate itself. The fish are being fried first in an inner kitchen, and then moved out to restock the chef in front who is the one actually making them into your meal.

He never quite finishes a batch of fish before he’s already knocking over another dozen filets onto the sizzler. Its a smooth rotation of splashes of oil, sifting huge handfuls of red onions, garlic, and cilantro across the hot plate, and then seeding all of it with thoroughly precise unmeasured handfuls of dry masala spices.

Chopping and mincing the pre-fried fish with all those seasonings is what makes the signature ‘kata-kat’ sound, but the front chef is not so much cooking the fish as he is re-heating, and mixing it.

It looks a bit oily, but of course there’s no way you’d ever want this dish without that double-flavoring. The second time on the pan adds just huge amounts of additional fried flavors.

Amazing green mint chutney at Masha Allah Kata-kat
The chutney easily deserves an award for Dipping Sauce of the Decade

Fish, and a Chutney From Heaven

I guarantee that watching the chef for just a minute, you will find yourself nearly uncontrollably hungry.

But whatever you do, as you’re searching out a place to sit, please don’t forget the chutney.

The chef hands you your plate of fish kata-kat just seconds after he scrapes it away from the hot iron griddle. I’m going to go ahead and tell you that reserving a dish of chutney is even more important than reserving yourself a place to sit down.

The bread item accompanying this meal will be chapati, but you don’t have to wait in line for this, as they will bring this to you. As with most popular street-side restaurants in Pakistan, there is a dedicated line of fresh tandoori oven or griddle masters working next-door.

The bread is finished, and waiting staff come walking through the eating area to keep the customers supplied with a never-ending flow of still-steaming breads.

Tasty masala spiced chopped fish, you won't believe how good this food is
The lemony sour mixed with masala spiciness is just out of control delicious

Simple Techniques with Amazing Results

The simple yet unique style of cooking here just blows me away. Its great to watch, to see how they just perfect this meal of street food, and then by the time the food arrives, they’ve literally built your excitement up to perfectly sky-high heights.

So you have a plate of fish kata-kat, the deep green mint chutney, and you’ve just been awarded your piping hot chapati bread. All is temporarily good in the world.

Tear off a good-sized handful of that chapati, and dig in for a fish-only first big bite.

Incredible Flavor

The fish is incredible, not too oily at all despite it taking at least a cup of oil to cook all half-dozen of the fish in each batch. It is peppery, full of masala dry flavor, but then so juicy inside as the chef lets it fry just long enough for the whole fish to cook.

For the second bite, prepare for exultation of every taste bud you have. Dip up as much of that sour and minty chutney as you can, and bon appetite.

Just thinking of it now makes me dearly want to rejoin my friends on another Karachi street food pilgrimage.

Very friendly people in Karachi, Pakistan
Very representative of the incredible welcome we received at road-side restaurants throughout our trip to Pakistan

No Brains, No Offal, but Full of Heart

Not only was this one of the best meals of our entire Pakistan trip, but we got to eat at a table right next to the owner and originator of this recipe himself!

After taking a few photos together, he insisted on us having another plate of fish, several more plates of the chutney, and then insisting on giving us the entire meal as complimentary.

Yet another day full of ridiculously delicious food, and even more heart-warming experiences with the wonderful Pakistani people.

I absolutely loved our trip to Pakistan, and if you haven’t done so yet, you can check out more of my Pakistan food and travel blogs.

Pakistan has amazingly sweet carrots and beets
Some of the sweetest carrots you will ever have in your life

Bonus Food – ACTUAL Salad Ninja

I remember there was a popular game my friends were playing on the iPhone for years, something about a Fruit Ninja.

When I saw this vegetable vendor flying through an onion, literally faster than my eyes could follow, I thought “wow, I must have found the real-life hero of that video game!”

This amazing man wielding nothing but a reusable hacksaw blade was chopping up vegetables without a cutting board, easily twice as fast as I have ever seen a vegetable moving before.

With a whir of motion he goes through entire cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh beets, water loofah, and carrots.

He was creating about 10 plates worth of vegetable salad items in literally under 60 seconds.

After enough gracious repetitions where he allowing us to get close up video footage, he blesses us with a few plates of the fresh salad for ourselves – and just look how beautiful he arranges it too.

He was only charging 30PKR (about US$0.22) per plate, and he not only makes it into a salad for you, but he also squeezes over it some fresh lime, and then shakes on some wonderful masala spices as well. Now that’s a hand-chopped salad.

The salad ninja of Pakistan sells from his cart directly outside Masha Allah Fish Fish Kata-kat.

Restaurant Name: Masha Allah Fish Katakat
Location: It’s in the Liaquatabad neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan (Google Maps)
Hours: Not posted, but we went there mid-afternoon
Price: The owner generously gave us this fish feast complimentary (Thank you!)

Mama Chapati in Morogoro, Tanzania




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