The palate of Pakistan through a rich culture filled with familial food and the burgeoning fine dining restaurants of its cities.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Bag A Bagel: Gourmet Bagels are the latest food trend to hit the nation!

Growing up in New York one of my favorite foods was the Bagel. The European bread was brought to the Americas by the working class immigrants and has found its home not only in modern-day America but around the world. The thin crisp crust and chewy doughy interior is trademark of the boiled and baked bread.   

“Many people don’t know what a bagel is,” says Ahmed Sohail, who along with his partner Abbas Hussain started the gourmet bagel company, Bag A Bagel two years ago. The two friends were studying at a university in Dublin when they came across a bag of bagels at the grocery store and decided to start their own bagel company. The courage to produce and market a new product, and only one, which not many people know about has proven successful. But was it sheer luck? Some of the success can be attributed to a smart marketing strategy which involved supplying to local grocery stores. Their bagels and bagel sandwiches can now be found at Agha’s, Naheed and Ebco’s bakery. Bag A Bagel also has a presence at the Atrium Mall in Karachi where you can have your bagels freshly made with a long list of fillings, both savory and sweet.

Having found success in Karachi, Ahmed and Abbas are turning their attention to the other metropolises, Lahore and Islamabad, as soon as next month. With their formula down pat the effort now is to improve upon an already successful product and this means catering to the new organic food trend. “We are trying to use organic ingredients and are sourcing them now,” says Ahmed. This can prove to be quite difficult since the definition of organic food is easily blurred without a proper food administration to monitor, regulate and set food guidelines for the growing industry. Luckily, the guys at Bag A Bagel have found a reliable source to procure their organic ingredients and will be adding them to their gourmet bagels soon.

Success does not come without a few hiccups along the way, though the business grads have come a long way. Ahmed and Abbas have tinkered with their bagel recipe so that it caters to the Pakistani palate. “People associate softness with fresh bread where as a bagel has a bit of a crust. The first thing they do is squeeze a loaf of bread to check its freshness,” Ahmed notes. Bagels are not soft like most breads and their unique texture is due to the boiling of the shaped dough prior to baking. Yet one has to admit that not many people knew of the croissant either when it first arrived at high-end caf├ęs but that didn’t stop the flaky buttery bread from becoming a staple item around the country. The people of Pakistan keep their love of food close to their hearts and sharing a meal means sharing that love. Whether it’s the local fare at Burns Road or the foreign cuisine available at Zamzama, we want it all. Right now, it’s the bagel!

Usually bagels are slathered with cream cheese but with the variety available at Bag A Bagel it’s easy to replace it completely with boring old brown or white bread. “It’s great to have a bagel for lunch and keeps you full for 3-4 hours without being too heavy,” points out Ahmed. A bagel a day might seem boring but the choices are great and one can always indulge; take your pick from Plain, Sesame seed, Poppy seed, Cinnamon, Cinnamon Raisin, Whole wheat, Multi Grain, Oats and Honey.

The sweet Cinnamon Raisin bagel with just a hint of butter is divine. A personal favorite is the Turkey Cranberry bagel with just the perfect balance of flavours to get all your senses buzzing. The savory turkey with the sweet and tart cranberry jam plus slivers of red onion definitely puts the gourmet in Bag A Bagel.

Where does the “gourmet” part actually come into play? The taste alone is good enough to qualify but the art of bagel making is not as easy as it seems. These bagels are hand rolled and the only part of the process that is not handcrafted is the oven that they are baked in. Trust me, I’ve made bagels myself and they took a day and a half for me to actually sink my teeth into one. Now anyone can just go out and buy a bag!

Let me put it this way - my love for the bagel is just like its circular shape: infinite. 

For more information on Bag A Bagel check out their official website or Facebook page 

Pictures Courtesy of Bag A Bagel

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