We’re thrilled to reveal the first of our stellar lineup of food vendors – Numra Siddiqui of Empress Market.
She’ll be here all summer long from opening ‘til 10:30pm, Wednesday through Sunday, serving out her award-winning Karachi-inspired cuisine.
One thing led to another for Numra. After she quit her job in TV three years ago, she took the plunge into the world of food, opening a food stall called Bun Kabab in 2015.
It started off as a hobby, but soon snowballed into a new career path – culminating in her opening her first permanent site, Empress Market. She’s made her living merging traditional family recipes with her London lifestyle, carving out an alternative niche in the world of Pakistani food and culture.
Speaking with Vice last year, Numra explained:
“I suppose living in London, cooking has been a way of expressing ourselves and keeping our heritage alive. This food has a special place in my heart, it only felt natural to cook it.”
Her stall sells a vibrant array of Pakistani classics, ranging from delicious stuffed baguettes through to Nihari rice bowls.
The star of the show, though, is undoubtedly the staple that made her name: the Bun Kabab, a sandwich-style on-the-go snack, which is a signature of Karachi. It often contains beef, chicken or lentils as its base, followed by a spicy Lahori Omelet, all topped off with salad and sauces to create that moreish crunch and satisfying heat.
Numra talks through her process:
“I use brioche rather than the sweetened bread used there because I felt it works better. ‘Flavour in the hand’ is the literal translation of the Urdu phrase for bun kabab. The way I put spices in food will be very different to someone else’s. My mum actually taught me to use the lines on my palm to measure spices so there’s a literal application where my personal estimates determine the flavour. My nan would scoff if she saw me use a teaspoon!”
Despite the impressive food, it’s not all about cooking for Numra. She spends much of her spare time bringing people together and fostering a sense of community spirit in everything that Empress Market does.
Speaking with Vice, she talked through some of the things Empress Market do outside the kitchen:
“We’ve collaborated with other independent businesses from yoga brunches, running clubs and training workshops. I’ve got a great crew of girls who I’ve mentored to become restaurant managers and line chefs.”
Great stuff. You can find Numra most days at Pitch – why not stop by, have a chat, grab a bite, and wash it down with some locally-sourced drinks at our bar?
If you’re keen to find out more about Numra and Empress Market, visit her website here.