Published in Mar-Apr 2022
A few years ago, I had dinner with a friend who had returned from Mashhad in Iran. After dinner, he offered his guests a treat called doogh – Irani lassi. The drink was refreshing and I immediately wanted to know where I could buy some. He said I would either have to wait for his uncle to visit from Iran or I could try the markets in Lyari, where he believed many Irani products were available. A few days later, I went to Lyari and found a few Irani food items, such as cake, chips and cookies, but not the doogh.
I forgot about doogh until I went to Quetta in December 2020. A quick Google search told me that Quetta’s Barech Market was full of Irani products, and when I got there, I was blown away by the variety of goods; I not only found the doogh – I found candies, jams, cheese, butter, milk, household products, pickles – you name it and they had it.
I returned home with pickled garlic, pickled green chillies, crates of doogh, massive bottles of fig and strawberry jam, flavoured cream cheese and nougat. I bought whatever I could fit into my suitcase and was amazed at how cheap everything was. I had planned on returning to Quetta once my stock finished, but that did not happen. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when a few months later, Irani products started popping up in Karachi’s shops. Today they are available across Karachi, be it on MA Jinnah Road or the Hub River Road.
One day, when I was buying groceries at The Mart on Khayaban-e-Bukhari in DHA, I noticed bottles of Irani sanitizers and boxes of Sorbon’s mini chocolate cones. I spoke to another customer and he said he was delighted to find Irani products in Karachi. “My kids love the lrani lassi and candies. A few months ago, I came across a store in DHA where the shopkeeper stocked everything from chocolates to cream, feta cheese, cooking oil, salad dressing to cleaning products from Iran. I bought the food items in bulk because they were so cheap.” He said his family regularly buys Irani food products as they are good value for quality products – most of them are 50% cheaper than the corresponding foreign brands and in some cases cheaper compared to similar local products.
Another customer – a mother of three – had also become a fan of Irani food products. “I am a YouTube fiend and I saw influencers talking about Irani products; it made me want to check them out. She went to Lahmo, a store located near Soldier Bazaar, where she found stocks of Irani products. Her first purchase was cream cheese – a breakfast staple at her house. “Everyone in my family loves cheese and with the dollar increasing, cheese has become very expensive. At the store it was incredible; I bought products that were better than the local brands and much cheaper than the imported ones.”
Rizwan, the owner of Dua General Store in Numaish, says he started selling Irani goods two years ago, at the beginning of the lockdown. According to him, such products have been on the market for years, but stores did not stock them. Yet, today he stocks Irani dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, cooking oil, cheese, jams and olives. He says there was an increase in demand for Irani products during the lockdown as people were looking for cheaper options. He says he has customers from all over Karachi – from DHA, KDA, Nazimabad and even Bahria Town. These products, in his opinion, would be even cheaper if their import was “regularised.” Nevertheless, he says his customer base has grown exponentially. “Some of my customers have taken crates of doogh to Lahore for their relatives,” he concludes.
And if there is any doubt about the popularity of Irani products, suffice it to say that they are now available on several Facebook pages, Daraz.pk and OLX.