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From Lahore with love – street food that’s just our cup of chai

My Karak Chai is the brainchild of Mezz and his family, and he’s chosen Middlesbrough as the next step in his mission to bring the incredible flavours of Pakistani street food to the North East.

And that’s not all the Manchester-born 30 year old is hoping to achieve – he wants to give as much back to the local community as possible.

The restaurant serves up traditional street food inspired by Mezz’s family roots in Lahore.

“Lahore is the ‘other’ city that never sleeps. The street food there is incredible and I wanted to bring the food and a taste of the culture to Middlesbrough,” he said.

Roti, paratha and lentils are key components to many dishes, and earthy spices such as cardamom, nutmeg and chilli are used to create incredible flavour combinations for the restaurant’s most popular dishes which include Chat Samosa (crunchy samosa served with a spicy chickpea curry, vegetables and pomegranate seeds) Gol Gappay (crispy shells stuffed with potato and chick peas and a mint dressing) and Halwa Puri.

Gol Gappay - traditional crispy shells stuffed with potatoes and chickpeas

Gol Gappay – traditional crispy shells stuffed with potatoes and chickpeas

Other menu items include the popular tikka masala roll, keema (or cheese) chips, samosa chaat and Lahori kebab roll.

Their tempting desserts and donuts are made fresh each morning and given the seal of approval from Mezz’s mum who has brought her family recipes to the restaurant.

But the star of the show is their own tea, or chai as it is referred to in Pakistan, and this unique version has been over seven months in the making.

Traditional chai is made with a blend of black tea, milk and a variety of warming spices to give it a perfectly sweet, creamy, yet aromatic taste.

Mezz isn’t giving his family secret away though, the one that makes this chai different from others.

“We’ve made sure we perfected it over a seven to eight month period and have come up with our unique recipe. It’s really important that we got it just right.”

As the name suggests, My Karak Chai roughly means ‘my cup of tea’.

Trendy interiors at My Karak Chai

Trendy interiors at My Karak Chai

“The restaurant really is a family venture. Me and my brother co-own it, my mum is one of the chefs and my sister and wife help out too. We turned the building around in four months and even made the flower wall by hand. It really is a labour of love.

“The community round here is thriving. I feel like I’ve been blessed coming here to Middlesbrough. I have a restaurant in Manchester, Oldham and one in Newcastle, someone I know in Newcastle told me about this beautiful building that was empty in Middlesbrough.

“We visited the area and knew we wanted to bring My Karak Chai here. I’ve just bought a house here and moved all my family up too, I feel like I’m part of Middlesbrough now,” said Mezz.

The restaurant is located in the old Banana Leaf building and the transformation of the building’s exterior and interior is incredible.

But what’s driving Mezz is more than just his love of food, he wants to use his background in children’s care work to give something back.

“Do more for others than yourself, that’s my mantra.

“I used to be a carer in Manchester and I’d take the kids out to try new food and organise day trips so they could experience new things.

“It changed me as a human being, it’s important to help others. I’m actually looking to reach out to children’s care homes in Middlesbrough and invite the kids to try our food and learn more about different cultures.

Halwa Puri - popular Pakistani breakfast

Halwa Puri – popular Pakistani breakfast

“I was a point when I had nothing and these kids taught me a lot – I want to give something back,” he continued.

Give it a try, it might just be your new favourite cup of chai.

My Karak Chai is open from 9.30am for breakfast until midnight. More information can be found on their Instagram (@mykarakchai) and on Facebook.

This story featured in our new digital magazine Middlesbrough News. You can sign up to receive it straight to your email inbox by visiting here.

We are words by Anne-Marie O’Donnell