Zia Tabarak has captured a niche online with his regular vlogs on Pakistan’s popular street food. Launched three years ago, Street Food PK has notched up over half a million subscribers. BizAsiaLive.com caught up with Tabarak about his success and plans ahead.
Zia, you are a rage online with a huge following on YouTube, how has the journey been for you since you started as a street food vlogger?
The journey has been quite amazing, I started this channel with my smartphone in May 2017. I really enjoy watching travel and food videos on YouTube which inspired me to start this channel because I professionally belong to the creative field and I had seen that at that time no one was really exploring Pakistani street food on YouTube, and international food vloggers were also hesitant to come here due to issues in the past decade. Hence, I thought I should pursue my passion and show the street food and culture of my city and my country. And this journey has been incredible, never thought I’d get this far but the response from my audience after the first few videos kept me motivated to do more and I’m gradually learning, which has helped me a lot. I have plans for the future as well to collaborate with international vloggers and explore other areas as well.
What do you enjoy the most about vlogging about street food?
What I enjoy most about it is that I get to interact with people. I get to explore so many cultures, and street food is all about taste so obviously one gets to explore different cuisine and tastes but meeting new people, exploring new places and sites, learning about people’s lives and learning about how their business grew is what I enjoy the most! From what I’ve seen, almost all street food vendors start from a small business and then grow to become household names, for example Javed Nihari and Mazedar Haleem in Karachi, or the Jalil Kabab House in Peshawar; they all started as small businesses but now are huge enterprises and food icons! It’s that journey and interacting with the people behind them, and just the general culture is what I love.
Although vlogging was not possible, the pandemic gave me a way for new content such as showing home cooking to my viewers. Many people were impacted negatively by the pandemic but I tend to look at the positives…
The pandemic has surely proven an issue with travelling, so how has this impacted your vlogging?
Actually, it has had a lot of impact on vlogging over all, the last year was really spent without much vlogging. I travelled only around September and October and that’s because things had gotten somewhat better during that time, from March to August, the pandemic was in full swing and everything was under lockdown. I had planned a lot of things which couldn’t happen, especially in Ramadan because that’s the most joyous time in Pakistan but this time, even Ramadan was spent under lockdown. Although vlogging was not possible, the pandemic gave me a way for new content such as showing home cooking to my viewers. Many people were impacted negatively by the pandemic but I tend to look at the positives, which is why the pandemic allowed many people to start new business ventures. For example, a friend of mine really likes cooking and I shot a video with him after which I told him that he should start a home cooking business which he did, at my recommendation, and now Masha Allah he’s doing really good, alongside his full-time job. So, although the pandemic has had negative effects, I think we should focus on how people have come together and look at the positive aspects. But yes, let’s hope for the best for 2021 and pray that things go back to normal!
You focus on mainly street food in Pakistan, have you got plans to explore such food in other countries?
Yes definitely! I especially want to visit India and that’s primarily because I have a huge viewership in India and a lot of people keep inviting me to visit Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Lucknow. Lucknow itself is of personal importance to me because it’s the city of my ancestors, my grandfather belonged to Lucknow. He used to tell me that Tunday Kababi is a very famous spot there and I keep watching videos on YouTube! I just wish that one day I could go and try them myself. I hope someday our countries have friendly relations one day and we could travel back and forth easily. Other than that, I’d like to visit Turkey because it is somewhat of a food haven, their Donner Kebabs, Shawarmas, everything fascinates me. I also want to visit Egypt because I love exploring history and historical places. I do have some plans, we just have to see when they get executed Insha’Allah!
Then I showed the people how Hindus in Pakistan celebrate Diwali in Karachi, I explored the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak in Nankana Sahib as well.
You have House of Advertising representing you nationally and internationally, tell us more about your collaboration?
House of Advertising is a very reputable organisation in the UK, Pakistan, and all around the world! We have just started our collaboration and it does look very promising, I hope it goes a long way. Hassan Zubairi, the director of House of Advertising is a very talented and hardworking person who knows his job really well and I’m extremely glad that I’m in partnership with House of Advertising. Let’s see, hope for the best!
In your videos you always cover story about different religion like Hindu religion and visit old temple site based in Pakistan, tell us about your experience?
I was already very interested in exploring historical and religious sites. I documented my own religious journey in Makkah and Medina when I went for Umrah and that’s where I began with religious exploration in my videos. Then I showed the people how Hindus in Pakistan celebrate Diwali in Karachi, I explored the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak in Nankana Sahib as well. Recently, I went to the Katas Raj temples which are extremely holy for Hindus and I also visited old Buddhist sites in Pakistan at Takht Bahi. The reason for this is that I think religion is an integral part of most people’s daily life; especially in South Asia. Every religion teaches love and acceptance for each other, and because of people’s comments, especially from India, I got even more motivated because people from India cannot easily visit Pakistan and there are a lot of holy sites for Hindus and Sikhs within Pakistan. It’s the same for India too, there are so many holy sites for Muslims within India such as Sufi shrines; the tomb of Baba Haji Ali, or Khuwaja Ghareeb Nawaz for example. So of course, people within Pakistan want to go their and pay visits, just like how people there would want to come and see their holy sites in Pakistan. As you know, it’s not easy for either of us these days so I just try my best to show these holy sites to my viewers and portray that there is no hatred and every religion teaches love and acceptance only; and that is what humanity really is. As for my experience, it has been really amazing. Especially the Katas Raj video was an amazing experience because it touched many of my Hindu viewers deeply because of how important those temples are in the Hindu faith. In my opinion, that is the beauty of inter-faith harmony and it gives me happiness to see that I’m spreading love on both sides of the border.
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