Restaurant News

The Builders Arms is serving karachi sajji, a Pakistani dish of a quail, in a chicken, in a lamb

At one-off weekend lunch in collaboration with refugee support organisation Free to Feed.

By Yvonne C Lam
Free to Feed chef Shahid Burney
The turducken has nothing on the karachi sajji. To make the Pakistani dish – a specialty from the city of Karachi in the Balochistan province – boiled eggs are stuffed inside a quail, which is stuffed in a chicken and then in a whole lamb. The four-in-one animal is rubbed with lemon and salt, before being slow-roasted for hours over wood fire and charcoals.
It's an all-feast, all-beast affair that takes two days to prepare. But Melbourne's The Builders Arms is taking up the challenge. They've teamed up with social enterprise organisation Free to Feed to serve a Pakistani feast on Sunday 14 April, where karachi sajji will be the star attraction.
"This is a classic dish and reflects the olden days in Pakistan when there wasn't the array of spices we have today," says Free to Feed instructor and chef Shahi Syed Burney. "People had to hunt the animal in the jungle themselves and cook with less ingredients, but it still tastes delicious."
Chickpea samosas
Burney has worked with Andy Barkham (head chef of The Builders Arms) and Troy Wheeler (Meatsmith) to produce an updated version of karachi sajji: the meats are deboned, rolled, and roasted on the restaurant-pub's rotisserie. When it's done, served in slices, porchetta-style.
It's the climax of a Pakistani meal that begins with drinks, Punjabi samosas and coal-grilled Sheekh kebabs in the courtyard, before a sit-down feast in the pub's private dining room with lacha paratha (layered flatbread), the karachi sajji and sides of spiced pumpkin and pilaf.
The Builders Arms Hotel (Photo: Harvard Wang)
The feast is part of the modus operandi of Free to Feed, a not-for-profit organisation that assists asylum seekers with employment in the hospitality industry. Through Free to Feed events, which typically involve feasts, cooking classes and workshops, the organisation aims to build strong and supportive community links for recently arrived refugees.
It's an organisation that Burney is proud to be part of. The Pakistani-born chef fled his home country for Switzerland, where he worked and lived for 17 years. After returning to Pakistan to honour his mother's death, he was denied re-entry to his adopted country and was forced to flee Pakistan for the second time. He sought asylum in Australia in 2016. "I have already felt a big change since joining Free to Feed," says Burney. "I can see a positive future here for myself and my family in Australia."
As for the feast, Burney is excited to bring a taste of his homeland to diners. The onerous preparation of the karachi sajji means it's only reserved for special occasions. "In Pakistan, we only ate the lamb sajji some occasions," he says. "It was very expensive!"
Free to Feed x The Builders Arms special Sunday lunch, Sunday 14 April 12.30–4pm, 211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic. Tickets are $97.63 for lunch and beverages. Bookings at freetofeed.org.au