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Founder & Head Chef, London

Numra Siddiqui and Sara Shipley have found the winning formula within Empress Market by combining Karachi folk cuisine with the spirit of New Orleans drinks.

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One thing led to another for Numra Siddiqui, where her food stall, Bun Kabab started off as a hobby and eventually snowballed into a new career path at Empress Market. After she quit her job in TV three years ago, Siqqiqui took the plunge into the world of food. She merges traditional family recipes with her London lifestyle in her cooking, creating an alternative side to Pakistani food and culture. 

Originally, she got the food stall idea from her dad. “He used to reminisce about his favorite street food as a kid in Karachi. I visited the city for a couple of months, researching the different Bun Kabab stalls,’ Siddiqui explains. “My mum and I developed the recipe, combining techniques to make the perfect Bun Kabab, the Pakistani burger.”

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Her recipes are packed full of flavour, authenticity and have been handed down through many generations where women have gathered in the kitchen bonding over tempered spices and sizzling onions. “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,” she says.

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During late 2016, Siddiqui tried her hand at hosting supper clubs. After a few successful runs, she realized she needed to create a space to celebrate this London lifestyle, to feel familiar and explore something new at the same time. Cue Sara Shipley: friend, partner, and owner of Sister Slush, a New Orleans inspired slush puppy cocktail bar. 

“When I partnered with Sara to operate the bar I felt Sister Slush further captured this plurality,” Siddiqui says. “Empress Market very much reflects what it means to be a Londoner today, inspired by our heritage as well as by our travels.”

“Empress Market very much reflects what it means to be a Londoner today, inspired by our heritage as well as by our travels.”

For the girls, it’s not all just about cooking and the food, it’s about bringing people together at the dinner table and creating a community at Empress Market. “We’ve collaborated with other independent businesses from yoga brunches, running clubs and training workshops.” she says. “I’ve got a great crew of girls who I’ve mentored to become restaurant managers and line chefs.”

As we draw close to the end of another year, the girls have got a big things planned. “It’s been wonderful launching Empress Market this year, but we’ve decided to move and find a new permanent spot,” Siddiqui says. “We’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline so watch this space!” We’ll be keeping an eye out like an hawk.