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Just how Philly Cheesesteaks became huge in Lahore, Pakistan

    As in the Star Trek universe, the Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet personnel and spacecraft from interfering in the normal development of any society and mandates that any Starfleet vessel or crew member is expendable to prevent violation of this rule. Was there anything there about exporting the Philly cheesesteak to Pakistan?

    Pakistan’s fast-food boom of the 1990s and 2000s overlapped with a rise in Pakistanis traveling to the U.S. for study, work, business and immigration. As a result, many of the food establishments launched in Pakistan at the turn of the millennium were brimming with ideas that those visiting the U.S. brought back with them. The cheesesteak was one of these. With a bit of serendipity — intertwined to make our iconic sandwich a hit in the 13-million-resident megalopolis.

    philly sterak sandwich

    Sometime in the fall of 2021, a man from Philadelphia came to meet Mazhar Hussain, a chef based in Lahore, Pakistan. Hussain was shown a video of a dish he hadn’t seen before a hearty sandwich, with generous fillings of meat and cheese. The chef was asked if he could replicate it.

    “Re-creating anything is never an issue, but I wanted to check if it was going to be popular,” says Hussain, standing in front of Philly’s Steak Sandwich, a small cafe in Lahore’s Johar Town, an area packed with schools, universities and hospitals. “I saw the amount of meat and cheese being put in it and knew instantaneously that it is going to be a hit.”

    Fun Fact: Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s.

    Read more: “Philly’s Greatest Export” in the April 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.