“There is no sincerer love than the love of food,” the oft-quoted George Bernard Shaw declared, and words could not be more applicable than to Pakistanis. We love our food with the kind of impassioned emotion reserved for our parents or grandparents, who are often our source of the food that we hold so dearly.
Pakistan boasts beaches, forests and mountains making it the perfect Havana of spices, savoury fruits – additionally an array of dry fruits and endless varieties of subzi. Not to forget: meat – we take our meat extremely seriously. In honour of August and celebrating our country’s birthday, we have rounded up some of the foods that make up the food pyramid of Pakistani cuisine. Have we covered your favourite dish?
1. Nashta- Halwa Puri
Decadent, fattening, early in the mornings and so worth it, Halwa Puri is an experience disguised as a meal. One part light soft fudgy consistency with a fluffy look, topped with cardamom, raisins and almonds and one part light, crispy, bubbly wheat puri – this dish is finger licking (literally it is messy enough that finger licking is a give-in) good.
2. Snacking on Samosas
One of the most recognisable food items for our part of the world! These trinagular chewey crunchy pockets stuffed with soft boiled vegetables or varying meats are the favourite snack of locals across the country, the roadside vendors hot seller or the college canteen’s most bought – this snack never fails to satisfy.
3. Chai and Pakoras
Is there a cricket match on with the Pakistani team playing? Bring out the chai and pakoras. Has monsoon arrived? The weather feels like chai and pakoras. Stopped by a dhaba on the way to Nathiagali? Order some chai and pakoras. The feel good appetiser, which perfectly combines the love of karak chai and steaming pakoras – be it vegetable, aloo or egg.
4. Nargasi Koftay
This Mughlai dish that became popular throughout all of Central Asia, with each region giving their own cultural twists. However, the basic meatball recipe remains the same, infused with a smooth spicy curry. This dish remains one of the most popular and go-to safe options especially when big dinners roll out. The Nargasi take on koftas – where boiled eggs are wraped in the meat, provides a new flavourful kick to the dish.
5. Sheer Khurma
The beauty of this dessert lies not only in the creamy texture and smooth blend of sweetness, but also in the immaculate taste whether served cooled down or fresh and warm from the stove. In almost every Pakistani household someone has perfected this dish and brings it out on holidays where we dig in elbows deep!
6. Chicken Tikka
If there’s one thing Pakistanis don’t mess around with, it’s how we cook our meat. Chicken tikka is a staple of road side vendors and high-brow restaurants is part of the culinary threadwork in our region.
The scent of corriander and ghee engulfs you and the smooth mix of peppery richness and crisp onions envelops you in a hazy tango. That’s the Nihari cooking overnight and just freshly given a tarka of bittersweet ginger. This irresistble broth paired with fresh reddish naans is the ultimate desi foodie dream. Simply put, it’s yum.
8. Gulab Jamun
Oh these little diet-busting balls of love! Gulab Jamans hold the kind of syrupy warm power of never being enough, you pop one and you’re done for. These glistening fudgy spherical cakes are topped off with sheera, green cardamom and rose-water, kewra and saffron.
because this classic and simple grilled confection
Be it Sindhi, Balochi, Lahori, Multani or from whichever region, Biryani will always remain the crown jewel of the desi dishes. The hot, tangy, bittersweet and pickeled concoction of rice, meat, vegetables and potatoes with sometimes nuts is the epic Pakistani relish across the nation. It’s hard to come across a Pakistani who doesn’t count biryani in their favourite traditional foods, and if you do come across one they’re not to be trusted.
11. Baraf Bagola
Although originally a European dessert, this candy ice has had its fair share of cultural interventions around the globe. The Pakistani version has a variety of local flavours such as the ever famous cola, strawberry, illachi, mint, leechee, mango, pakola and many others.
12. Kashmiri Harissa
Harissa is an Armenian dish from the Ararat plain. It is a thick porridge made from atta (dried or roasted cracked wheat) and fat-rich meat, usually chicken or lamb. The Pakistani version of the dish is most popular among the northern mountain areas and has eventually simmered down to the Punjab and Balochi regions. A very energetic and tasty meal, excellent for keeping up one’s strength especially during long winter days, Harissa proves to be the perfect cosy meal, especially paired with steaming naans and topped with golden brown onions and lemon tango.
13. Taka Tak
Taka Tak, which is originally called ‘Tawa Gurda Kapoora’ is another favourite of Lahorites. May be some people get abashed for a while about knowing the components of Taka Tak, which is actually prepared by frying the kidneys and testicles of sheep or goat in a large pan. Taka Tak is a typical Lahori dish that gets its name from the sound of the spatula on the tava, which is used to vertically break the meat (beef, mutton) morsels and to turn the masala. Chefs preparing this dish often make a rhythmic beat as they ground the meat, somewhat imitating a dhol – the mix of the rhythm and spices adds to the eccentric exoticism of this meal.
It is not an uncommon sight, when one sees large pounds of meat being grilled on a vertical seekh at roadside food vendors. This is a sure sign that shawarma is available. The grilled meat, tossed with stir-fried vegetables and various masalas all wrapped in doughy pita bread. Although an Arabian snack, this has enjoyed a cultural integration in our region especially due to its quick fix recipe and easy handling. A sort of fast food snack of our region, this wrap can be customised to different tastes according to a variety of sauces and spices.