Pakistani food is an eclectic fusion of meat and vegetables.
Kababs and karahis; meat grilled or doused in gravy; chicken, fish or mutton - Pakistan's food is as eclectic as its varied landscape and people. The terrain plays an important part in influencing the type of cuisine that is popular in a particular area. In the Baluchistan region, for example, soup made of animal fat is eaten to combat the cold weather; the kadhai style of cooking rules the North West Frontier Province, while Lahore is famous for its lip-smacking paaya.
However, its Afghan-Turkish-Iranian roots, and a liberal dose of Indian influence unite Pakistan's food. Meat, including beef, chicken, and lamb, is prominent in its cuisine, with wheat and rice coming in a close second. Kababs made out of lamb and chicken seekh kabab, shami kabab and chapli kabab (a speciality of Peshawar) are especially popular.
"The nihari kabab with its medley of mutton and spices, seekh kabab, chicken tikka, mutton karahi, peshawari chicken and mutton karahi (made in a tomato and green chilli paste) are very popular in Pakistan. Halim (a mixture of lentils and meat) and nihari are basic breakfast dishes, but can be eaten for dinner as well, accompanied with dishes such as chicken and mutton dum biryani," says Mohammed Ayaz, Managing Director, Karachi Darbar.
According to Ayaz, in an average Pakistani urban household, mutton and chicken curries are favoured, with plain chappatis and pulao rice. "Seafood is not very popular, but some Pakistanis might opt for fish," he says.
Aditya Oberoi, Director, Food and Beverage, Dhow Palace Hotel, says that the Mughlai touch is evident in Pakistani food. "This influence manifests itself in preparations such as barbecued or tandoor smoked meat dishes including chicken or mutton dishes such as tikkas, kababs and khurchans. A favourite Pakistani curry style is kadhai, mousallams cooked in a dry sauce, and rich desserts such as halwa and shahi tukra all come together to complete Pakistani food," he says.
In Karachi, a whole leg of lamb, called sajji, marinated with spices and grilled on charcoal, is a speciality to be enjoyed on festive occasions. The popularity of the grilling technique and grilled meats and kababs is the Middle Eastern influence on Pakistani cuisine. Kababs from Baluchistan and the NWFP tend to be identical to the Afghan style of barbecue, with only salt and coriander used as seasoning. Lahore is famous for its spicy kababs that are often marinated in a mixture of spices, lemon juice and yoghurt.
The Lahori karahi contains garlic, onions, spices and vinegar, while the Peshawari karahi has meat, salt, tomatoes and coriander. Other well known Pakistani dishes include kofta, mutton and chicken korma, shab degh and chakna.
A daily staple
Pakistan has a variety of breads, often prepared in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor or alternatively on a tava (an iron or steel griddle).
- Chapatis: Most common bread made of whole-wheat flour that is eaten daily in most Pakistani homes.
- Naan: Unlike chapatis, naans are slightly softer and more pliant, typically leavened with yeast and made with all-purpose flour and brushed with butter. Can also be sprinkled with sesame seeds or chopped coriander leaves.
- Roghni naan: Naan sprinkled with sesame seeds and covered with a minute amount of oil.
- Sheermal: Prepared with all purpose flour, egg, milk and butter, and
usually served as an accompaniment with kababs.
- Taftan: Leavened flour bread with saffron and cardamom
powder baked in a clay oven.
- Kandahari naan: Long shaped naan originally from Western Pakistan.
- Paratha: A layered chapati that is shallow fried in ghee (clarified butter), originating from Punjab. Parathas are commonly eaten for breakfast and can either be plain or stuffed with potatoes, fenugreek, minced mutton or cottage cheese.
- Puri: Small all purpose flour rotis, deep-fried in oil.
A taste of Pakistan in Dubai
- Ravi's Restaurant: Satwa Roundabout-04-3315353.
- Karachi Darbar: Al Ghusais-04-2614131; Al Rashidiya-04-2859454.
- Pak Ghazi: Bank Street, Opposite Burjuman, Bur Dubai.
- Al Ibrahimi Palace: Karama-04-3977070.
- Al Shorafa Restaurant: Near Bur Dubai taxi stand-3935678, 3935885, 050-6450137, 050-4529507.