Cuisine

By:

Regional cuisines

Balochistan

Balochi cuisine refers to the food and cuisine of the Baloch people from the Balochistan region, comprising the Pakistani Balochistan province, as well as Sistan and Baluchestan in Iran and Balochistan, Afghanistan.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA

Rice dishes and kebabs feature prominently in Pashtun cuisine. Lamb is eaten more often in Pashtun cuisine than any other Pakistani cuisines. Rice haleem, chapli kabab, tika, and motton karahi are the most famous dishes. Historical variations include Peshawari cuisine. The Pashtun and Balochi cuisines are traditionally non-spicy.

Punjab

Since Punjabi identity is considered geographical and cultural, almost all inhabitants of Punjab follow some variations within the cuisine, but on the other hand show many similarities together. This cuisine then falls into the broad category of Punjabi cuisine. Regional cuisine is mutual with some differences in many regions, including the South Punjab regions.

Sindh

Sindhi cuisine refers to the native cuisine of the Sindhi people from Sindh, Pakistan.

Karachi

The cuisine of Karachi is similar to the Mughlai cuisine, which is influenced by Hyderabadi cuisine.


Meal structure

Pakistanis generally eat three meals a day, which are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. During the evening, many families have tea without sugar, which goes along with baked/fried snacks from a local bakery (or prepared at home). During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the eating patterns change to sehri and iftar. It is considered proper to eat only with the right hand as per Islamic tradition (also a tradition in many other Asian cultures). Many Pakistani families, particularly when guests are too many to fit at a table, eat sitting at a cloth known as Dastarkhān, which is spread out on the floor. In Pakistan, many street eateries serve food on a takht, in a style similar to what is seen in Afghanistan. A takht is a raised platform, where people eat their food sitting cross-legged, after taking their shoes off. Most Pakistanis used to eat on a takht. Pakistanis often eat with their hands, scooping up solid food along with sauce with a piece of baked bread (naan) or rice.

Breakfast

A typical Pakistani breakfast, locally called nashta, consists of eggs (boiled/scrambled/fried/omelette), a slice of loaf bread or roti, parathas, sheermal with tea or lassi, kulcha with chole, qeema (minced meat), fresh seasonal fruits (mangoes, apples, melons, bananas, etc.), milk, honey, butter, jam, shami kebab or nuts. Sometimes breakfast includes baked goods like bakarkhani and rusks. During holidays and weekends, halwa poori and chickpeas are sometimes eaten. In Punjab, sarson ka saag (mustard leaves) and maakai ki roti (cornbread) is a local favourite. Punjabi people also enjoy khatchauri, a savory pastry filled with cheese. Pakistan is quite unique in the sense that meat dishes are eaten as breakfast, especially on holidays. A traditional Sunday breakfast might be Siri-Payay (the head and feet of lamb or cow) or Nihari (a dish which is cooked overnight to get the meat extremely tender. The name "Nihari" comes from the Persian word "Nihar", meaning "Day" or "Day break".). Many people used to take "Bong" (Shank curry) in their Sunday brunch.

Lunch

A typical Pakistani lunch consists of meat curry along with rice or a pile of roti. Daal chawal is among the most commonly taken dishes at lunch. Breads such as roti or naan are usually served for dinner, but have become more common during the day so that rice may be served for dinner. Popular lunch dishes may include aloo gosht (meat and potato curry) or any vegetable with mutton. Chicken dishes like chicken karahi are also popular. Alternatively, roadside food stalls often sell just lentils and tandoori rotis, or masala stews with chapatis. People who live near the main rivers also eat fish for lunch, which is sometimes cooked in the tandoori style.

Dinner

Dinner is considered the main meal of the day as the whole family gathers for the occasion. Food which requires more preparation and which is more savoury (such as nihaari, pulao, kofte, kebabs, qeema, korma) are prepared. Lentils are also a dinnertime staple. These are served with roti or naan along with yogurt, pickle and salad. The dinner may sometimes be followed by fresh fruit, or on festive occasions, traditional desserts like kheer, gulab jamun, shahi tukray, gajraila, qulfi or ras malai.

Snacks and Fast Foods

Pakistani snacks comprise food items in Pakistan that are quick to prepare, spicy, usually fried, and eaten in the evening or morning with tea or with any one of the meals as a side dish. A given snack may be part of a local culture, and its preparation and popularity can vary from place to place. These snacks are often prepared and sold by hawkers on footpaths, railway stations and other such places, although they may also be served at restaurants. Some typical snacks are dahi bhala, chaat, chana masala, pakora, and papar. Others include katchauri, pakoras—either neem pakoras or besan (chickpea) pakoras, gol gappay, samosas—vegetable or beef, bhail puri, daal seu, panipuri, and egg rolls. Nuts, such as pistachios and pine nuts, are also often eaten at home.


Main courses

In Pakistan, main courses are usually served with wheat bread (either roti or naan) or rice. Salad is generally taken as a side dish with the main course, rather than as an appetizer beforehand. Assorted fresh fruit or sometimes desserts are consumed at the end of a meal. Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. According to a 2003 report, an average Pakistani consumed three times more meat than an average Indian. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat, mutton, beef and chicken, which are particularly sought after as the meats of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts, though it is very popular in the coastal areas of Sindh and the Makran coast of Balochistan.

Curries, with or without meat, combined with local vegetables, such as bitter gourd, cauliflower, eggplant, okra, cabbage, potatoes, rutabaga, saag, and chili peppers are most common and cooked for everyday consumption. A typical example is aloo gosht (literally "potatoes and meat"), a homestyle recipe consisting of a spiced meat and potato stew, and is ubiquitously prepared in many households. Korma is a classic dish of Mughlai origin made of either chicken or mutton, typically eaten with naan or other bread, and is very popular in Pakistan.


Vegetable and legume dishes

Vegetable and legume dishes are very popular in Pakistan. Dishes such as Baingan bartha and Sarson da saag are typical examples eaten in most homes.


Meat dishes

Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani and Afghan cuisine, compared to other South Asian cuisines. The meat dishes in Pakistan include bovine, ovine, poultry and seafood dishes. The meat is usually cut in 3 cm cubes and cooked in a stew. The minced meat is used for Kebabs, Qeema, and other meat dishes. The meat dishes are also cooked with pulses, legumes and rice.

Barbecue and kebabs

Meat and grilled meat have played an important role in Pakistan for centuries. Kebabs are a staple item in Pakistani cuisine today, and one can find countless varieties of kebabs all over the country. Each region has its own varieties of kebabs, but some like the Seekh kebab, Chicken Tikka, and Shami kebab are especially popular throughout the country and other parts of South Asia.

Pulses

Various kinds of pulses or legumes, make up an important part of Pakistani cuisine. While lentils (called daal) and chickpeas (called channa) are popular ingredients in homestyle cooking, they are traditionally considered to be inexpensive food sources. Because of this reason, they are typically not served to guests who are invited for dinner or during special occasions. Combining meat with lentils and pulses, whether in simple preparations or in elaborate dishes such as haleem, is also a distinctively Pakistani touch not commonly seen in neighbouring India, where a substantial number of its population are vegetarians.

Beans such as black-eyed peas (lobia) and kidney beans (rajma) are sometimes served in a tomato-based masala sauce, especially in Punjab.

Rice dishes

Pakistan is a major exporter and consumer of rice. Basmati is the most popular type of rice consumed in Pakistan.

Dishes made with rice include many varieties of pulao:

  • Maash pulao - A sweet and sour pulao baked with mung beans, apricots and bulgur (a kind of roughly milled cracked wheat). Exclusively vegetarian.
  • Matar pulao - Pulao made with peas.
  • Murgh pulao - Chicken and stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Yakhni pulao - Meat and stock added. Creates a brown rice.

Biryani is a very popular dish in Pakistan, and has many varieties, such as Lahori and Sindhi biryani. Tahiri, which is a vegetarian form of biryani, is also popular. All of the main dishes (except those made with rice) are eaten alongside bread. To eat, a small fragment of bread is torn off with the right hand and used to scoop and hold small portions of the main dish. Pickles made out of mangoes, carrots, lemon, etc. are also commonly used to further spice up the food.

In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, feasts using mountains of spiced rice combined with pieces of slowly roasted lamb are often served for guests of honour. These kind of pulaos often contain dried fruit, nuts, and whole spices such as cloves, saffron and cardamom. Such rice dishes have their origins in Central Asia and the Middle East.


Varieties of bread

Pakistanis eat breads made of wheat flour as a staple part of their daily diet. Pakistan has a wide variety of breads, often prepared in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. The tandoori style of cooking is common throughout rural and urban Pakistan, and also has strong roots in neighboring India, Iran and Afghanistan. Some of these are:

  • Chapati - Most common bread made in urban homes, where a tandoor is not available. Chapatis are cooked over a flat or slightly convex dark colored pan known as 'tava'. Chapatis are made of whole wheat flour and are thin and unleavened. Tortillas are probably the most common analogous to chapatis, though chapatis are slightly thick. A variant, known as 'romali roti' (lit. Handkerchief bread), is very thin and very large in size.
  • Kandahari Naan - Long, salty naan originating in Western Pakistan and commonly eaten with Peshawari Karahi or Chapli Kebab.
  • Kulcha - This is a type of naan usually eaten with chickpeas and potatoes and mostly popular in urban centers of Punjab.
  • Naan - In Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, the word Naan means bread. Unlike chapatis, naans are slightly thicker, typically leavened with yeast and mainly made with white flour. Some varieties like Roghani and Peshwari naan may also be sprinkled with sesame seeds. Naans are seldom, if ever, made at home since they require tandoor based cooking and require prep work. Numerous varieties of plain, as well as stuffed naans are available throughout Pakistan and each region or city can have their own specialty. Naan is a versatile bread and is eaten with almost anything. For instance, 'saada naan' or 'plain naan', is often served with Siri-Payay (cow's head and trotters) or Nihari (slow cooked beef stew) for breakfast in many parts of the country.
  • Paratha - A flat, layered bread made with ghee and generally cooked on a 'tava'. However, a 'tandoor' based version is also common in rural areas. Parathas are very similar to pastry dough. Parathas most likely originated in the Punjab, where a heavy breakfast of parathas with freshly churned butter and buttermilk was commonly consumed by the farmers to prepare themselves for the hard day of work ahead. However, parathas are now a common breakfast element across the country. Along with the plain layered version, many stuffed versions, such as 'Aloo ka Paratha' (Potato stuffed paratha), 'Mooli ka Paratha' (Radish stuffed paratha), and 'Qeemah ka Paratha' (Ground meat stuffed paratha) are popular.
  • Puri - This is a breakfast bread made of white flour and fried. Typically eaten with sweet semolina halwa or gravy (made out of chickpeas and potatoes). Puri is a fairly urban concept in Pakistan and puris are not part of rural cuisine anywhere in Pakistan. However, Halwa Puri has now become a favored weekend or holiday breakfast in urban Pakistan, where it is sometimes sold in shift carts or in specialty breakfast shops.
  • Roghani Naan - It is a preferred variety of Naan sprinkled with white sesame seeds and cooked with a small amount of oil.
  • Roti - This bread is extremely popular all over Pakistan. Tandoori rotis are baked in a clay oven, known as a tandoor, and are consumed with just about anything. In rural Pakistan, many houses have their own tandoors, while the ones without it use a communal one. In urban Pakistan, bread shops or "nanbai"/"tandoor" shops are fairly common and supply fresh, tandoor baked breads to household customers.
  • Sheermal - Saffron-flavored traditional flatbread. It is a festive bread prepared with milk ('sheer') and butter with added candied fruits. Sheermal is often a vital part of food served in marriages, along with taftan. It is often sweetened.
  • Taftan - This is a leavened flour bread with saffron and a small amount of cardamom powder baked in a tandoor. The taftan made in Pakistan is slightly sweeter and richer than the one made in neighboring Iran.

Desserts

Popular desserts include Peshawari ice cream, sheer khurma, qulfi, falooda, kheer, feerni, zarda, shahi tukray and rabri. Sweetmeats are consumed on various festive occasions in Pakistan. Some of the most popular are gulab jamun, barfi, ras malai, kalakand, jalebi and panjiri. Pakistani desserts also include a long list of halvah, such as multani, hubshee, and sohan halvah.

Kheer made of roasted seviyaan (vermicelli) instead of rice is popular during Eid ul-Fitr. Gajraila is a sweet made from grated carrots, boiled in milk, sugar, and green cardamom, topped with nuts and dried fruit. It is popular in Pakistan, as well as in other parts of South Asia, including Afghanistan.


Tea varieties

Pakistanis drink a great deal of tea, which is locally called "chai." Both black (with milk) and green teas are popular and there are different varieties common in different parts of Pakistan.

  • In Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, as well as areas near the Chinese border, salty Tibetan-style butter tea is consumed.
  • Doodh Pati Chai is made by cooking tea leaves with milk and sugar, sometimes served with cardamom for fragrance. Extremely sweet, this is a local variation of a builder's tea.
  • "Kashmiri chai" or "noon chai", a pink, milky tea with pistachios and cardamom, is consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter, when it is sold in many kiosks.
  • "Sabz chai" or "kahwah", a green tea often served after every meal in Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Pashtun belt of Balochistan, served with saffron and nuts.
  • Sulaimani chai is black tea served with lemon.

Beverages

Besides tea, there are other drinks that may be included as part of the Pakistani cuisine. All of them are non-alcoholic as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited by Islam. During the 20th century, beverages such as coffee and soft drinks have also become popular in Pakistan. It is very common to have soft drinks nowadays with Pakistani meals.

  • Almond sherbet - Sherbet made with almonds
  • Gola ganda - Different types of flavors over crushed ice
  • Kashmiri chai/Gulabi chai - A milky tea known for its pink color, with an either sweet or salty taste
  • Lassi - Milk with yogurt, with an either sweet or salty taste
  • Lemonade (Limu pani)
  • Qehwa - Green tea with cardamom
  • Sardai - Mixture of different nuts and kishmish
  • Sathu - Famous drink from Punjab
  • Sherbet (syrup mixed in water)
  • Sherbet-e-Sandal - Drink made with the essence of sandal wood
  • Sikanjabeen - Lemonade (mint is also added)
  • Sugarcane juice (Ganney ka ras)
  • Thaadal - A sweet drink from Sindh