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Cuisine in Pakistan
 
 
 

General

The cuisine of Pakistan can be described as a duplicate of South Asian cuisine and other regions: Central Asia, Middle East. Pakistani cuisine is known for its richness and flavour.

Within Pakistan, cuisine varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country's ethnic and cultural diversity. The cuisine in Eastern Pakistan, particularly Sindh can be very hot and spicy characterising the South Asian flavour. Food in Western Pakistan (and to some extent Punjab) particularly North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir involves the use of mild aromatic spices and relatively less oil is used characterising affinities to the Iranian and Central Asian peoples. The main course is served with wheat bread (naan) or rice. Salad is generally taken with the main course rather than before. Assorted fresh fruit or desserts are consumed for dessert. However, meat plays a 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 beef, goat, lamb and chicken. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts, though it was very popular in the coastal areas of Sindh and the Makran coast of Baluchistan, as well as the former East Pakistan.

International cuisine and fast food are popular in cities. Blending local and foreign recipes (fusion food) is common in large urban centres. Furthermore, as a result of lifestyle changes, ready made masalas (mixed and ready to use spices) are becoming increasingly popular. However, given the diversity of the people of Pakistan, cuisines generally differ from home to home and may be totally different than the mainstream Pakistani cuisine.

Garam masala (aromatic spices) is a very popular blend of spices used in many Pakistani dishes. In fact, Pakistani dishes are pretty much known for having aromatic and sometimes spicy flavours. Brown cardamom, green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace and black pepper are the other main ingredients used to make the wide variety of dishes throughout Pakistan. Cumin seeds, caraway and bay leaves are also very popularly used. In the Punjab province it is further diluted with coriander powder.

Curries

Curries, with or without meat, combined with local vegetables such as bitter gourd, cauliflower, eggplant, okra, cabbage, potatoes, rutabaga, saag are most common and cooked for everyday consumption.

An iconic Pakistani dish is karahi, either mutton or chicken cooked in a tomato sauce. This dish is enjoyed all over Pakistan and reflecting the country's diversity, karahi differs depending on the region in which it is being cooked.

Korma is a dish of Mughlai origin made of chicken or mutton, typically eaten with rice and is very popular in Pakistan.

Lentils

Various kinds of pulses also make up an important part of the Pakistani dishes. Lentils, called daal, have nevertheless traditionally been considered as an inexpensive food source and hotel/restaurants may only offer a limited variety of these dishes. Lentil dishes are also typically not served when guests are invited at home or during special occasions.

The one main exception is haleem (also known as Noah's pudding) which contains a variety of lentils, rice, wheat, barley, appropriate vegetables if desired and sometimes even figs along with meat. A batch of haleem will typically take over four to five hours to cook. Haleem is often served on religious occasions such as Muharram. A similar dish of Kashmiri origin is hareesa, which also incorporates all the above mentioned and stewed slowly over a stove.

BBQ Dishes

Barbecue food is extremely popular and is a speciality in Karachi and some cities of Punjab such as Lahore, Gujranwala and Sialkot and the North West Frontier Province. All BBQ dishes incorporate a variety of herbs and spices and are therefore very flavourful rather than being just dominated by chilli. Among well known dishes are chicken tikka, mutton tikka, sheekh kebab, Bihari kebab and chakna. Sajji is a Baluchi dish from Western Pakistan, made of lamb stuffed with rice, that has also become popular all over the country.

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 pullao, such as:

• yakhni pullao – meat and stock added; creates a brown rice;
• matar pullao – Palao made with peas;
• maash pullao – a sweet and sour palao baked with mung beans, apricots, and bulgur (a kind of wheat); exclusively vegetarian.

Biryani is a very popular dish in Pakistan and has many varieties such as Lahori and Sindhi biryani. Tahiri, which is also a form of vegetarian 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.


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