Pakistani food potrays the true muslim culinary culture that is predominant in Pakistan. The food culture is also prevalent along the northern border of India and from its neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. Meat dishes are plenty in Pakistani cuisine but a large range of vegetables and breads are also prepared. Pakistani dishes are characterized as rich and flavorful with the extensive use of aromatic spices, oil and butter.
Historical and Cultural Influences
The ubiquitous influence of Central and South Asian cuisines as well Middle Eastern cuisine over Pakistani food makes the Pakistani cuisine a blend of Asian flavors.Cooking styles and ingredients are relatively same as in the modern day Moghul cuisine that is followed in North India. Due to the colder temperature that exists in the northern part of the state, meat and meat related dishes are a plenty. Fish is cooked along the northern border and dishes are slightly spicier along the Indian border with Punjab.
Pakistani food variations are seen due to the neighboring states of Pakistan even though it’s the same state. For example, North and Western Pakistan has food that is influenced by its Afghani neighbor. Recipes here can be drier with lesser spices with large amounts of nuts and dried fruits used as ingredients as well as garnishes. Regions along the Sindh and Punjab prefer to use spicier gravies that are meat, chicken and fish based and which resemble South Asian cooking. Large cities usually have a mix of cuisines, restaurants and cooking styles.
Commonly Used Ingredients
Pakistani food has a mix of spicy, sweet, sour, and aromatics. These dishes also contain meat, fish, chicken cooked in oil or clarified butter, milk and cream to create richer dishes. Spices that are used include local spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, black pepper, cumin, caraway, and bay leaves. A ready made mix of spices called as garam masala is most commonly used in food as a substitute to flavor foods. Milk and related dairy products, and seasonal vegetables are also used all through the year.
There are a wide range of popular Pakistani recipes that are popular all over the country. For example-
- Aloo bukhara ki chutney is plum chutney or dried prunes stewed in sugar and served with Chicken or mutton biryani. A few chefs also serve the sweet chutney as an accompaniment to roasted and barbequed meat.
- Barbequed meats like seekh kebab, shammi kebab, Nihari kabab, tikka kebabs are very popular all over the state.
- Rice dishes like biryani, yakhni pulao, sweet pulao, mash pulau, are very common.
- Desserts like jelebi, panjiri, ice cream, kulfi, falooda, rabid, kheer, rasmalai, zarda, shahi tukda etc.
Popular Cooking Methods
There are a number of methods of cooking Pakistani food that are practiced in Pakistan. The northern districts prefer to open roast meats by the sajji method where lambs are whole roasted in open pits. Barbequing on open tandoors is common all through the state. Tandoor breads that are cooked in clay ovens with coals are common too. Tawa frying or pan frying, dum cooking or slow cooking in a sealed pot, and braising of tough cuts of meat are some of the other cooking methods employed in Pakistani culinary culture.
Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country and pork is taboo and food is strictly prepared following the Halal dietary guidelines.