Top 10 local foods to try in Pakistan

Ieva Miltina21 January 20224024 views7 min. read
Top 10 local foods to try in Pakistan
what is Pakistani cuisine about! Do you know what food do they eat in Pakistan? Don’t worry if you don’t, because in this article you will find out more about some of their popular dishes. And through that, you will also hear some stories that will open your eyes to the rich flavor universe of traditional Pakistani food. We will talk a bit about the general influences but then understand 10 items of the most popular food in Pakistan. And hopefully, you will get inspired. Either try making some of the dishes at home or travel to Pakistan to try the original taste of this unique cuisine. But let’s start from the beginning.

What is Pakistani cuisine like?

bombay biryani I can tell you immediately that it is tough to explain Pakistani cuisine in simple words. It is incredibly diverse because of the neighboring countries and influences. A blend of elements from India, Afghanistan, Iran, and other surrounding regions additionally to their Mughal legacy. The dishes from the Indian side are usually described as spicier and more seasoned, but the Persian ones - milder. And with this diversity, we also see a myriad of techniques and ingredients that make up a very diverse list of the most popular food in Pakistan. In big modern-day cities, fast food and fusion dishes are also quite typical (e.g., Pakistani Chinese cuisine), but let’s not delve too much into this topic. This article is more focused on distilling the natural flavor of authentic Pakistan.

How has the Islamic religion influenced Pakistani cuisine?

pakistani mix bbq That is quite an easy question if you are familiar with some of the aspects of Islam. But if you are not, let me explain a bit for insight. Understanding how has the Islamic religion influenced Pakistani cuisine is based on consuming pork, and alcohol is prohibited. Which has led Pakistani meals to lean more into other meats - beef, chicken, and others. It is rooted in the principles of Halal, and you can google about it to find out more information. But let’s cut to the chase and learn more about the famous food in Pakistan! What are items of traditional Pakistani food to try when going there?

1. Halwa Puri

halwa puri One of the typical dishes with Indian cuisine is this delicious breakfast combo. The name of the dish clearly states the two main parts of it. Puri is a soft fried flatbread, but halwa - a sweet semolina pudding spiced with cardamom and shaved almonds. It is quite a fantastic food and one to try if you are curious about new culinary experiences! And it is often served with spicy chickpea curry and potatoes.

2. Zarda

sweet rice If we are on the topic of sweet, then let’s continue with that. Typically served after a meal, zarda is one of the most common desserts in Pakistan and all Indian subcontinents. The name comes from the Persian word ‘zard’ that translates as yellow. And it is connected to the way the dish looks. This is a dish of sweet, boiled rice made with milk, sugar, cardamom, raisins, pistachios, and almonds. And the main ingredient that gives it a vibrant color is the added saffron. Very commonly eaten on special occasions like weddings, this historically has been a dish favored by emperors.

3. Sajji

sajji traditional food This dish originates from the Balochistan province in Pakistan and consists of marinated, skewered, and roasted whole lamb or chicken. Usually served with rice cooked inside or traditional Kaak bread, this is the ultimate flavor bomb where the meat flavors have obtained a unique and smokey flavor from roasting.

4. Nihari

beef nehari There is nothing better than a slow-cooked stew of meats, is it? And that is what nihari is - mainly shank meat of beef or lamb and mutton, or goat meat slowly stewed for long hours to develop the flavor together with the bone marrow and long pepper (pippali). In different regions of Pakistan, the rest of the spices and the heat level might differ, but it is nonetheless one of the most iconic dishes. To highlight the flavors, it is topped with ginger, garam masala, lemon, caramelized onions, cilantro, or other garnishes. And to keep all the goodness, eaten by soaking up the juices with naan, kulcha, or roti (types of flatbreads). Yum!

5. Paratha

traditional food Talking about flatbreads, let’s highlight one type of those. Native to the Indian subcontinent, this has become a staple also in Pakistani homes. The distinctive difference lies in how it is cooked, hence the name. The name consists of two parts - part and atta, and in the direct translation means layers of cooked dough. It is a unique technique where the fragile dough is rolled and then fried in butter or other substance creating an incredibly delicious flaky flatbread.

6. Chaat

chaat Originally, chaat is a mix of potato pieces, crisp fried bread (Dahi Vada or Dahi Bhalla types), gram or chickpeas, and tangy-salty spices, with sour Indian chili and saunth (dried ginger and tamarind sauce), fresh green coriander leaves, and yogurt for garnish. It is a savory snack originating in India and is often available from roadside tracks. Nowadays, the dish has evolved and may feature the most diverse ingredients while still served on a banana leaf, dried, and formed into a bowl or a small metal plate.

7. Seekh Kebab

seekh Minced meat roasted on a skewer is one of the favorite food concepts worldwide. In Pakistan, they are called seekh kebabs and made of ground lamb, beef, or chicken. The most crucial part is that they should be soft, succulent, and seasoned with typical locally available spices like ginger, garlic, green chili pepper, powdered chili, garam masala, lemon juice, cilantro, and mint leaves. Served with raita, green chutney, different salad, and naan bread, this easily comes on the top of the list of Pakistani dishes!

8. Chapli Kabab

delicious mutton Let’s continue with another type of kebab. This one is more like a burger and shallow-fried in oil. The distinctive difference is the charred exterior and the beef mixed with a South Asian blend of spices, served with a bun or pita bread alongside pickled red onions and raita. An authentic Pakistani burger if you may say!

9. Samosa

samosa food This is one of the most common dishes associated with Indian cuisine, but the concept is so delicious and comfortable for a filling snack that it is no surprise it caught on and spread wide in Pakistan. Samosa is a delicious dough pocket filled and deep-fried in oil. The shapes can be different, but the most familiar one is a triangle. The fillings differ from the region, but the most common would be based on potatoes or other vegetables. They even have sweet versions or serve just the fried dough with other dishes in some places. Just pick your favorite and try if you happen to have gone through the trouble of getting a Pakistan visa and traveled there.

10. Chicken Karahi

chicken karahi The name comes from the cooking dish - a particular pan or pot often compared to a flatter-bottom WOK pan. Poultry is mixed with red chili powder, cumin, garam masala, ginger, allspice, cardamom, tomatoes, and garlic and stewed for a while to absorb all the flavors. The easiest way to describe it shortly would be calling it a chicken curry. A similar version of the dish can be made with goat (Karahi Gosht) and is typically served with one of the flatbread types to soak up rice flavors. A very filling and delicious meal! Hopefully, now you have some impressions of what food do they eat in Pakistan! All these delicious dishes and information might have provided some insight into their culinary universe, and your perception of food has become broader. Even if it was just a curiosity about famous food in Pakistan, I hope you are inspired to find out more! Or who knows, maybe even try some of the flavors from the comfort of your own home. Or even get a Pakistan visa and travel to Pakistan to get authentic gastronomic experience provided my experienced hands of the local cookery masters. Whatever your case is, have a great day!

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