One single article cannot do comprehensive justice to the intricacies of the delights of Pakistan. You may have the impression that it shares most of its cuisine with bordering countries, such as India. But while this conjecture is right, it is at the same time a little over-stretched. And this delicacy of food in Pakistan is present in chicken dopiaza in Dubai.
Moreover, entrenched in a cluster of other closely-related cuisines, the Pakistani menu has notably assimilated cooking styles from Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. This blend comprises dishes such as Dhal Makhani and Biryani, a diversification of textures and flavors. To truly understand Pakistani cuisine, we must recognize what makes it stand out from the rest. To begin with, most dishes are seasoned with different blends of spices and seasonal herbs compared to neighboring countries. The results are those irresistible, blooming aromatic flavors.
Explore the style of Pakistani cuisine
Much Pakistani cooking is based on traditional Pashtun cuisine, comprising lamb and goat, with luscious and delicate textures. Most meals are accompanied by an assortment of rice and flattened bread (from wheat), both staple foods. Many of the most popular dishes of Pakistan are vegetarian-friendly, such as Aloo Mutter, prepared with peas and potatoes. Legume dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients from local markets and turned into spicy curries quickly and easily during hot afternoons or dinner rush hours. Luckily, if that is the case, you can always find alternatives that make good substitutes for the main ingredients, and the result will always be delicious.
Famous local dishes
Peshawari chapli kebab
Commonly served with raita or chutney, Chapli kebabs go fast at any time of day. Whether you prepare them at home or get them fresh in the street, the mixture of minced beef, spices, and a few hours of marination is simply delicious.
Saag makhan with makki
Sarson da saag is a popular dish eaten in Pakistan, particularly during winter. It comprises a healthy mix of mustard leaves, spinach, goosefoots (a herbaceous flowering plant), fenugreek, and various spices. The ingredients are then blended. It may take some time to make; it is a mouthwatering dish. When it comes to winters in Pakistan, many areas offer a further assortment of saag as a relish. In Punjabi, saag refers to greens; in this case, they are prepared with a sort of spinach, green chilies, Makhan (butter), and mustard leaves, among others.
It is another enjoyable dish in Pakistan cuisine but is very popular in Lahore. While it may look like regular chicken curry, it is notable for its spicy taste as well as the rich sauce that the chicken is in. The dish is prepared in a karahi (wok), where it gets its name. Chicken is the most popular meat used, but it can be substituted for lamb, which is when it becomes gosht karahi. Even though the chicken is flavourful, the sauce contains intense spice. Combining the two is one of the reasons why it is popular in Lahore. Chicken karahi is served with naan or roti along with raita.
Chaat is a unique dish of the sub-continent and one of the best foods in Karachi Pakistan. It is loved by people of all ages and is usually eaten as a snack because it is light and is widely available at food vendors. The original chaat is made using potato, crispy fried bread, chickpeas, and spices to give a tangy and slightly salty flavor. Chaat can also include chopped onions and sev. The wide variety and the fact that you can get it easily make chaat one of the best regional foods in Pakistan.
Puri is a bread made out of maida (All-purpose flour), which is then deep fried in oil. It is served alongside halwa, which is a sweet confection made of semolina. The two elements create a sweet and savory balance of flavors, and its lightness makes it ideal for breakfast. It is usually served with chickpeas and potatoes for added flavor and texture. This popular dish is not only enjoyed in Lahore (Pakistan) but also in other Pakistani regions as well as parts of India. The unique combination of flavors is what keeps people coming back for more.
Last on the list of locally popular cuisines is the zarda pulao. It is a special recipe most common during ‘The Eid festivals. Zarda is a Persian word referring to yellow, the rice’s predominant color. This rice dish, also known as meethe chawal, is favored for its distinctive sweet taste and saffron.
Pakistani meat dishes
Butt karahi can be prepared with either chicken or mutton. In Lahore, you will find it prepared commonly with beef. Also, the preparation method varies from city to city. Despite the differences, in most cases, the taste remains the same. But if you stop at Islamabad, brace yourself for the best karahi ever. It is strong in spices and full of fat, so you might want to take it easy if you have any preexisting medical conditions.
The city of Hyderabad in Sindh has a particular fondness for this stew dish. However, it is a time-consuming dish to prepare. Haleem uses wheat, barley, minced beef, lamb or chicken, lentils, and spices. Rice is sometimes included. Once everything is combined, it is slow-cooked for seven to eight hours. The flavors are blended when making haleem, and it becomes paste-like. It is usually served alongside naan and fried onions for added texture.
Traditionally, sajji is a lamb dish served with bread known as roti or naan. It has roots in the Baluchistan province and is baked in a tandoor oven. It is worth noting that different spices lead to subtle disparities taste-wise. But in most commercial cases, chicken is used in place of mutton. Sajji is a portion of popular street food in most cities, and the mildly seasoned chicken and piquant aromas will catch your attention.
With cheap and readily available chicken, much is made of the humble capon. Marinated in a combination of spices and yogurt infuses the entire bird in delicate flavors. The best way to go is to use freshly slaughtered chicken. It is more succulent and quickly absorbs the spices blended with yogurt. Next, the chicken is left in the refrigerator overnight. For the healthier version, the chicken is roasted, known as tandoori chargah. But the old-fashioned way is to deep-fry it.
You could reasonably say this is similar to pulao, but it isn’t. Both are rice dishes with generously seasoned spices. However, biryani is served as a main dish, unlike pulao, a side dish for gravy-based dishes such as dar. Other Pakistani Biryanis that might blow your breath away include the Sindhi biryani, originating from the Sindh province, and the infamous bone marrow biryani from Karachi.
Nihari originated during the Mughal Era and consists of slow-cooked meat, typically shank meat of beef, mutton, and bone marrow. People from northern India brought the dish to Karachi following Partition. It quickly became a success, and soon its popularity grew all over Pakistan. It became known as Pakistan’s national dish, and it is easy to see why. The tender meat in a rich sauce creates a wonderful combination.
The bottom line is that although you could prepare these delicacies in the comfort of your own home, you will get so much more if you plan a trip to Pakistan. And you will experience and explore all the other dishes that didn’t fit on this page. So, the next time you get the chance, book some tickets to Pakistan and experience these 12 most popular delicacies firsthand.