Food & Drink
Food Pakistan’s rich variety of different kinds of cuisine is based on curry or masala (hot and spicy) sauces accompanying chicken, lamb, shrimps and a wide choice of vegetables. The word ‘curry’ is an English derivative of kari, meaning spice sauce, but curry does not, in Pakistan, come as a powder. It is the subtle and delicate blending of spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seed. Like an artist’s palette of oil paints, the Pakistani cook has some 25 spices (freshly ground as required) with which to mix the recognized combinations or masalas. Many of these spices are also noted for their medicinal properties and, like the basic ingredients, vary from region to region.The types of flatbread (collectively referred to as Nan are:
Nan – A soft and thick bread that often requires special clay ovens and cannot be properly made on home stoves. It is recognized by its larger, white exterior.
Roti/Chapatti – A homemade bread that doesn’t have as much flavor as naan. It is a cheap alternative that is ready in minutes.
Paratha – An extremely oily version of the roti. Usually excellent if you’re going out to eat, but beware of health concerns; often it is literally dripping with oil because it is meant to be part of a rich meal. Pratha is more declicious if you cook it in pure oil like “desi ghee”.
Sheer Mal – This is a slightly sweetened, lightly oiled bread that has waffle-like squares punched in it. It is often considered the most desirable bread and is a delicacy to most people. Often paired with nihari.
Taftan – Much like the sheer mal but with a puffed-up ring around it. This is generally just as good as the sheer mal but easier to eat liquidy shorba with.
Specialties include brain masala, biryani (seasoned rice with mutton,
chicken and yoghurt), pilao (similar but less spicy) and sag gosht (spinach
and lamb curry). Common throughout Pakistan is Dal (crushed lentil soup with
various additional vegetables), and Dahi, the curd or yogurt which
accompanies the curry. Besides being tasty, it is a good ‘cooler’; more
effective than liquids when things get too hot.
Lahore is the centre for Mogul-style cuisine known as moghlai. Specialities include chicken tandoori, shish kebabs (charcoal-grilled meat on skewers), shami-kebabs (patties of chopped meat fried in ghee or butter), tikka-kebabs (grilled lamb or beef seasoned and spiced) and chicken tikka (highly seasoned chicken quarters, charcoal-grilled).Shami Kabab is mixture of mince meat and daal (pulses), both of which are ground together with spices and made into round flat patties, and then fried in oil. Chapli Kababs: A peshawari speciality, is only mince with spices made into patties and fried in oil too. Koftas are mince balls with various fillings. These are then cooked and served in a rich spicy gravy.
Desserts include pastries, shahi tukray (slices of fried
bread cooked in milk or cream, sweetened with syrup and topped with nuts and
saffron), halwa (sweetmeat made with eggs, carrots, maize cream, sooji and
nuts) and firni (similar to vanilla custard). Sweets are principally
milk-based puddings, pastries and pancakes. Available throughout Pakistan is
Kulfi, the Pakistani ice cream, Rasgullas (cream cheese balls flavored with
rose water), Gulab Jamuns (flour, yogurt and ground almonds), and Jalebi
(pancakes in syrup). Besides a splendid choice of sweets and sweetmeats,
there is an abundance of fruit, both tropical – mangoes, pomegranates and
melons – and temperate – apricots, apples and strawberries. Western
confectionery is available in major centers.Western and Chinese foods are
also widely available.
The national drink is tea, drunk strong with milk and often very sweet. Many of the varieties are enjoyed throughout the world. It will often come ready-brewed with milk and sugar. Coffee is increasingly popular. Nimbu Pani (lemon drink), Lassi (iced buttermilk) and coconut milk straight from the nut are cool and refreshing. Soft drinks (usually sweet) and bottled water are widely available. Alcohol may be bought at major hotels by visitors who have been issued a Liquor Permit from the Excise and Taxation Office. Wine is expensive and only available in upscale restaurants. Pakistani-brewed beer is widely available, as are canned carbonated drinks. There are no bars since there are strict laws concerning alcohol, and it is illegal to drink in public. Waiter service is provided in the larger hotels and restaurants. Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap; bottled water is available everywhere, but it is necessary to make sure it comes in properly sealed plastic bottles.
Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized. Milk is unpasteurized and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised, but make sure that it is reconstituted with pure water. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.