Have you ever treated yourself to the unique and vibrant flavors of Pakistani cuisine? The food of Pakistan is a paradise for food lovers!
Pakistani cuisine is known for its blend of species, flavors, and aromas. You will find curries, meat dishes, and succulent kebabs blooming with a romantic aroma that will make your cravings uncontrollable. The food culture of Urdu people has evolved over the centuries and has offered a range of flavorful items, making it one of the most beloved cuisines of South Asia.
With its rich cultural heritage, Pakistani dishes have surpassed the boundaries of its country and have made millions of people satisfy their appetites worldwide. So, if you love experiencing different spices and flavors, you cannot miss out on Pakistani food.
However, food for Urdu people is beyond just delicious cuisine. Their practices of preparing and concocting dishes are rooted in their history and local customs. So, today, we will walk through the Urdu food culture with a closer look at the traditions and customs.
I am sure our previous blog, famous food items of Pakistan, has already given you a brief idea. So, if you are interested to learn more about the food culture of Pakistan, continue reading!
Food Culture Of Urdu People: Geographical Influence
Although the taste of Pakistani cuisine is true to its original roots, it has been shaped by its geographical location and cultural history. Since Pakistan was once a land in India and has multiple religions and ethnicities, the development of the food culture revolves around these factors.
One of the most influential elements that we find in Pakistani cuisine is the inculcation of spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cardamom. These spices and their adoption mainly lead to the cultural practices of its bordering countries, India, Afghanistan, and India.
Even the use of rice dishes, flatbread, and other ingredients like black pepper, chili powder, and more are a factor of the geographical influence of its neighboring counties. Although Pakistani dishes have their own hint of blending flavors, the introduction to different species has been a part of the regional cooking traditions.
Another major factor that led to the evolution of Pakistani food is colonialism. When colonialism came to India, the time Pakistan and India were one nation, many dishes were adapted to suit the preferences of the British members. This led to the vehement fusion of many different flavors, which then provided unique versions of all dishes.
While the dish biriyani, the famous rice dish of India and Pakistan, was first brought by the Mughals of Persia, the use of long-grained basmati rice was the concoction of British preferences. Hence, many dishes got mixed and matched, and new ways of preparing and serving them were founded.
Lastly, there will always be confusion regarding the items of Indian cuisine and Pakistani food recipes. Although both countries have similar cooking practices like the tandoor oven, use of fresh fruits in desserts, and garam masala, also because they once shared the same roots, there is a slight difference between the two. You will find Pakistani dishes using fewer spices than Indian items. The use of mustard seeds and Asofoetida, along with cumin and curry leaves are more intense in India than in Pakistan.
Another difference is the use of minced meat and heavily meat-based items in Pakistan. Indians use more vegetables and a range of herbs in different items. So, you can see that despite similarities, Pakistani culture will always have unique food traditions.
Staple Food Of Pakistan
Let us talk about the staple food of Pakistan and some popular dishes that are rooted in the everyday life of the Urdu people.
Rice – Chawal
Just like any other Asian country, Pakistan is a fan of rice too. You will find so many famous and intriguing dishes in Pakistan that are mainly rice based. Especially Pakistani rice, the long-grained Basmati rice, with an interesting aroma, is the most popular rice that is used in every other dish.
The Pakistani chicken biriyani, a combination of chicken and rice, is the most loved and popular rice dish in the country. Especially in the Karachi and Peshawar region, it is one of the signature dishes. It is prepared on the steam of chicken curry and boiled rice, along with brown onions and lemon juice. You will find many versions of Biriyani in Pakistan.
Some of the most popular ones are the beef biriyani, white biriyani, and pulao biriyani. There is also a dish called tahari, which is made of yellow turmeric rice. If you are vegetarian, Pakistani tahari is a good option for you. All in all, Biriyani is a traditional dish of Pakistan, and you will find this in every household, mainly during lunch and dinner.
Vegetarian pulao is another popular dish made of rice that is a gem for vegetarian people. Although there are rarely any vegetarian dishes in Pakistan, since almost every person is a non-vegetarian, you will find a few items like this that are equally good. It is a combination of rice and vegetables cooked with extra ghee and aromatic spices. If you love dishes like fried rice, you will fall in love with this.
Apart from rice, another comfort food of the Pakistani people is flatbread. You will find this item even in the Indian subcontinent, where every household cooks it for lunch and dinner. Similarly, the Lahore city of the Punjab province of Pakistan is the carrier of this staple food. One of the most famous traditional Pakistani dishes, a variant of flatbreads, is the butter naan. It is also called tandoori naan, prepared in a tandoor oven for a long time, hence the name. Otherwise, you will find rotis, which is another kind of flatbread, popular in India, made in a flat or slightly concave iron griddle.
Butter naan is usually consumed with a meat curry, usually lamb meat, as the main dish. It is savory and filling, which is why it is mostly served during lunch or dinner. When it comes to breakfast, you will find a different version of flatbread called parantha. It is golden brown and made with a combination of layered dough of whole wheat flour and stuffings like boiled chickpeas, boiled potatoes, garlic, onion, and many more. It is served with pickles, butter, and seasonal fruits.
First of all, let us be clear that mutton or lamb meat means the meat from a sheep that is older than two years and is much darker with bold flavors that settle as it is slow-cooked. With this being said, mutton is one of the most sought-after or staple items of the Pathans of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as sheep are reared in that region. Meat plays a dominant role in the Pakistani cuisine. Especially when it comes to Mutton, Pakistan is the highest consumer of this meat compared to other South Asian countries.
From Mutton nihari to Mutton biriyani, you will find mutton as a main item in a lot of dishes. Some of the most popular mutton dishes are balti gosht, Pakistani bhuna gosht, and mutton karahi. These savory dishes are served with spiced rice, flatbreads, fresh salad, yoghurt, and sometimes, rice pudding.
Other than lamb or mutton, other meats like chicken, beef, and fish play a major role in the cuisine. However, one thing to be strictly aware of is that you cannot eat pork. According to Islamic traditions, pork is a forbidden food. And anyone who consumes it is disowned by the community.
As we are talking about the comfort food of Urdu people, another famous dish that the locals die for is Kebab. It is more of a type of preparation than an item. Kebab is where you mince meat and flatten them or roll them into patties or thin sausages. There are chapli kebabs– made of ground beef, and sheek kebabs– made of lamb meat, found in almost every Pakistani restaurant. It is even a popular part of Pakistani street food, and every average Pakistani society cooks kebabs whenever they have guests over.
You can consume kebabs individually or with flatbreads and rice. It is a delicious delicacy that will water your mouth from miles away.
Time Of Ramadan
One of the major traditions in the Islamic world is seen in the month of Ramadan. This month is the ninth month in the Arabic calendar and is considered the holiest month. During this month, 29-30 days, Muslim people fast as an act of worship to Allah. The purpose behind this is to teach oneself self-discipline and empathy. People during this time fast and ask for strength and forgiveness for their families.
People fast the entire day till sunset during Ramadan. They do not drink, eat, or even swallow their saliva during the daylight hours. However, once it is sunset, they have their meal, known as Iftar. And just before dawn, they have another meal, after which they fast for the entire day.
The Iftar is a very special meal. They break their fast with this meal. Traditionally, three dates are taken to break the fast. Then, the celebration begins and is often done as a community meal with family members and friends gathering to eat and break their fast together. Some of the most popularly served dishes during Iftar are keema samosas, chicken biriyani, parantha and chickpeas, fruit chaat, lamb kebabs, halwa puri with desi ghee, traditional desserts like sheer korma, sewaiyan, suji ka halwa, and more.
So, having a meal together in Pakistan has a deep-rooted religious background and is not just about the deliciousness of the food. However, we can never overlook how unique and flavorful the dishes are.
Pakistani Cooking Methods
Here is a list of traditional cooking methods for Pakistani dishes.
Bhunai: It is used to cook meat by removing excess water from the item and later used to enhance flavor. Mutton Bhunai is a popular dish in Pakistan, usually served with Roomali roti.
Tarka: It is a way of adding a small amount of ghee or oil to a pan on high heat and then cooking onion, garlic, and ginger. After that, the required ingredients are cooked with the burnt mix. From dal (lentils) to meat curry, a lot of dishes are made using this method.
Dum: It is a way where the items use their juice to cook themselves. It uses low flame, where slow cooking makes the meat pieces very tender and delicate to eat. Aloo dum biriyani and chicken dum biriyani are some popular examples.
Tandoori: As mentioned earlier, it uses a tandoor oven, where a direct fire at the bottom heats the walls of the tandoor and cooks the dough pasted on the sides. This is how tandoori roti is made. Even with chicken, the chicken pieces are inserted in the oven with skewers and heated up over direct fire.
Learn Urdu With The Ling App
Did the above facts excite you to visit Pakistan soon? If yes, I suggest you go through some more content on Urdu culture, food items, and even the Urdu language, such as basic words and travel vocabulary. You can access these by downloading the Ling app from App Store or Play Store.
It is one of the best language learning apps that hire expert writers to provide exciting language content. It covers 60+ languages, which gives you the liberty to learn the language of your choice. The best part of the app is the AI chatbot, which will engage you in interactive lessons, making you fluent in Urdu in no days. So, if you are interested in learning Urdu, download the app now!