Cuisine of Pakistan

Cuisine of Pakistan

The Cuisine of Pakistan (Urdu: طعام پاکستانی ) can be described as a fusion of cuisine from three Asian regions: Central Asia, Middle East, and the South Asia. Pakistani cuisine is often spicy and is known for its richness. [Taus-Bolstad, S (2003), Pakistan in Pictures. Lerner Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0822546825]

Within Pakistan, cuisine varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country's ethnic, cultural and culinary diversity. The cuisine in Sindh and the Punjab can be very hot and spicy characterizing the South Asian flavour. Food in the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Northern Areas involves the use of mild aromatic spices and relatively less oil is used characterizing the Central Asian and Middle Eastern influence. The main course is served with wheat bread (tandoori bread) or rice. Salad is generally taken with the main course rather than before. Assorted fresh fruit or desserts are consumed for dessert.

Due to shared cultural history, Pakistani cuisine has some commonalities with Indian cuisine, especially north Indian cuisine. [] [] However, meat plays a more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. According to a 2003 report, an average Pakistani consumed three times more meat than an average Indian. [ [ Global Production and Consumption of Animal Source Foods] , The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 133:4048S-4053S, November 2003. Retrieved on 27 March 2007] Of all the meats, the most popular are: beef, goat, lamb, and chicken. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts.

International cuisine and fast food are popular in cities. Blending local and foreign recipes (fusion food) is common in large urban centres. Furthermore, as a result of lifestyle changes, ready made masalas (mixed and ready to use spices) are becoming increasingly popular. However, given the diversity of the people of Pakistan, cuisines generally differ from home to home and maybe be totally different than the mainstream Pakistani cuisine.


Curries, with or without meat, combined with local vegetables such as bitter gourd, cauliflower, eggplant, okra, cabbage, potatoes, rutabaga, saag and spinach are some of the most common and often cooked for everyday eating and drinking.

An iconic Pakistani dish is karahi, either mutton or chicken cooked in a tomato sauce. This dish is enjoyed all over Pakistan and to reflect the country's diversity, karahi differs a little depending on the region it is being cooked.


Various kinds of pulses also make up an important part of the Pakistani dishes.
Lentils, called dal, have nevertheless traditionally been considered as an inexpensive food source and hotel/restaurants may only offer a limited variety of these dishes. Lentildishes are also typically not served when guests are invited at home orduring special occasions. The one main exception is haleem which contains a variety of lentils along with meat. A batch of haleem will typically take over five hours to cook. A similar dish of Kashmiri origin is Hareesa, which also incorporates lentils and meat and is a slow cooked item


Barbecue food is extremely popular and is a speciality of various cities of Punjab such as Lahore, Gujranwala and Sialkot. All BBQ dishes incorporate a variety of herbs and spices and are therefore very flavourful rather than being just dominated by chilli.Among well known dishes are chicken tikka,Mutton Tikka, Sheekh Kebab, Bihari Kebab and chakna.
Sajji is a Baluchi dish from Western Pakistan, made of lamb stuffed with rice, that has also become popular all over the country.

Rice Dishes

Dishes made with rice include pullao and biryani.

All of the main dishes (except those made with rice) are eaten alongside bread. To eat, a small fragment of bread is torn off with the right hand and used to scoop and hold small portions of the main dish. Pickles made out of mangoes, carrots, lemon etc. are also commonly used to further spice up the food.

Varieties of bread

Non-Punjabi Pakistanis eat flat round bread (roti) as a staple part of their daily diet. Basmati is the most popular type of rice consumed and is the staple in Punjab, Pakistan. Pakistan has a variety of breads, often prepared in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. Some of these are:

* Chapatis - Most common bread at home, made of whole wheat flour. They are thin and unleavened.
* Naan - Unlike chapatis, naans are slightly thicker, typically leavened with yeast and mainly made with white flour. They may also be sprinkled with sesame seeds called Kulcha. They are often served with Sri Paya and Nihari for breakfast.
* Tandoor bread - These are extremely popular all over Pakistan. They are baked in a clay oven and are consumed with just about anything.
* Roghni naan - Naan sprinkled with sesame seeds and covered with a minute amount of oil.
* Sheermal - Prepared with milk and butter, and is a vital part of food served in marriages, along with Taftan. It is often sweetened and is particularly enjoyed by the kids.
* Taftan. This is a leavened flour bread with saffron and small cardamom powder baked in a clay oven.
* Kandahari naan - Long naan originally from Western Pakistan.
* Paratha - A flat many layered chapati separated by ghee (similar to pastry dough), originating from Punjab. Parathas are commonly eaten for breakfast and can also be served with a variety of stuffing.
* Puri - Is typically eaten with Halwa or Bhujia (made out of chickpeas and potatoes).

Halwa Purian or Bhujia with Puri (now commonly known as Poorian) has also become a typical breakfast in Pakistan. They are sold sometimes on make shift carts or otherwise in breakfast stores.


A Middle Eastern influence on Pakistani cuisine is the popularity of grilled meats such as kababs or kebabs. Kababs from Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province tend to be identical to the Afghan style of barbecue, with salt and coriander being the only seasoning used while kebabs in Sindh tend to be spicy. Lahore is famous for its kebabs and they are spicy and are often marinated in a mixture of spices, lemon juice and yoghurt.

Meat including beef, chicken, and lamb are prominent in Pakistani cuisine. Kababs made out of lamb and chicken such as Seekh kebab, Shami kebab and Chapli kebab (a speciality of Peshawar) are especially popular. Pork is not consumed in Pakistan due to Islamic dietary laws.

Types of kebabs (mainly made of Beef or Lamb) are:

*Seekh Kebab (سيخ کباب) A long skewer of Beef mixed with herbs and seasonings.
*Shami Kabab (شامي کباب)A Shami Kabab is a small patty of minced beef or chicken and ground chickpeas and spices.
*Chapli Kabab (چپلي کباب)A spicy round kabab made of ground beef and cooked in animal fat which is a speciality of the North West Frontier Province.
*Chicken Kabab (مرغ کباب)A popular kabab that is found both with bone and without. Not so common as the traditional Kebabs.
*Lamb Kabab (کبابِ برہ گوشت)The all lamb meat kabab is usually served as cubes.
*Bihari Kabab (بﮩاری کباب)Skewer of Beef mixed with herbs and seasoning.
*Shishleek grilled baby lamb chops (usually from the leg), typically marinated
*Bun KababA unique kabab sandwich.

Alhamra Restaurant and Bundukhan Kebab House are famous through Pakistan for their taste and variety of Kebabs. Kebab House is the most profitable food business in Pakistan.


Popular desserts include Peshawari Ice cream, Sheer Khurma, Kulfi, Falooda, Kheer , Rasmalai, Zerdah, Firini, Gajer ka Halwah, Karachi halwa, and Rubri. Pakistan has a long list of sweets. Some of the most popular are Gulab jamun, Barfi, Qalaqand and various kinds of Halvah like Multani Sohen Halvah and Hubshee Halwah.Famous sweets shop include Sohny Sweets Clifton, Dilpasand Sweets, Nirala Sweets etc.


Pakistanis drink a great deal of tea (chai). Both black and green tea (sabz chai/ qehwa) are popular though qehwa is often served after every meal in the NWFP province. Kashmiri chai, a pink milky tea with pistachios and cardamom, is drunk primarily at weddings and during the winter when it is sold in many kiosks. In northern Pakistan (Chitral and the Northern Areas), salty buttered Tibetan style tea is consumed.

Besides tea, there are other drinks that may be included as part of the Pakistani cuisine. All of them are non-alcoholic as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited by Islam.

*Lassi - Milk with yoghurt, with an either sweet or salty taste
* Gola Ganda - Different types of flavours over crushed ice
*Sugarcane juice (Ganaay ka ras)
* Almond Sherbet
* Sherbet-e-Sandal - Drink made with the essence of Sandle wood
* Kashmiri Chai/Gulabi chai - A milky sweet tea/pink tea
* Spicy Chai

During the 20th century, drinks such as coffee and cold drinks (soft drinks) have also become popular in Pakistan. It is very common to have cold drinks nowadays with Pakistani meals.

Eating Habits

Pakistanis generally consume three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. During evening time, many families have tea which goes along with baked/fried goods from local bakery (or prepared at home). During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the eating patterns change to: Sehri and Iftar.

Breakfast (nāshtā ناشتا)

A typical Pakistani breakfast consists of: eggs (boiled/scrambled/fried/omelete), slice bread (pan fried/toasted), parathas (lacha/qeema/normal) with tea , qeema (mince meat), fresh fruits (mangoes, apples, bananas), milk, honey, butter, jam, shami kababs, and nuts. During holidays and weekends, halwa puri is also favoured. In the Punjab area and in industrial Karachi, breakfast might include nihari and siri-payee. Due to the hot weather and comparatively more amounts of physical activity, Pakistani breakfasts tend to be very heavy.


A typical Pakistani lunch consists of meat curries or lentils along with bread or rice. Another popular lunch dish is potatoes with meat. Other curries such as meat combined with cabbage or biryani is also popular. Alternatively, for workers, nihari, bun kebab sandwich, and fried fish is regarded highly.


Dinner is considered the main meal of the day as the whole family gathers for the occasion. Lentils are almost never consumed for dinner as they are usually considered a day time meal. Food which requires more preparation and is more savoury (such as haleem, pulao, kebabs) are prepared. These are served with rice or bread (or both) along with yoghurt, and salad. The dinner may (not commonly) be followed by dessert ranging anything from simple gulab jamun or ras malai to something different (i.e. apple pie or ice cream).

See also

* Food Street
* Culture of Pakistan
* Nihari Houses
* List of Pakistani spices
* List of Pakistani condiments


External links

* [ Watch Pakistani Cooking Videos]
* [ Menu Lahore - A blog about eating out in Lahore]
* [ A comprehensive database of Pakistani recipes]
* [ Pakistani Recipes]
* [ Pakistani Food]
* [ PakiRecipes, largest recipes post]
* [ Pakistani recipes]
* [ Pakistan Food]
* [ Traditional Pakistani Food Recipes & Cooking Videos in Urdu and English]
* [ Eating the Pakistani way]

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