Pakistani cuisine is the lesser-known food of the Indo-Pak and is rich in tradition, fabulous and diverse dishes. Pakistan was created in 1947 when India gained freedom from British colonial rule and was partitioned and has a predominantly Muslim population.
Although Pakistan is a relatively young country, the cuisine has developed over many more years and incorporated elements from its neighbors – India, Afghanistan, and Iran. The various regions also mean there is a wide range of different foods – from the fertile valleys and the sea of Sindh province; to pastoral Baluchistan from neighboring Iran; to Punjab with its five rivers and the rugged North West Frontier, home of the chapli kebab.
The blend of Indian, Far Eastern and Middle Eastern cooking techniques creates a distinctive mix of complex flavors. The use of pomegranate seeds in some meat dishes adds a sweet, sour note and reflects the Middle Eastern influence on the food.
Some essential dishes are slowly cooked, such as the famous haleem, a mix of pulses, meat and spices that are prepared for up to seven or eight hours. Pakistanis refer to it as ‘haleem, king of curry.’ It’s a thick stew, usually served with the fresh tastes of lemon, coriander, and ginger. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by beef, chicken, and goat. Ghee and yogurt are used in the cooking of many types of meat.
Pakistan is generally regarded as a bread culture, with meals being eaten with the right hand and naan bread or roti used to scoop up curries and accompaniments as is the practice in Muslim culture. Other favorite food includes chapati and paratha – fried bread stuffed with dhal or meat and vegetable mixtures.
Pakistan is also the birthplace of the tandoor oven, which is used to cook many of the bread as well as meats like chicken, lamb or fish. The rice in Pakistan is regarded amongst the best in the world with long grain basmati rice especially prized and used in the classic biryani, a spectacular combination of spiced rice that is usually cooked with meat but can also be vegetarian.
Sweets are abundant, using generous amounts of ghee, sugar, and nuts such as pistachios and almonds. Halva (meaning sweet) is one of the most popular desserts and can be made with flour or semolina but can also be made with carrot or pumpkin. Many sweets are also infused with fragrant essences like rosewater.
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