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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
A long skewer of Beef mixed with herbs and seasonings.
A spicy round kabab made of ground beef and cooked in animal fat which is a speciality of the North West Frontier Province.
A popular kabab that is found both with bone and without. Not so common as the traditional Kebabs.
The all lamb meat kabab is usually served as cubes.
Skewer of Beef mixed with herbs and seasoning.
grilled baby lamb chops (usually from the leg), typically marinated
A 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.
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.
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.
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).