By Meher Inayat:
Within Pakistan, the cuisine varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity. However, Pakistani cuisine is originated from the Indian subcontinent. At present, India and Pakistan, despite being two separate countries, practice a similar culture under two different flags. Pakistan comprises four provinces; so these regions have their own food habits while having a lot in common with the Indian regions, especially north India.
Pakistani cuisine is similar to that of India especially when it comes to the people of Sindh and Punjab (Pakistan), who have the same food habit. The daily food in most Sindhi households consists of a wheat-based flat-bread and is accompanied by two dishes of rice along with other gravy-based dishes. Also, the food habit of the people depends majorly on their religion. For example, pork is forbidden in Islam, so Muslims focus on ingredients such as beef, lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables and traditional fruit and dairy products. Similarly, Hindu Sindhi cuisine is almost identical with the difference that beef is omitted. Sindhi food is mainly influenced by Central Asia, Middle Eastern cuisine, and also by the South Asian culture. In addition, celebrations in both the countries are similar, so on special occasions; particular types of food are served. For example, during Eid, Muslims sacrifice animals and serve sweets, the same way Hindus distribute sweets during Holi and Diwali. In contrast, Muslims in the Middle East serve different types of food during their celebrations and this only means that Pakistani Muslims are following the culture of the subcontinent because they were a part of it.
Punjabis, in Pakistan, being foodies do not compromise on their food habits. Punjabi cuisine is famous for its diverse range in both the countries. Punjabis mostly like oily and spicy food. They prefer parathas, dairy products like lassi and ghee, especially makki di roti, which is laden with the same. Punjabi cuisine is largely consumed in most of Pakistani ceremonies – right from weddings to birthday celebrations. Furthermore, Punjab is famous for pallows, biryani, qorma, haleem, nihari, various types of lentils and pulses and they are extremely common. Punjab being the biggest province of Pakistan, influences the food culture of the entire country, just like India. No matter where these dishes originated from, within the boundaries of Pakistan, they are essentially considered to be Punjabi and this Punjabi food is greatly influenced by Indian cuisine.
In contrast, there are places in Pakistan who have their cultures highly influenced by Afghanistan. These are mainly the northern areas of Pakistan, Balochistan province, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In these places, Punjabi and Sindhi food is certainly consumed, but they mostly boast of their own local food. For example in the northern areas of Pakistan, the people mostly eat dairy products and make local dishes using milk and butter. In ceremonies, they serve their own local dishes and sometimes serve biryani among other common Pakistani dishes. Northern areas are popular for dry fruits which impart a heavenly taste to the local dishes.
On the other hand, prominent Baloch dishes such as the lamb-skewed Sajji and Balochi Rosh (a lamb dish) have gained enormous popularity among different parts of Pakistan, including the food hubs of Karachi and Lahore. In ceremonies, different dishes are served such as Kaak, a rock-hard prepared bread and Dampukht which is prepared using meat which is cooked in fat. Other than that, Khadi Kabab, and fish are other notable elements of the cuisine of Balochistan. These dishes differ from the ones served in India. Pakistani cuisine, however, is a combination of various traditions of South Asia, especially that of India.