By Sumayya Jamil @pukkapaki
Pakistan is a young country but its cuisine is steeped in history, it boasts one of the oldest civilizations of the world, the Indus Valley Civilization that were inhabited by Dravidians. It is the history of the land of Pakistan that maps the journey of it’s cuisine the best. Our food is heavily influenced by Central Asian, Turkish, Persian, Arab cuisine and the reason for this is the geographical position of Pakistan hence these were the areas that were invaded first and inhabited by these races.
By the time these communities ended up in the plains of the Ganges, they had lost their gusto and cultural differences and hence the strong initial influence of their cuisines were felt most in the area that now forms Pakistan. Later on their simple bland food was injected with spices they discovered in India. The food later developed into ‘Mughalai food’, eaten by the Persian emperors that ruled India for hundreds of years, which was rich, creamy meaty and full of spice – a real fusion of the region and the invaders.
After the independence of Indian and Pakistan, there was mass migration. Pakistan was now bustling with a huge Muslim population that migrated from other parts of India, bringing with them different culinary traditions. Additionally, there were the people of the land that made up Pakistan, the Sindhi’s with a rich vibrant and ancient culture, Balouchis, Punjabis and the people in the north of Pakistan who are greatly influenced by Persian and Afghani food. The food of the minority communities also had an impact on our cuisine. As a result, Pakistani food has developed into an authentically different cuisine – it is a melting pot of cross-cultural and boarder food traditions.
Around the world, Pakistani food is almost always understood to be the same as Indian. Though the two countries share history and a and, there differences in our cuisines are evident because of regional, territorial and religious reasons. Additionally, Pakistani food is different, in aroma, methods of cooking, taste and the way we use spices and the ingredients.
Our food is meat heavy and we love to barbeque, a lot of that is because of our Central Asian roots and the direct influences of the regions that surround Pakistan as well as the races of people that inhabit the regions. Our vegetables are simple and no meal is complete without both rice and bread. Pakistani food is alive with haunting aromas rather than just chili– warmth from spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, mace combines combines with browned onions, tomatoes and yoghurt – cooked with the Pakistani way, which is cooking under *‘dum’* which is under steam, and also *‘bhuno’*, which involves stir frying for a long time to release aromas – all this add a distinct flavour that defines Pakistani food.
In Pakistan cooking is described as the celebration of each ingredient and sharing years of developed techniques in each dish with passion, knowing and understanding what each spice brings to your final dish is key. The flavours of Pakistani cuisine are unique. Slow cooking, braising meat in curry, barbequing are some of the many distinct techniques that identify cooking the Pakistani way. A land as diverse as its people, we have an array of very different flavours within the country, ranging from hot spicy food in the South to the simple grilled meats in the North. Pakistani food is meat heavy and much of this is due to the influences of the boarder cuisines in the North from Iran and Afghanistan together with such varied climate and people with roots in Arab and Persia. Vegetables cooked simply and rice or bread (sometimes both!) are always on the menu.
Pakistani cuisine is the result of a melting pot of cultures, religions, immigrants and it’s direct influences from the Mughal Empire. Additionally there has been a strong influence by the people of Central Asia, Arabia and
Turks who entered India from the part that forms Pakistan today. The result is that the cuisine is identifiably different from Indian cuisine and with a unique aroma that is rich and haunting – this is a result of using warming spices such as cinnamon, star anise, poppy seeds – these are the flavours that resonate from every dish indigenous to Pakistan. Pakistan is a country build on the love of food, there is no facet of life that doesn’t involve food – people would rather starve than not feed their guest their last meal and food centres every happy or solemn occasion. You sense this from the moment you walk into any city, town or village in Pakistan – To Pakistani’s food is everything and if you give us something to eat, you win our hearts forever!
Follow Sumayya on her blog: PukkaPaki.com
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