If you’ve had a chance to experience Pakistani food, you probably know it is influenced by its neighboring regions of India, Iran, Central Asia, Western Asia, and the Middle East. For instance, in Pakistani cuisine Indian spices (cumin, fennel, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, cloves, garam masala, chili pepper, and saffron) may be used to season Iranian-style roast meat, pomegranates may be incorporated into meat dishes (an inclusion seen throughout the Middle East), or dried fruits, desi ghee, and rice may be included in dishes, all three of which are influenced by the Mughal royals.
If you plan to visit Pakistan, make sure to get your hands on these 6 most popular Pakistani dishes that are loved by the locals. These dishes will help you explore the rich food culture of Pakistan, which represents a myriad of ingredients, techniques, and cooking methods from throughout South Asia.
Salt-marinated, skewered, and roasted whole chicken or lamb is a popular Pakistani dish that has origins in the province of Balochistan. Sajji is traditionally roasted over open fires and usually stuffed with potatoes or rice, and is thus a go-to food for outdoor get-togethers and backyard parties.
The word “nihari” originated from the Arabic “nihar” meaning “morning”, so you won’t be surprised to know that Nihari is a famous Pakistani brunch dish of stewed beef shanks or mutton that are fall-off bone tender. This dish is pleasantly flavorful with a buttery-rich, dripping sauce that’s savored with naan or chapati.
Biryani is the most loved dish in Pakistani cuisine, and there’s a never-ending debate whether biryani or nihari be given the status of the national dish of Pakistan. It’s a meaty rice dish with alternate layers of buttery meat curry, fragrant saffron rice, crispy browned onions, parsley, and lemon wedges. Biryani is steamed to unify the flavors of its many ingredients, resulting in a rich, aromatic, and umami-rich dish that’s hard to resist.
4) Halwa Puri
Halwa puri is yet another breakfast meal from Pakistani cuisine that incorporates sweet, salty, and sour all in one. Halwa, although a major component of this brunch dish, is a complete sweet dish on its own, prepared from semolina, saffron, sugar, and dry fruits. The “puri” refers to the fluffy-crispy deep-fried bread that’s served with halwa, chickpea stew, crispy onion salad, and zingy mango pickle on the side for a complete brunch meal.
You’ll find chaat abundantly across the streets of Pakistan. Among many other street foods, chaat is a healthy snack prepared from a hearty mixture of dahi bhalla (round fried bread), boiled potato chunks, chickpeas, diced tomatoes, onions, pomegranate seeds, and cubed apples that are topped with yogurt, mint, and tamarind chutney, and a generous sprinkle of chaat spice mix known as chaat masala.
Doodh Patti is a staple beverage in Pakistan made from cardamom-infused milk that is boiled with black tea leaves until a gorgeous toffee-colored hue is attained. Besides this milk-only tea, chai is another popular variant in which tea leaves, and sometimes, spices like cardamom and nutmeg are boiled in water followed by the addition of milk. The color of chai is one tone darker than doodh patti chai but not any less flavorful.