Although Pakistan is a relatively young country, the cuisine has developed over many more years and incorporates elements from its neighbours – India, Afghanistan and Iran. The varied regions also means there are a wide range of different foods – from the fertile valleys and the sea of Sindh province; to pastoral Baluchistan from neighbouring Iran; to the 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 flavours. The use of pomegranate seeds in some meat dishes adds a sweet, sour note and reflects the Middle Eastern influence on the food.
Some key dishes are slow cooked, such as the famous haleem, a mix of pulses, meat and spices that is cooked 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 yoghurt 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 popular breads include chapati and parata – 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 breads 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 sweets 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.
View our Pakistani recipe collection here.
Beautiful little dumplings that are perfect starters or great party food – they’re easy to make and fun for children too. Basil grew up with these in Pakistan and devised his recipe using the readily available wonton wrappers. They are served with yoghurt and parsley, although you can also add a dollop of dhal.
An easy dhal that can be served as a side dish to any curry or as an accompaniment to mantu.
This recipe is from a beautiful Pakistani woman called Nighat who makes her own bread every morning and thinks nothing of catering for fifty people! The chicken, with its incredible fresh mint sauce, is simple and very, very delicious. Serve with roti, tomato and lettuce. If you enjoyed Nighat's Food Safari recipe, you might also like our fast-and-easy tandoori chicken pizza, using a whole roasted chicken\or pappadums with tandoori chicken.
This recipe for biryani is a marvellous creation of layers of perfectly cooked goat curry, beautiful rice and a fresh mix of tomato, herbs and chilli, all decorated with nuts and onion rings. This is a feast in its own right, but Sonya likes to serve it with a chopped salad, called a cachumbar, containing tomato, red onion, lettuce and vinegar, and with a yoghurt raita containing mint and cumin.