Pakistani food relies on a unique blend of Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking techniques to create unique dishes that are full of flavors, usually sweet or spicy. Thanks to its rich taste, it is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world.
Whether you are new to Pakistani food or have been eating it for years, you are sure to enjoy the following five recipes that focus on some of the region’s most popular dishes.
- Traditional Chicken Biryani
Biryani has long been a favorite dish in Pakistan, thanks to its perfect combination of rice, spices, and chicken. As an added bonus, it can be made quickly and in a single pot, which reduces your cleanup, and it makes a great option for leftovers.
l 4 chicken breasts, skinless and cut into large chunks
l 3 ½ cups chicken stock
l 3 cups basamati rice
l 2 tbsp. butter
l 1 onion, finely sliced
l 1 bay leaf
l 1 tsp turmeric
l Small cinnamon stick
l 3 cardamom pods
l 4 tbsp. curry paste
l ¾ cup raisins
l Chopped coriander and toasted flaked almonds
**If you prefer, you can substitute the chicken with lamb. The directions remain the same.
l Soak rice in warm water before washing it in cold water until the water is clear.
l In a saucepan, heat the butter. Add the onions, bay leaf, and other whole spices. Cook for 10 minutes.
l Sprinkle turmeric in.
l Add chicken and curry paste. Cook until aromatic.
l Stir rice and raisins into the pan. Pour stock on top.
l Put lid on top of pan and bring to hard boil.
l Lower the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes.
l Turn off heat and let set for 10 minutes.
l Stir well and mix in ½ of the coriander. Scatter the rest on top, along with the almonds.
Considered to be Pakistan’s national dish, nihari is a slow-cooked stew that originated in the late 18th-century. It was frequently served to laborers who were working on huge construction projects. Today, its served as an everyday meal, as well as a food for special occasions, such as weddings.
l 2 pounds beef shank (cut into palm-size pieces)
l 1 pound beef bone marrow
l 4-5 cups water
l 2 finely chopped onions
l 3 fresh green chilis, finely chopped
l 1 handful fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
l 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, julienne cut
l 3 black cardamom
l 1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
l 1 tsp. turmeric
l 1 tbsp. red chili powder
l 1 tsp. coriander powder
l 6 tbsp. dry ginger powder
l ½ tsp. whole spice powder
l 3 tsp. aniseed
l 3 tbsp. flour, all-purpose
l 1 cup yogurt, plain
l 1 ½ cup cooking oil
l 1 tbsp. lime or lemon juice
l Salt, to taste
l In a large pot, heat cooking oil and fry onions until golden brown.
l Add ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, salt, coriander powder, and red chili powder.
l Add yogurt and mix well until you have a gravy-like consistency.
l Add beef shanks and bone marrow.
l In a muslin cloth (You can also use cheesecloth or even a handkerchief.), combine dry ginger, aniseed, and black cardamom.
l Place the cloth into the pot and cover it with lid. Cook on low heat until meat is tender. (This will take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours.)
l Once meat is tender, remove the cloth.
l Spoon off any oil from the surface of the gravy and place it aside.
l Put ¼ cup water in a saucepan. Add flour and mix well. Add to the gravy mix and cook for 5 minutes. Add ½ tsp. whole spice powder and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes on low-medium heat.
l Turn the heat off and pour the excess oil back in.
l Before serving, top it off with chopped coriander, green chili, ginger, and lemon/ lime juice.
- Moong Dal
A popular Pakistani recipe that is easy to make, moong dal is also full of important nutrients. It is often considered a comfort food, especially when served over rice. You can also choose to eat it on its own or with chapatti.
l 2 ½ cups dried yellow split peas (moong dal)
l 2 ½ cups water
l ½ tsp. turmeric
l 2 tsp. vegetable oil
l 1 ½ tsp. salt
l 1 tsp. cumin seed
l 1 tsp. jalapeno chili pepper, diced
l ½ dried red chili pepper
l ½ tsp. fresh ginger root, grated
l 1 pinch Asafoetida (You may find this labeled as “Hing” in ethnic stores.)
l 3 tsp. lemon juice
l ½ cup diced tomatoes
l ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
l 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
l After rinsing split peas, put split peas into saucepan with 2 ½ cups water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes.
l Heat spit peas and water to boiling. Add salt.
l Reduce to medium-low heat. Cook until split peas are tender and thick (around 15 to 20 minutes).
l To prevent drying out, add more water if needed. Stir in turmeric, ginger, lemon juice, and jalapeno pepper.
l In a separate saucepan, heat oil. Add red chili pepper and cumin seed. After pepper is heated, add garlic and Asafoetida powder.
l Stir mixture into split peas. Add cilantro. Mix well.
- Simple Chicken or Lamb Haleem
For centuries, Haleem has been a popular Pakistani dish, particularly during Ramadan, though it also frequently sold at bazaars throughout the year. Some Haleem recipes take as long as 10-12 hours to prepare. However, this simple Haleem recipe can be prepared much quicker.
l 2/3 cup dried yellow split peas
l ½ cup lentils
l 1 cup oat meal
l Slightly more than 1 ½ pounds chopped lamb or chicken
l 1 large onion, sliced
l 2 tbsp. maiezana
l 4 tsp. jeera
l 4 tsp. masala
l 3 tsp. aji-no-moto
l Lemon juice
l 8 cups water
l Green coriander leaves, diced
l Salt and pepper, to taste
l Caramelized shallots, if desired
l Cut lamb/ chicken into cubes. Soak with maiezena, aji-no-moto, salt, and pepper. (It’s up to you how long to soak it. Remember, the longer it soaks, the more flavor it will pick up.)
l Place lentils, split peas, and salt in pot. Bring to boil.
l In a wok or large frying pan, fry the onion until golden brown.
l Put the lamb/ chicken in the pan and cook until all of its water has evaporated. Then, add jeera and masala.
l When the split peas/ lentils are ready, add the meat, onions, and 8 cups of water. Cook for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker.
l After diluting the oats in a glass of water, pour into the pressure cooker.
l Bring to a boil until it has thickened to a soup-like consistency.
l Before serving, top with lemon juice and coriander leaves. You may also want to top with caramelized shallots.
- Sohan Halwa
No meal is complete without dessert. Sohan halwa is one of Pakistan’s favorite desserts. Though it was once primarily made to give as a gift, today, it is meant for any occasion. Beware that the recipe below is pretty fattening, but it tastes amazing.
l ½ kg. (17.5 oz.) maida or corn flour
l ½ kg. (17.5 oz.) sugar
l 3 ½ oz. pistachio
l 1 ¾ oz. green cardamom
l 9 oz. almonds
l 1 cup milk
l ½ kg (17.5 oz.) ghee
l 8 cups water
l 1 tsp. saffron
l Bring 1 cup of water and sugar to boil. Allow to boil for 5 min.
l Add milk and allow it to boil for 5 more minutes.
l Use muslin or thin cloth to strain.
l Add remaining water and sugar syrup.
l In warm water, dissolve the saffron. Then, add to mixture.
l In a small amount of water, dissolve the corn flour. Add to the mixture and cook over low flame.
l When the mixture is thick, add 1 tbsp. ghee
l Continue to slowly add ghee until it is all gone. Slowly adding it will prevent it from sticking to the pan.
l Stir well. When you notice the ghee has separated from the mixture, add the almonds, green cardamoms, and pistachio.
l In greased pan, spread the mixture, using a wooden spoon to flatten it.
l Garnish with almonds, green cardamoms, and pistachio as desired.
l After it is cool, cut into pieces and serve.