Pakistan has three major identity hallmarks—culture, tourism and food. The last one is a true reflection of its diverse society and its varying tastes. Pakistani food is best known for its local cuisines cooked with a kick of spices. From Karahi to barbeque and from Nihari to Payas, the food landscape of Pakistan is quite broad offering delicacies worth indulging. Pakistan being an amalgamation of diverse cultures, the food domain is equally variant and vibrant. The breakfast delicacies of Halwa Puri and Channas, the sumptuous Kabab lunch cuisines and luscious Nihari, barbeque and Karahi are simply irresistible. A whole palette of flavours – sweet, sour, spicy, tangy – all make it a nice mix. Be it Chatpata (spicy) street food or mouth-watering gourmet dishes, there is no dearth of food variety in the country wherever you go.
Moghul-inspired cuisines like Pulao, Biryani, Kababs, and Korma dominate the Pakistani food landscape. In contrast to India, Pakistan is known for its heavier use of meat, particularly beef and mutton. Interestingly, Indian Punjabi food shares strong similarities with Pakistani food, while there is some flavour and taste overlap. Parathas and Sarson ka Saag being relished on both sides of the border.
Sugarcane juice is the “national drink” of Pakistan while Lady Finger is the national vegetable. Gulab Jaman is the national sweet of Pakistan.
Cities Famous for Food
LAHORE and KARACHI, the two major metropolitans are synonymous with food.The range of varieties is simply beyond description.
As they say that anyone missing out on Lahore isn’t even born. The iconic dishes of Lahore include Nihari being offered by Muhammadi Nihari and Waris Nihari. When it comes to Siri Paaye, Fazale Haq (Phajja) takes the lead. Fried fish from Bashir Darul Mahi is second to none while Butt Karahi is considered to be an acclaimed champion of Karahi. Gawal Mandi is known as the food hub in Lahore. Not to mention the unique Lahori varieties of sweets including Gulab Jamans and other variations like Barfi.
Karachi is known as the city of lights due to its vibrant nightlife. This metropolitan has arguably the most diverse variety of food to offer due to the composition of its population which comprises people from all across the country. Biryani is synonymous with Karachi, something the city is really known for. From old franchises such as Student Biryani to newer ones like Biryani of the Seas, one can never have enough biryani while being in Karachi. Barbeque is another highly popular cuisine relished by Karachiites. Chicken Tikkas, Seekh kababs, Bihari Botis and Malai Botis are not there to be missed. Bundu Khan’s Gola Kababs are another luscious delicacy. And Bans Road NIHARI sits on the top of the list. Javed Nihari Wala is also a hot favourite of Karachites. Besides this, paratha rolls stuffed with barbecue items are quite an item to be relished. BBQ Tonight, Kolachi and Zameer Ansari have some of the best barbecues to offer. Karachi offers a variety of delicious sweets including the most famous RABRI while sweets (Meethai) outlets like Dhaaka Sweets, Qasre Shireen have made a name for themselves over the years.
ISLAMABAD & RAWALPINDI:
The twin cities as they are known, don’t lag behind when it comes to food. Desi French fries and Afghani burgers (sausages, fries and various sauces stuffed in naan), roll parathas from the F-10 market and the iconic Savour Pulao are a few must-try items of Islamabad. Rawalpindi offers a famous local variation of Jalebi knows as Garato Jalebi which is quite unique in taste and texture. Banni Chowk Tikkas and Seekh Kababs offer a taste of their own. Cuisines and items being offered by Jamil Sweets, Rasheed Sweets and Fresco Sweets are highly cherished by the locals. Islamabad and Rawalpindi are quite famous for their bakeries and the Tehzeeb Bakers tops the list while United Bakers and Shamsa Bakery are considered to be outlets retaining their reputation over the years for being impeccable confectioners.
The Southern Punjab city is a complete surprise when it comes to food! Besides the famous Multani Sohan Halwa, there is a lot more one can discover to eat there. The fried fish from Sheedan Mushtaq based in old Multan is an experience of its own kind, whereas Naveed Chicken Pulao Center serves arguably one of the best Pulaos in the city. Ahmad Food’s Rabri Falooda is one of the oldest faloodas in Punjab and serves as the perfect fix to satisfy sweet tooth cravings.
Peshawar offers unique meat-based cuisine kept alive by following traditional live cooking methods to this day. Located in Namak Mandi, Charsi Tikka has become the hallmark of Peshawar as it is one of the oldest and most popular eateries of the city. Peshawar is also considered to be the hub of Chapli Kabab and there are several places that serve various versions of this delicacy across the city. Kabuli Pulao, a perfect fusion of sweet and savoury is another extremely popular dish.
Considered to be the identity of Sindh, Hyderabad has its own traditional and diverse food choices to offer. The city hosts more than a century-old Bombay Bakery, which till this day has never run out of queues for their cakes, especially the coffee flavoured one. Another popular delicacy is Haji’s rich and creamy Rabri based in the Shahi Bazar. In terms of savoury dishes, nothing can beat Shama Tikka House while Biryani lovers throng Shareef Biryani.