No matter where you come from, you're probably familiar with some spices. They are an important part of daily life in Pakistan. Many a time a Pakistani mother has prepared a delicious Chicken Qurma for a Dawat that is due in the morning, and her children watch with keen interest as she takes out her collection of traditional spices. With a pinch of this and a bit of that; it's done! All the spices and other ingredients are amazingly measured by eye as the guests eagerly await the much-anticipated chicken dish.
As a matter of fact, Pakistani food is a delicious treat, made even more delicious by the spices that make it so flavourful. The traditional flavours of Pakistani cuisine are a tasty delight for many of us. But have you ever considered the origins of the spices themselves? Our ancient yet timeless secrets to such palatable meals await us as we explore them together!
Pakistan is most famous for its various spices including Himalayan pink salt, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, hot red chilli powder, black pepper, fennel seeds, coriander, ginger, and cumin seeds, star anise, garam masala powder, along with green and black cardamom pods. These spices make the perfect gift for food lovers.
Pakistan with its mountainous northern terrain is home to salt mines, from where Himalayan pink salt is mined. Not only is this attractively coloured rock salt sold in large chunks in the form of salt lamps, but it is also sold in smaller crystal and granular forms as a cooking ingredient and offers several health benefits in comparison to table salt which is heavily refined and contains additives such as anti-caking agents.
A jar filled with pink Himalayan salt crystals is both an aesthetically pleasing and practical gift idea, which can be displayed in any kitchen.
It is believed that the Aztecs introduced chilli powder to the conquering Spaniards in the 16th century when it first became popular. Pakistani dishes as diverse as Nehari to tender barbeques include chilli powder as an essential spice.
There are many different brands and sources of chilli powder, but it is generally characterized by a sharp, spicy, and fierce flavor. Dried chilli peppers are used to make chilli powder. As a result, it should not be used in large amounts because it is very spicy. Various spices, herbs, and aromatic seeds are often added to chilli powder to enhance its flavor.
Commonly known as Haldi in Pakistan, turmeric powder is derived from the Zingiberaceae family of plants, just like ginger, which is known as Adrak. Inside, turmeric has a saffron colour rather than a dull, grayish exterior. Pakistani kitchens use this aromatic but slightly pungent condiment to enhance nearly every other dish. As a popular ingredient in mustard powder blends, pickles, and chutneys, it is also used in mustard powders.
Turmeric powder enhances the flavour, color, and smell of countless dishes as well as offers numerous health benefits. Like ginger, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Aside from adding flavour to Eastern dishes and providing medicinal benefits, turmeric is also a key ingredient in many Asian dishes. The oil can heal wounds and treat chronic disorders, arthritis, diabetes, headaches, and other medical conditions.
The dried bark of the Cassia tree is called cinnamon, or Daar Cheeni. There are several places where this species is grown, though it is indigenous to Sri Lanka and Malabar. Farmers grow Cassia trees commercially. The bark naturally curls into quills and sticks, which are then peeled off by hand. Before they are supplied to stores, these quills and sticks are dried, ground, and then sold. They can also be used in their stick form in recipes, which are discarded after serving.
Several medicinal benefits are associated with cinnamon powder, including its rich, savoury fragrance. Pakistani adults turn to traditional remedies during the winter when their children get a cold, with cinnamon powder serving as the main spice. Pakistani meals benefit from the medicinal properties of cinnamon powder in addition to enhancing the taste and aroma of food, in other words, making it the ideal gift for food lovers.
In Pakistani food recipes such as Black Pepper Chicken, black pepper dominates, even though other peppers are derived from the same climbing vine. In addition to East Indies, Pakistan, India, Sumatra, Java, and many other places, the particular climbing vine from which black pepper is extracted is native to many different parts of the world. In the beginning, black pepper was harvested, dried, and ground from berries. The black pepper's appearance of dark and wrinkled berries is because of the way they dry in the sun.
With its intensely peppery taste and rich aroma, the spice enhances the quality of any recipe. Black pepper is underrated due to its easy accessibility, while it once held a similar value to gold and silver in the Middle Ages!
In spite of Pakistan's young history, the cuisine is influenced by India, Afghanistan, and Iran and has developed over many centuries. From Sindh with its fertile valleys and the sea of pastoral Baluchistan, all the way from Iran; and Punjab with its five rivers and rugged North West Frontier, where chapli kebabs are served, Pakistani food is diverse.
Blending Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking techniques creates a distinctive flavour profile. A sweet and sour note is added to some meat dishes and kebabs with the addition of pomegranate seeds.
Haleem, a famous dish that is made by boiling pulses, meat, and spices for at least seven hours, is a slow-cooked dish. There is a Pakistani term for this dish known as 'haleem, the king of curries'. Lemon, coriander, and ginger are usually served with this thick stew to enhance the flavour. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by beef, chicken, and goat. Many types of meat are cooked with ghee and yoghurt.
Naan bread and roti are traditionally used to scoop up curries and accompaniments, with meals being eaten with the right hand, as part of the Muslim culture. A fried bread that is stuffed with potato or meat and vegetable mixtures is known as chapati and a paratha - they are other popular types of bread commonly eaten for breakfast in Pakistan.
Several types of bread and meats like chicken, lamb, and fish are cooked in Pakistan's tandoor ovens. A classic Pakistani dish, biryani, combines spiced rice and meat, but it can also be served without meat as a vegetarian dish. Pakistani rice is regarded as some of the world's best, particularly the long grain basmati rice used in biryani.
Sugar, nuts like pistachios, and ghee are used liberally in sweets, known as mithai. Halva is a sweet made from flour, semolina, and carrots or pumpkin and is one of the most popular sweets in the Eastern parts of the world. Rosewater is also used in many sweets to enhance their fragrance.