One thing that we Pakistanis pride ourselves over, no matter which part of the world we are in, is food. True Pakistanis have taste buds that are so accustomed to their traditional spicy food, that they can not go without it for long. However, what makes the food unique is the experience that is associated with it. There are certain habits that almost all of us foodies have been known to have, in creating such experiences. Let’s take a look at some of the common Pakistani eating habits.
Eating with the Hands
There is no denying that every Pakistani eats Roti with their hands. Eating with the hands has major religious, cultural and traditional significance. Firstly, it is one of the many humble actions carried out by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which is why Muslims do the same even today. Secondly, our Indian neighbors eat several of their staple foods with the hands also. Since we lived with them before partition, we had a lot of similar cultures and traditions, which are still carried out today.
Thirdly, when it comes to the kind of food we eat, it just makes more sense to use the hands. Roti, naan, poori, and paratha are all meant to be used as a scoop between the fingers for the gravy, to make a delicious bite. Furthermore, even biryani and pulao are enjoyed by many by the hands. There is an age old saying that Pakistanis and Indians have, whereby eating with the hands enhances the flavor of the food.
Meat is Proper Food, Vegetable is Salad
There are many dishes such as aloo bhujia, daal, palak paneer etc. which are purely vegetarian. However, a real Pakistani would believe that all vegetarian dishes are either side dishes or simply an alternative to salad. A dish with meat is a Real meal, since it has some substance in it, such as beef, chicken or mutton. In fact, we are so accustomed to having meat in our dishes that most of us believe that real flavor comes from meat. Furthermore, if at all we are unable to get meat, we go straight to fish. A dish consisting only of vegetables is the last thing we can think of, to give us a fulfilling meal.
No Meal Without Roti or Chaawal
Yes, it is unheard of that we have gravy without any of the two staple foods mentioned above. Potatoes, beans, salads, breads have nothing over some form of rice or roti. There are many different varieties of roti. It can come be found in the form of phulka, which is a light fluffy flat bread made of wheat. Apart from that, it can be a tandoori roti, which is slightly heavier and made on a special tandoor outdoors. It can be a paratha whereby there is oil inside and outside the roti, or poori which is a deep fried roti.
Chaawal or rice has many different forms as well. There is the plain boiled rice which goes perfectly with any gravy. There is pulao or pilaf which includes onions and meat or vegetables. Last but not least there is the nation’s favourite Biryani, with lots of bright yellow and orange layers of rice and meat gravy. Furthermore, there are a lot of different versions, such as the Hyderabadi biryani, Sindhi biryani, and even Bombay biryani, inspired by India.
Dessert is a Must
This is something that is common in a lot of cultures but we Pakistanis take it very seriously. No meal, especially at a party, is complete without dessert. What’s more, once we have had our main course, we hardly give time for that to be digested before moving on to dessert. Yes, there is no waiting around for dessert, it has to be had right after food is done with. Moreover, there is hardly ever just one dessert, especially at a lunch or dinner party. A minimum of three is the usual case, but the number can go up to as many as imaginable, depending on the number of guests.
Furthermore, the desserts themselves are termed as “killer” or “deadly” in many households, due to the ingredients, especially sugar quantities that they have. Shahi tukrey, gulab jamun, jalebi and mithai are some of these examples. However, no matter what goes into them, we still choose to indulge in them willingly, since they are unbeatable in taste.
If you think that it ends with dessert, you have another thing coming. After everyone has had dessert and settled back in to relax, trays of tea come gushing in. These include black tea, green tea, kashmiri pink tea, doodh patti and for a small minority, even coffee. Living in Pakistan means you have a favorite tea or chai as well. Those who prefer a drink four or five times a day usually go for the regular black tea. Those who wish to indulge in something more luxurious and filling go for the doodh patti, or milk based tea. The weight watchers go for herbal or green tea. And winter time calls for the all-time favorite kashmiri pink tea, which can be taken with sugar or salt.
Nothing Says Therapeutic like Peeling Peanuts
Munn phalli, or peanuts, are a classic winter time snack for most Pakistanis. Surprisingly, the ones in their shell are more popular than those that come peeled. This is because it has been an age old activity whereby peanut shells are peeled in front of a fire and enjoyed straight out of the shells. The act itself has almost become a therapeutic one, since the pre peeled peanuts don’t seem to give that sort of satisfaction. This is also what makes them more popular than any other dry fruit in the winter months.
All in all, Pakistanis associate food not just with taste, but with experiences. Whether it is eating by hand, or peeling before eating, every experience enriches the taste of the food, and the story that goes with it.