The cuisine of Pakistan is a full-flavored mix of meat curries, rice pilafs and fresh baked breads complemented by an assortment of bracing chutneys and pungent pickles.
Pakistan stretches from the northern Himalayan foothills down to the Indian Ocean in the south. Bisected by the meandering Indus River, the western part of the country is a hot and dry highland plateau, while the eastern river valley provinces of Sindh and Punjab have reviving monsoonal rains.
This overwhelmingly Muslim land of 200 million people was once a part of the larger country of India. But the region split off during the Partition of India in 1947 to form its own nation state.
Food and culinary traditions in Punjab and Sindh provinces have much in common with the North Indian cuisine of Punjab and Rajasthan across the Indian border. Dishes are seasoned with a wide mixes of spices, and chiles offer a fair amount of heat. Cooking in the western regions of Balochistan and Pashtun is milder, with similarities to Iranian, Afghani and other Central Asian cuisines. The cooking of the disputed region of Kashmir in the north is legendary for its creamy richness and marvelous use of nuts and dried fruits.
Meat figures prominently in Pakistani cooking. Lamb, goat, chicken and beef are all popular. Because of religious restrictions, pork is considered forbidden (haram). Meats are simmered to exquisite tenderness in spiced curry stews or are layered with rice in sumptious pilafs. Fish curries take advantage of the sea's bounty along the southern coast. Butter, cream and yogurt lend added richness to dishes, especially in the north.
Bread is a staple foodstuff in Pakistan, and there is an innumerable variety to choose from. There are flatbreads like chapati, roti and paratha, as well as yeast-risen delights such as the tandoor-baked naan bread.
A wide variety of lentils and beans, or dahl, provide protein and are turned into simple soups and stews to accompany meals. Potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, greens (saag), eggplant, tomatoes and okra are common vegetables.
Mangoes, melons and dried fruit are sweet treats. Desserts popular throughout South Aisa are also beloved in Pakistan. They include kheer, gulab jamun, ras malai and khulfi.
Typical Pakistani Dishes
Try these iconic recipes from Pakistan.
(Indian, Pakistani spiced spinach)
(Indian, Pakistani, African deep-fried potato pastries)
(Indian, Pakistani vegetable fritters)
(Indian, Pakistani tandoor-baked bread)
(Indian, Pakistani yogurt-marinated chicken kebabs)
(Indian, Pakistani lamb in spiced cream sauce)
(Indian, Pakistani sweet carrot pudding)
(Indian, Pakistani wholewheat flatbread)
(Indian, Pakistani yogurt-marinated and broiled chicken)
(South Asian milk ball sweet in rose-scented syrup)
(South Asian yogurt condiment)
(Indian, Pakistani fresh cheese)
(Indian, Pakistani clarified butter)
(Pakistani meat curry with rice)
(South and Central Asian spiced meatballs; see Kefta recipe)
(Indian, Pakistani deep-fried puff bread; see Chapati recipe variations)
(Indian, Pakistani cultured milk; see Yogurt recipe)