Contributed By: Oliver Fisher from Australia, our intern for Change in Progress 2.0 project
“If we have rice for maybe 3 days in a row then we can’t have anymore rice. But chapati, we can have it all day everyday. We never get sick of chapati”
This statement was from one of the fellow office workers and it certainly holds true in Pakistan, this is a country that is in love with chapati. This flat bread is a staple part of the diet here and you’ll find it served with almost every meal. Your chapati usually also functions as your utensils as well, helping you scoop up whatever delicacy you may be trying.
Paratha is another staple flat bread and is similar to chapati except it is cooked in ghee or oil. It’s often stuffed with vegetables or rolled up and filled with chicken and sauces.Roll paratha is kind of a local version of fast food here. If you’ve got a big appetite you can try the boom boom paratha roll which is affectionately named after boom boom Afridi, the nations hero. This monstrosity of a roll is about the size of your arm and stuffed full of spicy chicken and sauces. Just like one of Afridi’s sixes it packs a punch. If you’re looking for a cheap filling eat then a paratha roll is your saviour.
Now that we’ve gotten the staple foods out of the way it’s time to explore the rest of what Pakistani cuisine has to offer. Pakistan is a food lovers dream, delicately spiced food is cheap and you’ll never go hungry with street vendors selling everything from samosas, to shawarma and various types of spiced barbecued meats. Pakistani to Indian cuisine with a few slight differences, they use slightly different spices but the foods in general share the same base. I’ve found the food to be more authentic in Pakistan compared to India, it seems with less tourists around the food is catered more towards the locals which in my opinion makes the food a lot tastier.
Your palate will be in heaven at the Markaz, which literally means center. Each sector in Islamabad has its own Markaz which essentially acts as the central market or square. It’s where you find the best street food and they are always an interesting place to explore. If only to take in the wafting smells of the meat or to take in the colours, sounds and hustle and bustle of the area. Markaz are a great place to just people watch and see everyone going about their lives, you’ll see people arguing and haggling over their purchases, butchers preparing the meat for the day as they hang up the carcasses of animals and people reading the daily news. Because of this they are also a great place to take pictures and it allows you to capture at least a small essence of Pakistan.
No meal in Pakistan is complete without a steaming cup of fresh Chai (tea), Pakistani’s it seems share my love for tea. If you’re coming from a western country or someone that drinks black tea then you’ll probably take a little while to get used to the tea here. It’s milky and usually has enough sugar to make you go in to an instant sugar overdose. It seems that Pakistan is quiet fond of sugar and you’ll find it added generously to lots if other sweet dishes here as well.If you don’t like sugar in your tea it’s best to say so. I once tried to ask for just a little bit of sugar in me tea and then they proceeded to add about three teaspoons of sugar, it seems there concept of a small amount of sugar is a bit different. But you’ll come to love it and it won’t be long before you’ll start craving the chai here.
If you are fortunate enough to get to visit Pakistan then you’re in for a real treat in terms of food. It is without a doubt some of the best food that i’ve ever eaten. If you can’t then I recommend that you head down to your nearest Pakistani restaurant and give it a try. There’ is still so much food that I’ve yet to try here and i’m really looking forward to trying it all.