Exploring food and culture can be a delightful journey. With Pakistani cuisine, two rules seem to guide the dishes presented at the table. Although the dishes vary a lot, culinary traditions are woven into history on the table.
On the Tastemade show If these meals could talk Hosted by Numra Siddiqui, the famous chef brings other chefs to the table. As they share three dishes that reflect their culinary journey, the story is more than delicious food. It’s the taste of every culture and, hopefully, an invitation to explore the opportunities that present themselves.
Recently, Siddiqui shared his thoughts on Pakistani food. As more and more people learn to appreciate the flavors in these dishes, she believes the vast offerings follow a few rules.
First, Siddiqui said, “curry” is never used to describe Pakistani food. “While the word has significance for other styles of South Asian cuisine, ‘curry’ is reductive of very complex and rich culinary practices.”
This concept can be difficult for some people to understand. When a food or flavor is unfamiliar, a label, definition or explanation is desirable. Finding a way to relate to the food on the plate makes it more accessible. But, the curry rule still applies to Pakistani food.
Also, said Siddiqui, “the second rule is not to worry about making the food look pretty, to worry about the flavor. There must be layers of flavor in every bite.
Browsing through social media, it turns out that the best food is often the most beautiful. As people eat with their eyes, the reality is that flavor is always that taste that brings people back to the plate. It’s not that people want to eat with their eyes closed, but flavor should be the most important part of any dish.
How does the Mughai dinner table reflect Pakistani cuisine?
While Pakistani food is vast, Siddiqui shares that one of the most famous styles is the Mughai dinner table. This culinary tradition is divided into three categories.
First, Siddiqui explained that there is a Qourma, a meat stew made from yogurt. She said: “Qormas can change depending on the cook and regional specialties. These stews are relatively mild, with a sweet undertone coming from the peanuts or a richness of whole cream replacing the yogurt.
Second, there are turmeric-based stews called Qaliyas. Siddiqui said, “There are countless variations, however, the general basis of these stews is turmeric, chili, onion and garlic. These dishes can be identified by a garnish of fresh cilantro.
Finally, there are the kababs, which are “any meat or vegetable cooked over an open fire”. The food is chopped or marinated in pieces. Siddiqui said, “It’s not like cooking a steak. Slow and Low is an integral part of Pakistani food.
While these categories help guide people, Siddiqui believes that “Pakistani cuisine is a melting pot of cuisines from all over the world.” The variety of dishes has similarities with various recipes from around the world.
Siddiqui believes: “The famous Kababs of the Mughal dinner table are taken from Persia. Khao Suey, a classic from Karachi, is inherited from the migrants who once lived in what is now Myanmar. The tandoor is a cooking technique in Georgia and I’m not one to say who invented it first! Even chili peppers and tomatoes were properly introduced to South Asia by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things and now these two ingredients are essential to so many Pakistani dishes! “
A place at the table awaits everyone to learn more about Pakistani cuisine, Numra Siddiqui and the chefs she invites to share their story. New episodes of If These Meals Can Talk air on Tastemade’s streaming network. Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET.
What do you think of Pakistani cuisine? Do you believe that food and culture have similarities across the world?