Location: South Asia, bordering the Middle East
Population: 193.2 million
Geography: A mix of desert, plains, plateaus, and towering mountains
Language: Urdu, English
Signature flavours: Lamb, goat, rice, cumin, coriander, mint, dairy, pulses, hot peppers, cardamom
Eric tried Pakistani food for the first time at a restaurant called Khan’s when he lived in Texas for college. He loved the aromatic biryanis, plates of juicy goat meat, and spiced fish dishes bursting with flavour. He created a menu that both recalled those dishes of his early adult years and forged deeper into Pakistan’s culinary landscape.
Vegetarian Sindhi Biryani: A fluffy rice dish with onion, tomato, hot peppers, potatoes, carrots, and green beans, in a sauce of yoghurt and a Sindhi biryani masala spice mix — cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and eleven others.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Karachi Spicy Fried Fish: Black cod marinated in lemon juice, brushed with a paste of spices, and finally pan fried.
Prep and cooking time: 5.5 hours (including marination)
Aloo Ki Tikki with Raita: Spiced mashed potato and onion patties, dredged in egg and breadcrumbs, then deep fried until golden brown. These are served with a cooling cumin and mint yoghurt dip called raita.
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Kaali Daal: Black lentils with ginger, onion, mint and other spices, stewed to creamy perfection.
Prep and cooking time: 75 min
Sweet Plain Lassi: A beverage of blended yoghurt, water, ice, and sugar, perfect for cooling a hot mouth.
Prep and cooking time: 5 min
Shahi Tukda: Toasted white bread sliced soaked in milk, sugar, saffron, and cardamom, topped with chopped pistachios (Eric sadly forgot to garnish with pistachios, but we enjoyed the leftovers with them).
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
The Shopping List
We are lucky to have a market nearby-ish that offers quite an array of international foods (by the standards of rural Ontario). Eric was able to find most everything he needed there and at Bulk Barn, including the many spices his recipes called for.
I think Eric and I both looked forward to this meal with eager anticipation. We both love South Asian food and enjoyed plenty when we lived in Toronto, both at restaurants and stirred up in our own kitchen. The smell of spices filled our apartment early in the afternoon and built in intensity until Eric called me to the table for a Pakistani feast.
The colours of this meal were wonderful: bright yellows and earthy ochres. We started with biryani, the heart of Eric’s feast, around which he built his menu. Traditional Pakistani biryanis often include lamb or goat, but ours was vegetarian, loaded with vegetables and thickened with a yoghurt sauce. It was absolutely delicious.
The herb-crusted fish was inspired by a similar dish he had eaten once at a Pakistani restaurant. He chose the ever-versatile cod, which after its marination and frying was absolutely bursting with flavour.
The aloo ki tikki, dipped in cooling raita, were one of my favourite dishes of the assignment. Crispy on the outside, soft and spicy on the inside, they were a joy to eat. And eat and eat. We dipped them in minty raita (see below).
The kaali daal was another stand-out. This velvety lentil dish was spiced with mint, which I had never come across in a daal before. It was a wholly new experience and we both enjoyed second scoops of it.
We cooled our mouths with gulps of refreshing lassi, this a plain and very mildly sweet version of the beverage, which also comes in mango and other flavours.
We concluded the meal with dessert: shahi tukda. This variety of bread pudding is drenched in milk, sugar, and spices, making it a melt-in-your-mouth finisher. Eric, who adores desserts like this, loved it. I wasn’t a convert, admittedly, not being a fan of pudding-y foods in general.
Pakistan offered a spectacular array of flavours, colours, and textures. This was one of our favourite Wooden Spoon Wanderers so far.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.