Islamabad-The first impression one gets after entering the beautiful lawns of Bokhara at Pearl Continental Rawalpindi is that the invite has come from the federal Ministry of Provincial Coordination instead of PC hotel Rawalpindi. The creative team deserves appreciation for turning a regular food festival into a happening event. The lawns have an ostentatious display of all five provinces’ culture and tradition through costumes, jewellery, upholstery and gastronomy. It looks like mini rural Pakistan.

One goes in expecting regular stalls of Chappli Kebabs, Sajji or Haleem but is in for a pleasant surprise. The host of the event went a notch higher and reinvented traditional Pakistani village by peeking into the households of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Gilgit Baltistan. The dishes on offer were numerous and therefore difficult to choose from. The place was thronged by foodies and it was indeed a family affair. At the entrance was the Punjab stall selling Seekh kebabs, chicken boti and other delicious barbecue items. The items of only the first stall were so mouth-watering that many guests ate it and didn’t make the full round. Rahu Tawa fish served as a delight for fish lovers. Reasonable portions, simmering in a big flat wok with seasoned spices looked like a feast to watch. It was not the tartar sauce which added to its flavour but the homemade chutney and the secret sauces. It was difficult to point out whether it was the fish masala or the chutney which left the taste buds hungry for more.

Chapli kebabs are always delectable if cooked by an authentic Peshawari chef. They need to be tender in the middle and crispy on the edges. The chapli kebabs at Bokhara were exactly what one was looking for. The only downside to eating the kebab was that one was not enough and two would have deprived the other dishes to be tried and tested.

Patta Tikka as it is known to the non-pakhtoons is a Khyber delicacy. Fined chunks of sheep meat in salt marination wrapped around in thinly sliced fat and skewered on the coal fire. The taste of patta tikka lasts in your mouth forever.

Moving to the Sindh pavilion the eyes started to look for Sindhi biryani as its a-signature fish of the province and the secret to its recipe has always been kept in the chest. Multicolour, cooked to perfection with grains of rice, and chunks of beef as well as a balanced portion of juicy potatoes hiding on the base of the biryani. It is always a camouflage when it comes to Sindhi biryani. Most of the time the dish looks like plain white boiled rice, but when it’s time to serve, it oozes out a symphony of flavours in multi colours.

Sajji at the Baluch corner looked scrumptious while being cooked on live wood fire around the sizeable steel bars stuffed with simmering chicken skin crust. However, when served it was not as tasty as expected.

Lassi in clay-made glasses, hot jalabis, light and airy rasgullas, an array of halwa’s, in the likes of gajjar ka halwa, channa ka halwa, pumpkin halwa and many others.

Overall it was a very interactive night as regional food festival offered a complete package. Horse dance, a fortune teller with his patriot, money dance and a lot more.

–The writer is a freelance contributor