Punjab – Your ultimate culinary destination
LAHORE – Punjab is home to the most diverse and rich cuisines in the world. The culture of eatery & love for traditional food is deeply embedded in the lifestyles of Punjabis.
The traditional range offers incredible staple food such as vegetables, meat, breakfast, tandoori, meals, hot/cold beverages and sweets.
I believe, the fundamental reason behind its wholesomeness, is the agricultural lifestyle of Punjab, dating back to 3,500 B.C during the emergence of Harappan civilisation. It was the variety of agricultural production in the Harappan civilisation which ultimately nurtured the very ingredients for the traditional cuisine. For example; Harappans cultivated staple food like wheat & rice, spices like mustard and reared cattle like buffalos & goats.
This laid the foundation for the culture of Punjab for centuries to come. So, it is the evolution of whole gamut of agricultural products which has contributed and influenced the flare of Punjabi cuisine.
This is the very reason why it is known as the “Granary of Pakistan”. While its agricultural products provide the foundation for its flare, the versatility in the methodology of cooking a single dish across the province, makes it unique. Punjabi cuisine is the definitive mélange of traditional & contemporary cookery when it comes to cooking.
The prevalent culture of food streets in the urban settings of the province has played a pivotal role in this regard. I mean, who can deny a quick service with same aroma and taste of Punjabi snacks or Karahi. Punjab enjoys four seasons of climate and each has its own delights to share along with the running cuisine for all seasons. Makki ki Roti with Sarson ka Saag, Lassi, Achaar & Gaajar ka Halwa are the prime examples of seasonal culinary delights. Desi ghee or refined butter is used in most traditional dishes along with the various Punjabi spices.
The cultural diet in Punjab is similar to many Central Asian countries where bread and curry play instrumental part.
Apart from seasonal delights, Punjab is rich with regional specialties in culinary as well. In Saraiki belt, Sohan Halwa, Multani Lamb Chops and Sohbat are popular nationwide.
While in Central Punjab; Kasuri Falooda, Karrahi, Siri Paye, Naan Chanay& Bund-Pluster of Lahore, Kulfi and BBQ of Gujranwala is famous. Similarly, Dhoda of Khushab, Halwapuri & Burfi of Jhelum and Pulao & Tikkay of Rawalpindi are considered regional specialties. It is not only the wide range of food which makes Punjab an ultimate food destination but very culture of eatery.
Conversing about culture of eatery, the exoticness and purity of traditional food of rural Punjab from the Potohar to the South Punjab is much celebrated.
At the same time, the culture of food streets of Punjab is taking the cuisine to a whole new level.
This is the reason why Punjabi cuisine has spread all across Europe, Australia, Middle East and United States.
The distinctive feature which has contributed massively in its large-scale presence is its variety in tandoori cooking. Traditionally, Tandoors (clay ovens) were used for baking bread but now the term has evolved on a commercial scale for all kinds of cooking.
Variety in breakfast such as Halwa-Puri, Paaye, Nihari and Naan Chanaas, in lunch vegetarian & non-vegetarian food and in dinner whole range of Tikka, Kebabs & Karahis make the Punjabi cuisine wholesome. The raw yet extravagant aroma of Punjabi cuisine is backed by its organic ingredients including species. In the last few decades, Punjab has witnessed a rampant increase in the culture of food streets. Across the province, there is hardly any city which does not have its own food street. Among all, the food streets of Gawalmandi and Fort Road in Lahore stand out as the major hubs of eateries in the province. Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan attracts thousands of local visitors as well as foreigners to experience the very essence of traditional eatery.
Here are a few examples of the prominent international Vloggers who have tasted different cuisines all over the world sharing their authentic experiences in Lahore;
“It’s a place not like any place in the world. It’s different.” Joe Hattab
“Lahore is the ultimate food destination.” Trevor James
“It really is just never-ending fascination and excitement. You can walk around, people are friendly, and you smell the aroma of food.” Mark Wiens
Their response ascertains the potential of culinary tourism in Punjab. Hopefully, a day will come when culinary tourism is properly marketed along with rural tourism to provide the visitors with the truest essence of Punjabi cuisine. Governmental interventions such as Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth Project (PTEGP) can contribute significantly in this regard.