Pakistani food has a rich culinary tradition with two important rules

If These Meals Could Talk" Starring Chef Numra Siddiqui, photo provided. Tastemade
If These Meals Could Talk" Starring Chef Numra Siddiqui, photo provided. Tastemade /

Exploring food and culture can be a delicious journey. With Pakistani food, two rules seem to guide the dishes presented at the table. Although the dishes many vary, the culinary traditions are woven into the story on the table.

On Tastemade show If These Meals Could Talk hosted by Numra Siddiqui, the celebrated 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 is taste of each culture and hopefully an invitation to explore the opportunities that is presents.

Recently, Siddiqui shared her thoughts on Pakistani food. While more people are learning to appreciate the flavors in these dishes, she believes that the vast offerings do follow a few rules.

First, Siddiqui said, that the “curry” is never used to describe Pakistani food. “While the word has significance for other styles of South Asian food, ‘curry’ is reductive of very complex and rich culinary practices.”

This concept may be difficult for some people to understand. When a food or flavor is unfamiliar, a label, a definition or an explanation is craveable. Finding a way to relate to the food on the plate makes it more approachable. But, the curry rule still applies to Pakistani food.

Also, Siddiqui said, “the second rule is not to care about making food look pretty, care about flavor. There must be layers of flavor in every bite.”

Scanning through social media, it appears that the best food is often the prettiest food. While people eat with their eyes, the reality is that flavor is always that taste which brings people back to the plate. It isn’t that people want to eat with their eyes closed, but the flavor should be the most important part of any dish.

How does the Mughai dinner table reflect Pakistani food?

While Pakistani food is vast, Siddiqui shares that one of the most famous styles is the Mughai dinner table. That culinary tradition falls into three categories.

First, Siddiqui shared that there is a Qourma, a yogurt based, meaty stew. She said, “Qormas can change depend on the cook and regional specialties. These stews are relatively mild, with a sweet undertone coming from ground nuts or a richness from whole cream replacing the yogurt.”

Second, there are turmeric based stews called Qaliyas. Siddiqui said, “there are countless variations, however, the general base of these stews is a turmeric, chilli, onion and garlic. These dishes can be identified by a fresh coriander garnish.”

Lastly, there are kababs, which are “any meat or vegetable cooked on an open flame.” The food is minced or marinated chunks. Siddiqui said, “ti’s not like cooking a steak. Slow and low is integral to Pakistani food.”

While these categories help guide people, Siddiqui believes that “Pakistani food is a melting pot of cuisines from all over the world.” The variety of dishes have similarities to various recipes from across the globe.

Siddiqui believes, “The famous Kababs from the Mughal dinner table are drawn from Persia. Khao Suey, a Karachi classic is inherited from migrants that once lived in what is now Myanmar. The tandoor is a cooking technique in Georgia and I’m not one to say who came up with it first! Even chillis and tomatoes were properly introduced to South Asia by the Portuguese in the 16th century. That’s not that long ago in the grander scheme of things and now these two ingredients are vital to so many Pakistani dishes! “

A seat at the table is waiting for everyone to learn more about Pakistani food, Numra Siddiqui and the chefs that she invites to share their story. New episodes of If These Meals Can Talk air on Tastemade’s streaming network. on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET.

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What do you think of Pakistani food? Do you believe that food and culture has similiarites across the globe?