The Dad Man’s passion is learning about healthful and organic foods. He is the voice of conscience that reminds us of the evils of the fried fare that the rowdy ruffians and I cannot seem to resist. Mars loves savoury food, while Bear cannot resist anything sweet. Both love potatoes and declare, the minute they step into the markets at F6 and Jinnah (F7), that they can smell delicious french fries cooking.
There are many vendors selling these chips – I keep meaning to take a photo, but it’s just one of those things I keep forgetting. These hawkers have little tables and deep fryers. The fries can be bought spiced (a mixture of chilli, pepper and other masala) or simply salted and are cheap at 10 to 20 rupees a pack. (The packs are pockets made out of brown paper or pages of old phone books… how’s that for recycling?) The vendors also have jars of chilli sauce that you can spoon onto your chips if their masala isn’t spicy enough for your taste!
We now make most of our snacks at home and try to come up with healthier alternatives (we’re trying, Tea, we really are!), but we do enjoy strolling by the markets once in a while to see how local delights are prepared. There are more upmarket bakeries, but these stalls I photographed last year are so much more fun! They make brisk business and are just bustling with activity!
I’m not a fan of Pakistani sweetmeats – or mithai as they are collectively known. These little cakes like burfi, gulab jamun, laddoo and sheera are a little too rich and sweet for my taste. I cannot eat more than a bite usually, but they are a big part of Pakistani culture and I can certainly appreciate their charm. People give them as gifts and serve them on festive occasions, when celebrating good news and at parties.
The one sweet thing I do enjoy in Pakistan is jilebi :) In the hands of a talented cook, these are really really good… trrrrust me! A batter of flour, yoghurt, water and baking powder is piped in piped in concentric circles into hot oil. When golden and crisp, these spirals are dipped into a syrup flavored with rose water. Sinful? Yes, most definitely!
Oodles and oodles of jilebi!
Hawkers boiling milk. Apparently folks dunk the sweet jilebis into a bowl of warm milk and eat the mixture like cereal. I’ve never tried it myself!
Like Mars, I much prefer the savoury and spicy food in Pakistan. Mars especially loves samosas. Back in Singapore, my family would make samosas with thin springroll skins (it is like filo pastry and mainly used by the Chinese) and minced meat filling. These would be small flat triangles with crispy, flaky crusts. In Pakistan, the samosa pastry is made out of flour and shaped into much larger almost pyramid-like shapes. These are stuffed with a variety of fillings like ground beef, mutton or chicken, potatoes, peas and even lentils. There are even meetha (sweet) samosas – these are stuffed with halwa. The most popular however are those filled with spiced potatoes. This filling has a spicy flavour with a hint of tartness, courtesy of ground pomegranate seeds.
Samosas and springrolls… it was all I could do to walk away without a bagful of those gorgeous morsels.
Now, you can’t live in Pakistan and not love pakoras! My mother-in-law calls these rainy day food – she loves eating pakoras with a hot mug of tea when it is pouring out :) It is also a must in most Pakistani homes in Ramadan for the break of fast meal. Spoonfuls of besan batter mixed with spices, onions, potatoes and spinach are deep fried. You can also dunk other vegetables to get these delicious babies. Some people like making green chilli pakoras, but we like eggplants, which taste so lovely and creamy when fried. My friend Tahira, who makes the best pakoras in all of Islamabad, adds some chopped tomatoes in her mix for a sweet-sour flavour. The trick is not to make the batter too dense or the fritters become too heavy and chewy. She uses just enough to coat the vegetables so the flavours and crispness are retained.
Pakoras were the first local things I ate when I went backpacking in India waaay back when. I didn’t know what they were called then, but I found them scrumptious!
I’d better publish some homeschool posts and book reviews before I cave in and fry me some pakoras…