By Raiq Qureshi
ISLAMABAD, Jan 26 (APP):Punjabi Cuisine refers to a vast variety of delectable and exotic vegetarian and non-vegetarian best decorated and popular dishes from the region of Punjab prepared with varied traditional culinary styles and tandoori methods.
Punjab with its rich cultivating lands has traditionally been an agrarian society since the time of the ancient Harappa Civilization. The land is ideal for growing wheat and is called the ‘Granary of Punjab’ or Punjabi bread-basket’.
The two major crops cultivated in Punjab are rice and wheat, which remain the principal crops grown during the Kharif season and the Rabi season respectively. Likewise, the indigenous Punjab Basmati rice has been the pride of the region being grown since time immemorial. “Sialkot”, is famous for producing the most aromatic rice in South Asia.
The practice of multi-cropping is quite common in Punjab which also grows sugarcane, bajra (pearl millet), jowar (great millet), barley, potatoes, vegetables and fruits among others.
Cattle primarily used for agriculture and dairy farming in the region form the major source of dairy products from ghee, butter, clarified butter, curd, cottage cheese to a wide variety of sweet dishes. Thus the staple foods grown locally including the dairy products become an integral part of the local diet.
Traditionally, ghee, butter, clarified butter; cottage cheese and sunflower oil are used to cook various Punjabi dishes. However, now-a-days, ghee, cream and butter are liberally used in restaurants to prepare the dishes while the more health conscious households have mostly switched to sunflower oil or other refined oils.
Kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves, onion, garlic and ginger are used extensively to prepare various Punjabi delicacies. Food additives such as vinegar, bulking agents the starch, coloring agents as zarda and condiments like cumin, coriander, dried methi leaves and black pepper are used to enhance the taste and flavor of various dishes. Fermented foods, pickles are also used to prepare many cuisines.
Talking to APP, Abdur Rehman of Chicken Handi restaurant in Faisalabad while sharing his cooking experiences said that eliminating pickle “Achar” from the Punjabi cuisine means fading out the taste buds from the mouth of Punjabis as it was an essential part of Punjabi meals. Therefore, Achari Ghost is one of the famous dishes made of chicken or meat and pickles.
The traditional stoves and ovens in Punjab are called Chulla and Bharolli and it is common to find ovens called band chulla and wadda chulla in Punjabi households.
Shamshaad Bibi said that it was believed that the natural burning elements such as cow down biscuits stems of different tress etc enhances the cooking quality and provides a better taste as it slowly prepares the dish and the final result comes with smooth touch.
Abid Hussain, a cook from a famous café of Halwa Poori in Sialkot said that halwapoori was not only a breakfast for Punjabis but it also became a part of their various functions and events like Maiyoo as a starter in early days of 1980’s and is still popular amongst their dining tables in wedding ceremonies. “Halwapoori consisting of poori bread that is roundish bread deep fried served with a sweet dish called halwa is also taken as breakfast” he added.
Punjabi cuisine includes various exquisite vegetarian dishes that can be taken with different breads and also with some rice preparations like simple hot Basmati rice or Jeera Rice.
Some of the popular dishes are Aloo Gobi, a spicy vegetable made of potato and cauliflower; Aloo Tikki, a small and roundish cutlet like dish prepared with potato, onion and different curry spices; AlooMattar, a spicy and creamy curry made with potato and peas; Baingan Bharta, a luscious dish made with aubergines that are roasted mashed and cooked with onions, ginger, tomatoes and green chillies.
Punjabi kitchen also offers a number of exquisite and delicious non-vegetarian gravy preparations as well, each of which are cooked in different style using unique combination of spices and other ingredients.
Some of the most delectable ones are Butter Chicken, Chicken Kadahi, Rogan Josh, MurgMusallam, Egg Curry, SaagGosht, KadhaiGosht and NihariGosht among others.
According to some historical food writers, Nihari was adopted from present Sindh’s Cuisine with some changes and now it is one of the most beloved dishes in Punjab, especially in Lahore. Mohammdi Nihari House in Lahore is an example of Punjabi’s love for Nihari.
A vast variety of sweet dishes or mithyai such as Kheer, Barfi, Kulfi, MotichoorLaddu, Rabri and Sheer Korma is just to name a few. It is said that Punjabis live to eat and their verity of dishes make manifestation of the fact.