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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A guide to Pakistani food

The best South Asian foods to try other than the “basics” 


By JENA TUFAIL — jjtufail@ucdavis.edu


Growing up, all I ever ate was Pakistani food. I used to be jealous of my friends who ate lunch in the school cafeteria or brought what I considered “normal foods” like Lunchables. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how unique South Asian cuisine truly is. 

South Asia is an incredibly diverse place, full of not only a wide assortment of people, but of dishes too. From North Pakistan to North India, South India, Bangladesh and so on, recipes and methods vary. South Asia is not just made up of “tandoori chicken,” “buttered chicken” or “kheer.” As a Pakistani, I am here to give you some food and dessert recommendations that are different from the dishes you may have heard of.

South Asia is home to an array of desserts, including ice creams and fried treats. Some that I really like are kulfi, jalebi, gulab jamun and rasmalai. However, my favorite has to be “falooda” with ice cream, a cold dessert made of rose syrup, vermicelli noodles and milk. Perfect for a hot summer day, it is not only refreshing but a perfect mixture of flavors.

If you like mangos, “mango lassi” is also a great cold drink to have in the summer. Made of mangos, milk, yogurt and ice, mango lassi is a perfectly refreshing drink that is also easy to make from home. 

Another favorite of mine is Pakistani zarda. The sweet rice dessert, different from kheer, is made up of almonds, coconut and raisins. It is a blend of sweets and spices that many enjoy on a cold day. 

When it comes to savory dishes, one of my favorites is “biryani,” typically made with meat, potatoes, saffron and Indian spices. A great appetizer is also a “pakora,” a fried potato fritter that can be made with vegetables, or even with chicken. Gholgappe, or pani puri, is another one of my favorite South Asian foods known as typical street food and is made of crispy “puris” filled with boiled potatoes, vegetables and chutney.  

As someone who is from Northern Pakistan, I can only speak of dishes that I have grown up eating. However, there are even more that I haven’t mentioned. If you have the chance, talk to your friends, do some research and try different dishes from all over the continent.


Written by: Jena Tufail  — jjtufail@ucdavis.edu

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