How to eat in Pakistan
Pakistani food is fantastic. I mean that.
Before moving here I was mildly concerned about what we would be eating. Once, in the UK, a Pakistani friend fed me their favourite dish, a delicacy known as “brains masala”, and the thought of subsisting on a diet of curried sheep brains filled me, perhaps understandably, with a certain amount of dread.
I needn’t have worried. Not only is brains masala a food reserved only for special occasions, but our diet is mostly vegetarian, mostly healthy, and always delicious. Far from becoming fat on copious quantities of curried meat I’ve actually lost weight.
Normal Pakistani food is subzi (vegetables), cooked in garlic and ginger and onions, with chilli powder added to taste. “Aloo pullak” (potatoes and spinach), for example, or “aloo gobi” (potatoes and cauliflower), or “aloo bengan” (potatoes and aubergine), or “kudoo” (courgettes), or pretty much any permutation of vegetables that you can get from the subzi-wallah. Bindi (okra) is a particular favourite, as is daal (curried lentils, a South Asian staple). When the cooking process is finished you’re left with a pan full of sloppy, slimy deliciousness, bursting with ginger, garlic, and quite possibly enough spice to strip the lining from your mouth.
But “wait”, I hear you cry, “how is one to consume this undoubtedly delicious food without the aid of cutlery?”.
Fear not, gentle reader, for in south Asia, as in many other parts of the world, bread serves as cutlery. You take your roti in one hand, tear off a piece large enough to serve as a utensil, and scoop up some of the food. Master all of these skills and you’ll never be at risk of starving to death.