Spicy secrets of Lahore
Food to Lahoris is what a pen is to a writer or a credit card to a shopaholic. The city of Lahore tops the list when it comes to the proverbial Punjabi hospitality. It offers a wide range of gastronomic options. Delhiites can savour a host of dishes from the streets of Lahore at the ongoing Lahori Food Festival at Zune, Hilton, Janakpuri.
Lahore has a merry mix of wholesome Punjabi food, Mughlai delicacies and, lately of course, exotic Mexican, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. But wouldn’t you rather stick to the first two, which tickle the sub-continental taste buds like nothing else?
Talking about the specialities of Lahori cuisine, Chef Irfan at Zune, Hilton says, “Handi meat and gosht kadhai are among the staple diet of the Lahoris. These dishes are cooked with either mutton or chicken, embellished with spices, and cooked in a pan on low fire. Gosht is the key word here; yet another speciality is the dal gosht, meat cooked with pulses.”
Needless to say, Lahori food is a carnivore’s delight; all vegetables are cooked with meat. “One can have a regular cauliflower subzi cooked with chicken or bitter gourd or lady’s finger stuffed with minced, fried, curried and steamed meat. Meat is an integral part of the Lahori cuisine,” adds Chef Irfaan.
Lahori cuisine has its roots in Afghan, Turkish and Iranian cuisines, a blend that evolved from the Muslim rule in South Asia. Stemming down from the courts and kitchens of the Mughal emperors, Humanyun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, Lahori cuisine is known to be aromatic, spicy and rich which eventually leaves you with a stomach filled with satisfaction.
Nuts, such as pistachios and pine nuts, are majorly present as stuffing in
several Lahori dishes. This makes them suitable for the winter season. Most of the dishes make use of whole spices like cloves, saffron and big cardamom. The rich taste of these spices give a certain flavour and aroma to the dishes. “Lahori biryani, Tahiri biryani are the choices of rice lovers. These kinds of pulao (spiced rice) combined with pieces of slowly roasted lamb often contain dried fruit, nuts, and whole aromatic spices,” says Chef Rakesh Kumar, Zune, Hilton, Janakpuri.
Rakesh adds, “Lahori food is about same day cooking and same day consumption.”
The dishes are specific as well to the occasion or the time of the day they are being served. Chef Irfaan says, “For instance, halwa-puri and nihari make for a Lahori’s favourite naashta (breakfast or brunch), while the biryani-korma combo together with zarda or kulfi or gaajar ka halwa are a common man’s standard wedding reception menu.”
Talking about the best breads that are served with Lahori dishes, Chef Rakesh says, “Breads like sheermal, lachchha paranthas, naan, taftan, khameeri roti are some of the popular breads that go well with Lahori cuisine.”
Desserts include sheer khurma, kulfi, falooda, kheer, rasmalai, phirni, shahi tukray and rabri. Pakistani desserts also include a long list of halvah such as Multani, Karachi, sohan halvah, and hubshee halvah. Gajraila made from grated carrots, boiled in milk, green cardamom, and topped with dried fruits is also popular.
Lahori fish fry
650 gm king fish
80 gm besan
80 gm red chilli paste
5 gm ajwain
5 gm salt, or to taste
30 gm ginger garlic paste
5 gm garam masala
250 ml refined oil
30 ml lemon juice
5 gm black salt
5 gm chopped green chilli
15 gm chopped green coriander
60 ml water
Darne cut fish (king fish). Wash and clean the fish.
Take a clean bowl and add fish, ginger garlic paste lemon juice, salt, red chilli paste. Mix well, keep aside for 1 hour.
Take another bowl, add besan, ajwain, garam masala, black salt, egg,
green chilli chopped, green coriander chopped. Mix well. Add water if required.
Add marinated fish in besan batter. Marinate for 1-2 hrs.
Take a kadai. Heat oil. Fry fish at moderate heat.
Serve hot with mint chutney and lachchha onion