At first glance, Pakistan Heritage Cuisine – A Food Story is a beautiful coffee table book. Replete with gorgeous photography, the book is an ode to Pakistan, its people and – most importantly – to its diverse cuisine.
The book is penned by an entrepreneur based in Karachi, Sayeeda Leghari, and published by Markings, a local publishing house. Leghari states that she wanted to give back to Pakistan in some way or the other, given her immense love for her country. Being a diehard foodie, the overall subject of the book, food, was thus an obvious choice.
“We don’t have a huge book culture coming out of Pakistan,” Leghari says, mentioning that print, for her, was therefore the best medium to celebrate the country’s exhaustive, gastronomic range of grub, that has been served up from the home kitchen to the restaurant for decades.
“Throughout my travels, I noticed that these authentic food places aren’t fancy, but they take so much pride in what they’re serving to their customers,” the author says. “Their kitchens and utensils are sparkling clean; something that we might not even see in the largest restaurants in the trendiest joints in our major cities!”
“My love for food and the global love for food made me realise it was a good theme to work on,” she explains, “The world unites on food, but since the topic of food is such a vast subject, through this book, I’ve tried to bring in a little bit of everything vis-à-vis our heritage and our culture in it. But I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg; there’s so much more that needs to be said and written about regarding Pakistani cuisine.”
Tracing the country’s delectably diverse food trail throughout its provinces, each page highlights well-known dishes that are part of the very fabric of the Pakistani identity. From maghaz masala to daal fry, biryani to palla machli, an assortment of kebabs (distinct in their preparation and seasoning), to an assortment of melt-in-your-mouth breads (bakarkhani, kulcha, the good old paratha, and more), to scrumptious local desserts (malai ka khaja, Peshawari ice cream, qulfi, zarda, and the list is endless) and a separate section on ‘community cuisine’ (featuring the likes of bagare baingan, Bohri thaal, nargisi koftay, etc), snacks and drinks: Pakistan Heritage Cuisine – A Food Story makes a successful, ambitious attempt at bringing forth all that is Pakistani in a stunning, 300-page book.
With stunning visual imagery by way of photographers Izdeyar Setna, Amna Zuberi, Kohi Marri and Mobeen Ansari, Leghari reveals that she traveled extensively throughout the country along with her late childhood friend, Ali Yousuf (mentioned as the food expert in the book), who was known among their circle of friends as someone who simply had a knack for sussing out the best places to find certain dishes at. “I always knew about his love for food and his penchant for finding authentic restaurants in Pakistan,” she says, mentioning the numerous eateries they visited and sampled food at.
For instance, one little outlet, discovered by Yousuf in Lahore, was one that specialises purely in authentic hareesa. “The owner of the shop travels from Kashmir and only serves hareesa at his shop for three months in a year,” Leghari states, “And he’s always booked!”
“Throughout my travels, I noticed that these authentic food places aren’t fancy, but they take so much pride in what they’re serving to their customers,” the author goes on to say, “Their kitchens and utensils are sparkling clean; something that we might not even see in the largest restaurants in the trendiest joints in our major cities! What truly stood out for me was the pride with which these pioneer retailers took in cooking and serving their food, and at the same time, keeping their cuisine’s authenticity alive.”
With commentary by Hussain Haroon (the former Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations), Fatima Surayya Bajia (the late, iconic playwright), Marjorie Hussain (the well-known artist and curator) and Khawar Butt, including a number of family favourite recipes, Pakistan Heritage Cuisine – A Food Story will enthuse you to create a storm in the kitchen, next time you’re considering putting together a meal for your loved ones.
All proceeds from the sale of the book go towards the Child Aid Foundation.
The author is a journalist based in Lahore. Follow her on Twitter @gigglypundit
Some Q&A with Sayeeda Leghari
TFT: What’s your all-time favourite Pakistani dish?
Sayeeda Leghari: Biryani – the most fulfilling, exotic dish which has no parallel in any other cuisine!
TFT: What memories do you associate with a steaming plate of biryani?
Sayeeda Leghari: Weddings! It reminds one of happy family unions.
TFT: If you had to choose one dish per province, what would they be?
Sayeeda Leghari: Along my travels, the foods that come to light with their simplicity, flavour and complete Pakistani origin have to be; palla machi, sajji, namak gosht, and the various forms of breads, naans and parathas.