Want to learn about Pakistani food? Looking for Pakistani recipes? Read Sumayya Usmani's guide below. After check out the olive podcast, where we discuss the 10 things you need to know about Pakistani food and cooking. Now discover Bangladeshi food: how to cook like a local and our guide to Omani food.


Pakistan is a land of diverse ethnicities and climates, and its cuisine is influenced by invasion, migration and its borders. From Arab, Mongol and Turkish invasions, to the borders of China, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and India – this is a cuisine best described as a confluence of South Asia.

Days begin with rich breakfasts of halwa puri, nihari stew and spicy eggs, lunch is usually lighter, with dinner mostly eaten late. Eating out is a favourite pastime. Cuisine drives religious festivals such as Eid, and in Ramadan restaurants are closed during the day, opening at ‘Iftar’ (breaking fast), when streets are lined with pakora and samosa stalls.

There are marked provincial differences: Punjabi food is hearty and aromatic, infused with cardamom, saffron and cloves. Lahore, famous for street food with sizzling meat dishes and markets filled with spices. In southern coastal Sindh, Arab influences of barbecue and seafood are found. Western Balochistan is arid and barren land, and most eat spit-roasted meat and bejewelled rice in carcasses. Little spice is used, and meats are dusted with salt and pepper, as it is in northern Pakistan, with
Central Asian dumplings and noodle soups, with Chinese influences of stir-frying, too.

Cities and village streets are alive with tandoor smoke and chaat snack stalls. In cities, people enjoy eating out – chicken tikkas, boti kebabs and other specialities such as kata-kat (offal chopped up with spices and tomatoes). Food is the life blood of all Pakistanis, both the sharing and the eating of it.

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Sumayya Usmani's Pakistani recipes

Bundoo Khan-style chicken boti tikka

Sumayya's Pakistani chicken tikka is the real deal – thread marinated chicken onto bamboo skewers and serve with tamarind chutney.

Skewered marinaded chicken sticks on a white plate

Prawn karahi

Plenty of spice, fresh prawns and ripe tomatoes are key to this authentic Pakistani prawn curry, finished with green chilli and ginger.

A prawn curry in a wide casserole pan with rice on the side

Street-side kulfi

This Pakistani dessert combines cardamom, sweetened condensed milk, ricotta and saffron – roll in ground pistachios for an extra flourish.

Kulfi pops arranged on a serving platter


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Sumayya UsmaniFood writer

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