Pakistani cuisine is based on masala (hot and spicy) sauces accompanying chicken, lamb, prawns and a wide choice of vegetables. Its flavours are drawn from its Afghani, Turkish and Iranian roots.

Pakistan is dry, hot and dusty – the perfect climate in which to enjoy a cool and refreshing lassiyogurt drink. This popular drink can be sweet or savoury but is most often fruit-flavoured.

Pakistanis have a sweet tooth. Jalebis, those crispy, orange swirls that are cooked on the side of the street throughout the subcontinent, are ever present, as are all kinds of variations on halwa(an egg and carrot based dessert). A good breakfast option is a fried paratha (unleavened bread) with egg.

There are plenty of snacks to pick up on your travels throughout Pakistan including pakora, the gram flour deep-fried vegetable balls, and kachori, the lentil-filled pastries.

Pakistanis are big meat eaters. While there are designated meat-free days in Pakistan, most meals will come with meat.

Specialities:

  • Chappali (beef kebab) and a peshawari nan
  • Kheer (rice pudding) served in a clay pot
  • Biryani (seasoned rice with mutton, chicken and yoghurt)
  • Fried fish and rumali roti (a Karachi speciality)
  • Sag gosht (spinach and lamb curry)
  • Shish kebab (charcoal-grilled meat on skewers)
  • Shami kebab (patties of chopped meat fried in ghee or butter)
  • Halwa (desserts made with eggs, carrots, maize cream, semolina and nuts)

Things to know:

Alcohol may be bought at major hotels by visitors who have been issued a Liquor Permit from the Excise and Taxation Office. Wine is expensive and only available in upscale restaurants. Pakistani-brewed beer is available, as are canned carbonated drinks. There are no bars since there are strict laws concerning alcohol, and it is illegal to drink in public. Waiter service is provided in the larger hotels and restaurants. Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap; bottled water is available everywhere, but it is necessary to make sure it comes in properly sealed plastic bottles.

Tipping:

Most high-end hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge. Other tipping is discretionary.

Regional drinks:

  • Tea (drunk strong with milk and often very sweet)
  • Sulaimani chai (black tea with lemon)
  • Kawa (green tea)
  • Roh (a sugarcane juice)
  • Pakola (a carbonated cream soda sold in cans across Pakistan)