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Pak spice to whet your appetite

From Jodia bazaar, Karachi’s bustling spice market, to Delhi’s Khari Baoli, Junaid Afridi has been trying to arrive at a perfect blend, reports Namita Kohli.

delhi Updated: Sep 02, 2007 00:55 IST
Namita Kohli

From Jodia bazaar, Karachi’s bustling spice market, to Delhi’s Khari Baoli, Junaid Afridi has been trying to arrive at a perfect blend — of Pakistani spices and Indian tastebuds, that is.

“Indians perceive Pakistani cuisine as heavy and very spicy. I want to change that,” he says, showing off packs of National Foods’ various spice blends that are crossing the LoC and would soon be available at 10,000 retail stores across the country.

The distinct aromas of sindhi biryani, karahi gosht, kebabs, and quormas have always had enough takers in India. And now with his ready-to-use spice blends priced at Rs 25, Afridi wants to recreate at least some of the street flavours.

So what’s different about Pakistani masalas? Much, though the spice bouquet remains the same on both sides of the border — cloves, cinnamon, chilli, cumin, black pepper — there’s an elaborate range of distinct flavours in the cuisine.

“Indians confuse it with Indianised Mughlai, but there are subtle differences,” says Afridi, senior business development manager at National Foods, on a brief visit to the capital.

Executive chef Sanjeev Takyar at Coriander Leaf, an Indo-Pak restaurant in Gurgaon says Pakistanis use a lot of black cumin, instead of white, coriander, aniseed, mace and nutmeg.

“Unlike us, they use a lot more garlic, rather than ginger and other special spices like kacheri (a form of berry) in their dishes,” he says.

Argues food consultant Manu Mohindra, “The difference is in the way the spices are treated. And when it comes to cuisine from across the borders, both sides are curious.”

Pakistani curries swimming in oodles of fat are a thing of the past. “Young homemakers don’t have time for slow-cooking, but they want to serve good food. Hence ready-to-mix spices come in handy,” says Afridi.

“Indian dosas are very popular in Pakistan, and the dosewali aunty is very popular in Karachi,” he says.

And guess what’s the latest rage? “Coffee bars like Café Coffee Day and Costa, which the Pakistani president himself visits and smokes a cigar in,” Now that’s the real spice in the story.