Lahore is Pakistan’s second-largest city and historic cultural centre of its province, Punjab. In the past, the city has been under the rule of numerous empires, including the Hindu Shahis, Ghaznavids, Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal empire, all accounting for its rich culture. There are many architectural sites in Lahore that are worth visiting.
The city also exhibits the impacts of its history in its food. The influence of the Middle East, India, and Central Asia is patent. Although much of it is influenced by Mughlai cuisine. Due to these factors the city is sometimes regarded as the food and culture centre of Pakistan.
The streets in Lahore are quite busy on a usual day. There are many famous food streets filled with people, chit-chats, laughs, aromas, and flavourful treats. Lahoris are famous for their love of food and when it comes to the street foods some may even claim that the street foods are so much better than the foods from lavish restaurants. Here are 5 street foods regarded as the best ones in Lahore:
Butt Karahi: This is a traditional dish and one of the yummiest foods that could be found at the streets of Lahore. It has the heart of millions and is renowned all over Pakistan. It has been so well-known and so in demand that other major cities of Pakistan have also started serving it. In some places it is also served live. Customers can select a chicken themselves according to their preferences. It is then slaughtered, prepared, and served fresh. It is a blend of perfectly measured spices, tomatoes, onions, and most importantly organic chicken, cooked till melt-in-mouth softness and tenderness is achieved. It Is then garnished with fresh coriander and dash of lime juice to add a tangy flavour. Often cream is added to make the gravy thick and rich. While it is totally a judgmental call but the best way to have it is with a naan, a cold drink, and obviously at a street hotel or vendor by the roadside.
Laddu Pethiyan: This is another one of the popular street foods from Lahore. It is usually eaten as an evening snack to satiate that light hunger. It is easily available all around the city, with some vendors selling it by the roadside and some pushing their carts around the streets calling out to people. The dumplings are made with a combination of lentils and a perfect blend of spices. They are then fried till crispy. Each dumpling is perfectly browned and precisely bite-sized. The presentation with the condiments and garnishes, is what makes it so tempting. The dumplings are topped with finely grated radish, chaat masala, plum sauce, and sometimes mint-tamarind sauce, sliced onions, and yogurt.
Dahi bhallay: These soft and spongy dumplings drenched in sweetened yogurt are a hallmark of Lahore. It is a sweet and savoury dish and a great treat for your taste buds. This is eaten as a snack, appetiser or a side dish and is often served with chickpeas and boiled potatoes. The dumplings are made from lentils. Though the most commonly used is the black gram, many make it with a different lentil or a combination of lentils. These dumplings are then soaked in sweetened yogurt, topped with sweet and spicy tamarind sauce, chaat masala, papri, chopped onions and tomatoes, and fresh coriander leaves. The correct and undisputed way to have it is with all of the contents in your spoon, have a mouthful bite and you will be left craving for more.
Takka-tak/Katakat: While there’s a conflict on the name of the dish, if it is Takka-tak or the other way around, there might be any conflicts on how admired is this dish in Lahore. The name actually comes from the sounds that reverberate when the dish is prepared. Special blades/spatulas are used to cut the meat on a griddle. For the Takka-tak lovers, merely the echoing sound is tantalising, intensifying the hunger, and awakening the taste buds. It is a main course dish. The main ingredients include meat along with other body organs like the brain, liver, heart, and kidneys. It shouldn’t sound bizarre because these organs are eaten on their own in Pakistani cuisine. All these are mixed, spiced, and cooked on a griddle while cutting them finely simultaneously. It makes up a lucrative dish as the taste is unmatchable and at the same time the variety of organs makes it a nutrient-rich food, as they are loaded with Omega-3s, iron, and vitamins.
Nihari: Nihari is a originally a breakfast dish. The name comes from the Arabic word ‘nahar’ which means ‘morning’. As mentioned earlier, Lahore’s food has influences from the Mughals and this dish is an example. It was introduced by the Mughal empire. It is said to have been cooked for the nawabs starting at night, simmered for several hours, and served in the morning. The nawabs used to have it after offering their morning prayers. It is a common breakfast dish among Lahoris. Many hotels serve it in the morning with piping hot naans. People gather to have it and boost their energies for the rest of the day. It is a spicy meal and a healthy breakfast option because it has broth as its base and extra added benefits of the wheat flour incorporated in the gravy, making it one the favourites in Lahore. Its distinction is the way in which it is cooked. The stew is cooked for about 6 hours to infuse the flavour and aroma of the spices and the juices from the meat eventually giving a pleasant and unique flavour to the dish. It can be prepared using beef or chicken but the most common is mutton Nihari. It is a spicy dish served with garnishes of julienne ginger, chopped green chilies, fresh coriander leaves, and dashes of lime. These foods contribute to the best of the street foods from Lahore. To really discover Lahore, one should try all these specialties of the city, otherwise the trip is surely going to be unaccomplished!