Shanaz Ramzi is an extraordinary person. She wears many hats and wears all of them well. She writes on a wide variety of subjects and does a good job. She works for a TV network, which is trying to branch out into print as well. She edits its publications and looks after the network’s PR. She attends weddings, engagements, valimas and birthday parties, has a wide circle of friends, and what is more she runs a household efficiently. More than anything else she happily baby sits two cuddly grandchildren.

Behind every successful married woman is a supportive husband. Zulfiqar Ramzi, stands by her all the time. But now let’s talk about the icing on the Shanaz cake. It’s her debut book, Food Prints: Overview of Pakistani cuisine. It’s not a run of the mill cook book, nor was its launch a routine affair. The event was refreshingly (read deliciously) different from the normal book launches. To begin with, there were a wide variety of mouth-watering snacks from chapli kabab from the north of the subcontinent to masala dossa, a delicacy from the south, now a part of Karachi’s cuisine. All food and drinks (except lassi) were served hot and fresh from counters set up on the lawns of Frere Hall. Guests relived their childhood savouring gola gunda. The list of goodies is large and my space restricted. Before I forget, let me add that Frere Hall’s imposing structure, bathing in floodlights, lent grandeur to the scene.

The event jointly hosted by the publishers, Oxford University Press and BBCL, was meticulously planned by Pervez Iqbal. The mistress of ceremony was an accomplished chef, Shaista, who had been a chef in some well known and some hardly known New York restaurants. She is now doing a show for one of the food channels. She regretted that there was no book on Pakistani cooking. Food Prints, she claimed, would fill in the gap somewhat. No one will dispute that, but one felt that she monopolised the mike a bit too much and spoke mostly in first person singular, even when she was inviting other speakers.

The main speaker of the evening, the author, revealed that it took her seven years to complete the book. First her publishers wanted her to do a book for kids, but she was determined to come out with something well researched and which could be of use to not just Pakistanis but food lovers of other countries as well. Her speech, laced with humour, was lively.

Cuisine like any other aspect of a culture can be properly appreciated if it is viewed in the contexts of history and geography. The first chapter ‘A look at Pakistan’s Geography and Anthropology’ examines the cuisine of each province separately and takes Karachi, the most cosmopolitan part of Pakistan, as a separate entity. This chapter like the rest of the book is interspersed with lovely pictures, some specially shot and some from existing records.

In the next chapter ‘Cooking the Pakistani Way’, Ramzi introduces some local utensils like the karahi, the handi, the tawa, the hawan dasta and the seel batta. She also introduces baghar and tarka, which are different from simple frying. She talks of dum cooking and bhoonna. In yet another chapter she writes about ingredients like elaichi, garam masala, cinnamon, cumin etc. which add distinct flavour to Pakistani dishes.

Subsequent chapters are devoted in detail to the cuisines of different regions. Even a person initiated into culinary art is likely to learn about dishes that he or she may never have heard of. For instance, not many people even in urban Sindh would have heard of Dho do, which is a special thick roti, prepared with masala and garlic paste and consumed with mint chutney. If you move up from Sindh to Hunza, you will run into not one but five seemingly ‘alien’ dishes – Kurutz, Barusshapik, Barus berikutz, Chapshuro and Khamuloot pie.

In the chapter on Karachi, you will get to read about the dishes that the immigrants from India and the people from the rest of Pakistan have popularised here. So if there is ghulawat ke kabab from Lucknow and gola kabab from Delhi, there is chapli kabab from Peshawar.

There are seasonal foods, like those you take on a rainy day or on festivals like Eid, Christmas, Diwali and Nauroz.

Towards the end of the book the author shares recipes of her favourite dishes, which include her and this reviewer’s favourite pizza, the chicken tikka pizza. What a great example of fusion cooking!

The last section outlines the recipes of some very popular dishes, from Dilli ki nihari and Punjab ke paye to sambusa brought by the Tajiks – a cousin of our samosa.

The beautifully designed book was printed in Malaysia, had it been done in Lahore, where they recently printed the outstanding coffee table book Churches of Pakistan, Food Prints would have been affordable. At Rs 2,200 many people will be reluctant to buy it. The next edition of this priceless book, figuratively speaking, should be printed in Pakistan.

The writer, who jointly authored the bestselling ‘Tales of Two Cities’ with Kuldip Nayar and more recently compiled and created ‘Mehdi Hasan: The Man and his Music’ writes and lectures on music, literature and culture. He also reviews books and pens travelogues and humorous pieces.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (38)

April 30, 2012 8:31 am
its actually ur northern part who cooks pakistani food. 40% of combined punjab went to india and whole india is proud of its karahi, daal. look at indian food in other than western india. Oh God i m feeling bad i have to compare our food with dosa, waday, papadam, and other sweet dishes.
April 30, 2012 2:02 pm
Very good point. We need to make an effort to slowly alter our taste buds. We need to eat more vegetables and retain their nutrients and original flavor by not over cooking them. Lentils and all kind of daals are my favorites, but again if we can cut down on the oil we use in the baghaar.
April 30, 2012 4:38 pm
suggest you buy the book. you'll find out.
April 30, 2012 8:45 am
Looks like a very interesting book. Wonder if there's a way to get a hold of it in the UK.
April 30, 2012 4:48 pm
Muhammad: Not sure if you have read the book. But it lists not just the so called mughlai dishes, but many south Indian dishes like Dosa, etc. And if your statement is correct, then the world would be celebrating the so called Afghan and Central Asian dishes as opposed to Indian Cuisine. Aneesh
April 30, 2012 8:35 am
come on, thats a racist statement for food of other people. nothing to be ashamed of in promoting any kind of food. if you have guts why dont u open an authentic nehari and nargasi kofta place in lahore. they say, if you cant run a food outlet in lahore, you cant do any business
April 29, 2012 11:25 pm
Masala dosa? since when has it become a Pakistani dish.? That's from south India! Not to talk about other dishes which are from India as well. pathetic attempt!
April 29, 2012 12:36 pm
Let's face facts.Pakistani cuisine especially from Punjab is no different from Indian Punjab.Your culture and language is the same.Only religion is different.Yet in the outside world this Indian food is a hit, while nobody has heard of Pakistani food.Where is your sense of entrepreneurship?Especially in England where north Indian food is the rage.
Naeem Malik
April 30, 2012 9:54 am
Is Pakistani cuisine different from North Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine is influenced by Mughals, Persians. Dont Pakistanis eat the same food as Indians, maybe with more meat dishes. In the west it is very hard to sell a concept of Pakistani cuisine. Most restaurants owned by Pakistanis would display "Pakistani and Indian cuisine". There has to be some ethnic Baloch, SIndhi, Pashtun dishes which are unique from present region of Pakistan. I hope they are covered , rather than typical food eaten (like Hyderabadi) by Pakistanis which is also eaten in India.
Asif Noorani
May 2, 2012 5:09 am
Let's keep cuisines, as indeed other artforms, free from prejudices. Fusion in food is as pleasing as fusion in music, depending on how you do it. The Chinese food in the subcontinent is not accepted as truly Chinese by people from China and even Hong Kong, but it is enjoyed in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Likewise, is Chicken Tikka Piza, Italian or Pakistani? All I know is that it tastes good.. Friends just enjoy the food and praise Ms Ramzi for doing an excellent job.
April 29, 2012 10:48 pm
Chicken Karahi: Trim as much fat as you can off the meat, cut down the salt, use little vegetable oil, and eat the dish with whole wheat roti. This applies to any handi really. There: you have your source of fibre, you have less saturated fat and sodium. Healthy Pakistani food. Next challenge, portion control and add a salad. You get your balanced meal. The health challenges in Pakistan stemming from poor diet are a result of using Palm oil and ghee (and in excessive quantities), lack of exercise, and too much salt. These can be remedied easily.
April 30, 2012 1:02 pm
Pakistan came into existence 65 years ago. So any new dishes invented during the last 65 years could be called Pakistani. All the others are Indian.
Muhammad Ahmed
April 30, 2012 6:53 am
If it is so,then you must realize that these are not even true Indian cuisines. Most of these cuisines were brought to India by Afghans and Mughals.
Muhammad Ahmed
April 30, 2012 6:48 am
May 1, 2012 3:17 am
I love Pakistani food which is mainly known in the USA as Indian, but it is full of oil and salt and if you ask the server for no salt or reduced salt and oil or ghee he or she agrees but when the dishes are seved they are mostly flooded with oil and salt. You have no but to take a double dose of blood presure madecine. Ver unhealthy food but tasty.
Riaz Murtaza
April 28, 2012 1:13 pm
I may like to suggest, Pakistani cusisines must also include some dishes based on low sodium, low fat, high fibre. To make a nation strong and healthy, I believe it is very important. This will reduce the suffering of diabetes, high blood pressure and many other disease.
April 28, 2012 1:26 pm
Tell me something. If in my country, Malaysia there are restaurants that serve food from around the world.There is a variety of Indian cuisine all over the countries big town and doing well.How come I do not read of Pakistani food being sold here?Any body willing to take a challenge?It will work. We be the malays,chinese,indians and the expatriates are game at trying good food.We are known as the biggest foodist in the world.With no economic ,political and racial tensions, we concentrate on eating.
JahanZeb Qureshi
April 28, 2012 3:37 pm
Is this book available at an on-line store?
April 28, 2012 5:16 pm
The very first sentence 'Shanaz Ramzi is an extraordinary person' shows clear bias and hints broadly and personal friendship thus negating everything else from that point on.
Arshad Patel, USA
April 28, 2012 5:40 pm
Can anybody tell me what are the actual Pakistani dishes? Most of us talk about Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, European and South American dishes. And we are proud that we are copying other cultures.
April 28, 2012 5:43 pm
Does the book has lots of pictures of exotic dishes as well. Is the book available in USA.
April 28, 2012 6:38 pm
The food which we the migrants from India brought in 1947 is no more in reality only the names are there. where can you smell the nihari these days? who can make nargisi kofte?etc.etc. All you see is useless and meaningless karhai,balty and handis and than they boast of their specialities shamelessly.
shanaz Ramzi
April 30, 2012 4:28 pm
Mr Naeem Malik's, Yes Pakistani cuisine is different from North Indian cuisine although there are many dishes that are common to both thanks to our roots being the same. If I have mentioned any item that is eaten in India, as Pakistani cuisine as well, the objective is not to take away from India its cuisine but to highlight the fact that a common history has given rise to a common cuisine as there are many Pakistanis whose forefathers hailed from Delhi, Luknow, Hyderabad, etc who cook the specialties of their communities here.If westerners don't know about Pakistani cuisine, then don't you think it is time they did? As you yourself pointed out many dishes were brought to this region by Mughals, Persians, etc and have evolved over time, so no one country can claim to have exclusive rights over those dishes. My request to all is to please read the book before forming any opinion about it.
May 1, 2012 5:48 am
Indus valley civilisation is concentrated in Pakistan, there all the "indian" food is that of this civilisation. The word "India" comes from indus river, which is in Pakistan. The rulers of india before the British were people who are the forefathers of present day Pakistan. Therefore essentially the whole so called north indian cuisine is the cuisine of people of Pakistan. The only true "bharati" cuisini is that of aboriginal people who were pushed into southern areas by invaders coming from the region- which is present day Pakistan. So please dont argue with history. Accept it as it is.
April 30, 2012 11:33 pm
This is an unfair comment Nasha. I am sure it is a matter of delight for people on both sides of the border to adopt their neighbor's cuisine, make it their own, and also call it their own. As an Indian (and a South Indian) I applaud it. On another note, out here in San Antonio, Texas (USA) I avoid Indian restaurants and go to the sole Pakistani restaurant in town (Kohinoor). I cannot sample their meat dishes as I am a vegetarian, but I heartily tuck into their vegetarian Pakistani dishes. Many of the dishes from Pakistan are unique, and some have evolved through outside influence. That is true for India as well. May Pakistani cuisine prosper and remain as innovative as ever.
April 29, 2012 12:14 am
i fail to see what is 'Pakistani' in the book...its all 'Indian' cuisines......tell me one dish which you cook in Pakistan but is not cooked in India?? anyone....???and it was you who got seprated but still cooking our dishes.
Hamid Rasheed
April 30, 2012 7:12 am
Great work, this is the first book of its kind in Pakistan. Just like Pakistanis & Indian they look like same but they are different, you can feel the difference of cuisine of both countries.
Agha Ata
April 30, 2012 12:55 pm
I have mentioned it before, somewhere, and I am saying it again that the chefs in the officers messes of Pakistan Army have developed a totally different but wonderful culinary art of Pakistani cuisines. It is totally different and wonderful taste that suites Pakistani palate, but is so very different. They are the people who cater for state guests when necessary. But not civilian is allowed in the messes, it is a well kept secret (maybe not intentionally). I would suggest to probe into the matter to see if it is good for people.
May 5, 2012 7:33 pm
This is just the kind of book we needed to raise the much needed awareness of the cultural culinary history of Pakistan, I do hope to see this book on shelves in UK book stores - happy to say I am receiving my copy tomorrow as my mom is bringing it with her!:) As a passionate Pakistani cook, food blogger, supperclub host and teacher, I am so focused on promoting Pakistani food in the West - living in London I am happy to say I am making baby steps - I really wish Shanaz the best and thank her for bringing such a treasure to showcase our rich and fabulous cuisine.
May 13, 2012 7:31 pm
The content of this book is very informative and of course beyond a simple recipe book. But being a food photographer, my heart ached at the poor quality pictures which are not as many as one should expect in a book of this calibre. A great good ruined just because of lousy pictures in it.
Moosa M.
June 11, 2012 3:46 pm
Very true.
Mubeen Alum
May 25, 2012 7:46 am
Cant wait to get my hands on such a book :D
May 25, 2012 9:44 am
i am surprised u never published my post when it was so complimentary to Shanaz's work!
Moosa M.
June 11, 2012 3:46 pm
No body should claim the present food being Pakistani or Indian foods. Most of them are Afghani, Irani, Turkish and Arabic. There have been lot of innovations by the chefs. All credit goes to them. Chicken karahi is not an original dish. It has been names because of the pot it is cooked in.
July 25, 2012 9:16 am
The research seems quite interesting and we need more researched on these type of aspects of our society, i know few of them @ but i need to read this book first.
California Dentist
July 26, 2012 6:58 am
I am a mother who is really enjoys to cook foods for my family. That is why I am very thankful to every author who gives me ideas of the next recipe I wil serve to my husband and children. I have a plan to buy one of this book so that I'll have a new cuisine to offer to my family again. I beleive this Food Print can help every mom who loves to coke.
Rev Eldrick Lal
July 31, 2012 4:32 am
No doubt, Pakistani cuisine is scrumptious but also greasy. I always prefer a cup of green tea after Pakistani meals.
August 8, 2012 7:46 pm petty! Why argue? Enjoy the food as well as the book. Does it matter whether the dish is Indian or Pakistani in origin? I'm sure it will taste delicious on either side of the border. Why bicker? Let us enjoy our common points and learn to admire the difference. After all we have been separae for more than 60 yrs now. Let's accept that we are two nations stemming out of a common branch. be it Kababs or Parathas, Dhoklas or Dosas, Jalebis or Rasgullas...each is unique in its way.
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