In Zhob, whether you are poor or belong to a well-off family, you must have landi, or dried mutton, in the winter season. It is a tradition that is still alive, not only in the rural areas but also in the urban Pakhtun-dominated areas. It has now become popular among other areas inhabited by Afghan tribes as well.
The Zhob valley shares borders with South Waziristan and Afghanistan and is one of the coldest parts of the Balochistan. It lies on the route of the Afghan nomads, locally known as Kochis, who temporarily stay there with their cattle. With thousands of goats and sheep, the Kochis migrate from neighbouring Afghanistan to Punjab in winter and back to Afghanistan in summer. The majority of the population in Zhob is dependent on livestock and agriculture and people have cattle in their homes even in the urban areas.
As soon as winter arrives, a date is set unanimously for when the animals will be slaughtered by everyone in the village. Despite it being a chilly day in mid-winter, it is a special day of the season as the villagers, wrapped up in warm clothes, are busy in slaughtering a sheep or lamb in their homes. The animal has been grazed and fed in the last few months with utmost care. It is especially fattened and slaughtered as the meat is going to be preserved and dried to be consumed through the cold spell to provide nutrition and warmth through winter.
In winter, the tribes of Zhob in Balochistan prepare their very own version of meat jerky
The animal is slaughtered and the meat is cut in a special way to prepare landi, also known as persanda. Mostly goat and sheep meat is preferred and rarely beef is used. The best months to prepare landi are December and January. If it is cold enough, the meat dries out within 15 days. It is commonly eaten on cold nights to keep warm in cold weather.
The tradition of slaughtering animals for landi emerged because it is a tough winter for the northern areas. In weather conditions such as heavy snowfall, the residents of remote and hilly areas become disconnected from the cities. As a result, it becomes impossible to obtain fresh meat and vegetables from markets.
The animal selected for making landi is especially fattened for the purpose. For this, besides wild grazing, additional amount of grains, wheat and wild olive are also fed to the animal. The high-fat content of the meat consumed provides the much-needed warmth in winter months.
Zia Mandokhail, a resident of Killi Wiyala along the Zhob River, says that after slaughtering the animal, the family members — including children and women — start to shear the lamb skin until the wool is completely removed. Sometimes the wool is removed with scissors before slaughtering. After removing the viscera, the abdomen is sewn up. Using twigs and bushes, an open fire is prepared. The carcass is singed by the bonfire of bushes and cattail locally known as lukhay. After being charred, the skin often cooks into a crispy layer on top of it. Then it is washed outside and inside to remove blood, dirt, ashes, etc. The bones of the carcass are removed carefully so that the meat remains inside. The carcass is then cut to pieces, salted and pierced with a wooden stick. Pungent-smelling asafoetida which serves as a preservative (much-needed additive in areas where electricity and refrigerators are unavailable), is also rubbed on the meat. The pieces of meat are hung on wooden bars or rope to dry in the middle of a yard that is shady. The hanging pieces are exposed to the cold, dry air.
It often takes around a month for the meat strips to dry completely, but some people start eating the meat before it is fully dried. It is normally eaten when the weather is extremely cold. Some dried pieces are also taken out for cooking and the special winter dish is offered to family members and guests. It is not to be eaten uncooked as the meat is raw.
The cooking method or recipe is very simple. The meat is boiled in hot water for a while to wash off the salt and asafoetida used for preservation. Later, it is cooked in a cooker locally known as kataw or pressure cooker. The meat is boiled again in water and some herbs and spices are added. A soup of landi meat is also prepared and it is eaten with bread pieces dunked in it till they become soft. The landi meat is also prepared with rice. In whatever way it is prepared — in curry form or rice — not many spices are used in cooking as the landi has its own taste and spices can overpower its flavours.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, January 14th, 2018