Mapping foods and telling the untold story of Baluchistan cuisines

Islamabad: Pakistan’s largest but least populated province of Baluchistan is known for its natural diversity, rocky mountains and sandy deserts, farmland, delicious fruits and stunning coastline.

But there is also a whole world of ethnic diversity, cultures and especially culinary tradition that has remained largely ignored in the mainstream discourse. But now, a native of Balochistan is on a mission to explore her country’s food and culture and share the untold story of Balochistan cuisines.

Nilofer Afridi Qazi has traveled extensively across Balochistan to explore and document food and its connection to the region’s culture, people and landscape in his book “Culinary Tales of Balochistan” published this year.

Born in Quetta, Balochistan, she has lived in over a dozen countries as the daughter of a diplomat. The 2005 earthquake in Pakistan brought her home while she was working with UN-Habitat and it was basically the start of her journey to explore culture up close.

She has also worked as a specialist in public policy and development as well as in the fields of disaster management and cultural preservation, which encouraged her to travel and explore Pakistan’s undocumented culinary landscape by traveling 100 of the nearly 154 districts of Pakistan.

During her travels and meals in dhaabas (roadside restaurants) and hotels, she always wondered, “Where is our invisible food culture? When she realized that “there is a huge body of food and culinary culture that is unpublished, undocumented, unacknowledged and untended,” she decided on the spot to take responsibility. to document this invisible food culture, Qazi told Gulf News.

Qazi said she’s always had an “interest in food mapping” and the stories behind her home province’s most beloved foods, but it was in 2012 that she actually started food adventures. food mapping across Pakistan. His book is considered the first contribution to food mapping in Pakistan.

Culinary varieties in Balochistan.
Image Credit: Pakistan on a Plate

Fusion of several cultures and ethnic groups

But why leave Balochistan? “I was born in Quetta and because it is my paternal province and also the largest but most invisible province.” However, she said that “Culinary Tales of Balochistan” is the first of four books and the next book will focus on the food of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – her native province.

“Baluchistan is an amalgamation of many cultures and ethnic groups and Baluchistan food is a snapshot of ancient Central Asia,” she said. The culinary tradition of Balochistan is based on three fundamental elements: Kruth, Landhi (meat) and Dodai (bread). And “The variety and taste of bread in Balochistan is simply amazing.”

Traditional flatbread

Kruth is dehydrated and rehydrated dried fermented milk and used as an ingredient in many recipes. Landhi is salt-rubbed lamb, dried during the summer months for use in the winter. Landhi is called Tabahiq in the coastal regions of Balochistan.

The culturally rich and diverse province is also known as the fruit basket of Pakistan producing grapes, cherries, almonds, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples and dates.

The variety of bread in Balochistan is amazing, says Nilofer.  Image Credit - Pakistan on a plate-1654355426534

The variety of bread in Balochistan is amazing, says Nilofer.
Image Credit: Pakistan on a Plate

Balochistan is home to one of the oldest Mehrgarh civilizations in the world with early evidence of agriculture and bread making. “This ancient recipe and method of making bread without any utensils is still in practice,” Nilofer shared. Kaak is a traditional flatbread made by rolling the dough around a rock and then baking around a bonfire. “Kaak is the oldest form of bread making and staple” in Balochistan.

Nilofer has beautifully blended cooking recipes, travel wiring and cultural mapping in his book, which contains at least 36 original Baluchistan food recipes, expanding the culinary tradition of Pakistan. “Each recipe tells you about the local environment, history, tradition and agricultural model of the region.”

She has also produced several videos documenting her food travels through the region on her YouTube channel. The web series titled “Pakistan on a Plate” features over 50 episodes that explore the diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, and delicious culinary experiences across Pakistan.

The journey started from her hometown of Pishin in Balochistan, after which she detailed the culinary traditions of Quetta, Killa Saifullah, Kalat, Gwadar, Lasbela and Ziarat. The latest episodes have also documented food culture in other parts of Pakistan: Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.

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