News on political events in Pakistan have dominated the media in recent years, especially recent months.
We have read about the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto, the seemingly unbending military rule, changing of political leadership and the ever-present terrorist threat, but know so little about the food of Pakistan. There's definitely a dearth of authentic Pakistani eateries here, or even elsewhere in major cities of the world.
Now's the chance to savour what Pakistanis eat in their daily meals and on big occasions, whether there's an upheaval or not.
Raffles Hotel in collaboration with the Pakistan High Commission is presenting The Authentic Pakistani Experience from now till April 13 at the hotel's venerable Tiffin Room which specialises in North Indian cuisine.
Don't miss this Pakistani buffet, available at both lunch ($58) and dinner ($68), as it's whipped up by a team of chefs from Pakistan's popular restaurant chain, Salt 'n Pepper, opened by Mr Mahmood Akbar, a former hotelier who has carved a reputation as a great cook and cooking guru.
Says Pakistan High Commissioner Sajjad Ashraf: "Over many years of my international travels and residence abroad, I have noticed the absence of authentic Pakistani eating places. Singapore is no exception. Food, being so much a part of Singapore experience, this absence is felt more. Pakistan needs it more than others."
You certainly agree with the diplomat after sampling the wide array of Mughal cuisine and regional specialties.Although characterised by the rich use of spices and rice and meat dishes, Pakistani food is not really spicy when compared to say Thai or Sichuan food.
You can trace Mughal influences in the biryan rice, smoky kebabs, tikka and haleem.Okay, they might remind you of North Indian fare but the blend of seasoning is different. (Just like how different places in Indonesia and Malaysia have their own way of cooking beef rendang).
Also, whereas there's no beef on the Indian dining table, you can find beef in this Pakistani spread. That's because 98 per cent of its people are Muslims. (Remember the historic and painful divide that pushed the Muslims to the Pakistan side?)
The beautiful commemorative recipe book for this event sums up the characteristics of Pakistani cuisine very well as it gives a peek into the regional differences: "On a visit to Lahore on Basant festival, the Lahori way of celebrating the arrival of spring, one can try the famous halwa puri, the mouth-watering Lahori Charga, Paye and Kulchay. All of this can be enjoyed at the must-visit Lahore Food Street. Similarly, a meal comprising Karahi Gosht and Chapali kebabs, served with naan and sauce and finishes with a few sips of Peshawari Kehwa is the specialty of the Khyber Pass and other Northern areas, while delicious Nihari and Haleem can be enjoyed at Karachi's famous Burns Road."
Take a look at one menu below to get a good picture of a grand Pakistani feast:
Mulligatawny Soup (There are few soups in Pakistani food culture. However it has many dishes with gravy or are soupy like the beef shin curry)
Spicy Lentil Soup
Chicken Karahi (Chicken Cooked in a Wok)
Roast Leg of Lamb
Fish Kofta Curry (Fish Meat Ball Curry)
Shrimp Shami Kebab (Shrimp Cutlet - delicious crispy patty with juicy chopped shrimps inside)
Salads and Cold Appetizers
Garbanzo Beans Salad
Pickled Potato Salad
Whole Wheat and Tomato Salad
Yellow and Green Zucchini Salad with Saffron
Spicy Chicken Salad
Beetroot and Cucumber Salad
Fresh Vegetable Salad
Pickles and Chutney
Mango Chutney (Chutney lovers will enjoy the varied tastes)
Green Chilli Pickle
Mint and Yoghurt Chutney
Raita (Cumin in Yoghurt)
Live Cooking Station at the buffet
Boneless Chicken Boti (Boneless Chicken Cooked on Charcoal)
Chicken Seekh Kebab (Minced Chicken Cooked on Charcoal - definitely better than many North Indian versions)
Beef Seekh Kebab (Minced Beef Cooked on Charcoal)
Lamb Chops (Taka Tan) (Lamb Chops Cooked in Griddle)
Crab (Taka Tan) (Crab Cooked on Griddle)
Lahori Fried Fish
Chappli Kebab (Spicy Beef Kebab Originally from Peshwar)
Mutton Yakhani Pulao (Mutton Broth Rice)
Chicken Korma (Chicken Curry - doesn't this sounds familiar? Korma is a familiar curry dish in this part of the world)
Grilled Fish with Herbs
Mutton Khara Masala (Mutton and Whole Spices Cooked in Yoghurt)
Beef Nehari (Beef Shin Curry - the lightest curry we've ever encountered, more like a spiced beef consomme than a curry)
Dal Chana (Bengal Gram)
Lahori Chana (Garbanzo Beans Curry)
Potato Bhujia (Potato Curry)
Seasonal Vegetable Masala
Sarson Ka Saag (Mustard Green Curry)
Mix Vegetable Biryani
Mango Ice Cream (Look out for Pakistani mangoes when they are in season from July)
Firni (Rice Flour Pudding - all the desserts are delicious, comforting, and some even sensuous)
Kheer (Rice Pudding)
Gajrailla (Carrot Rice and Pudding)
Shahi Tukra (Saffron Bread Pudding)
Sheer Khurma (Vermicelli in Milk)
Sweet Saffron Rice
Black Carrot Halwa (Apart from the crispy Halva sweet, Halwas are also served warm)
Lauki Halwa (Summer Squash Halwa)
Dal and Mango Halwa
Assorted Pakistani Sweets
Verdict: Definitely worthy of a royal feast!