Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Homemade Pakistani Food Opened the Gastronomic Floodgates

Back in my undergrad days, I met one of my dearest friends. She comes from a rich southeast Asian heritage, specifically Pakistan. It was at her house, at her dinner table, where all my prejudices about "foreign" food shattered and my tastebuds experienced the glory of spice for the first time.
Let me tell you a little bit about my food preferences pre-Pakistani food. I loved pinoy cuisine, of course, but nothing with any heat. I enjoyed the food my husband (then boyfriend) ate with his family, but was averse to anything that smelled too strongly of spice. Basically, I felt like a big bad foodie because I ate chicken feet and pig liver, but in reality, I was a spice sham.
That is, until I ate lentils, roti, and some savory chicken dish I don't remember, with my hands as the rest of the family did. I remember hearing an Indian chef say that unless you ate with your hands, you could not reach the full sensory experience of the dish. Perhaps it was that, or perhaps it was the good company, or maybe her mother poured love and care into the dishes that occasioned the sea change in my culinary landscape. Whatever it was, I'm glad for it. Dishes with complex spices are a treat for me and I still find myself craving the same dishes I used to eat at her house. Now that she has moved across the country (ready to have a baby!) and her sisters are scattered across the globe, I miss dining with them. Now, I eat at random middle eastern and southeast asian cuisine establishments, but it's just not the same.
For those of you who are wary of trying new foods, go to a friend's house and have dinner with their family. There is no better way to experience something new than to share food with friends.


  1. As an American, one of the hardest things about Filipino food for me has been the lack of spice. I've adjusted, but I still miss food that relies on spices for flavor. So, sometimes I mix things around--my lunch today was salted egg with Mexican rice, which had been cooked with cumin, chili powder, and tomato. Salted egg in rice is a classic--I just made it a tiny bit fusion, I guess.

  2. That sounds pretty yummy, Emma. Some of the best recipes are the ones we throw together off the cuff - the worst part is trying to remember the exact measurements when we want to replicate the dish!
    I totally understand what you mean; it feels like the range of tastes in pinoy cuisine is salty and sweet. I'm glad you found a way to incorporate some heat in your lunch!

  3. I love you dearly, hun. I can tell you this - I'm coming home...and there WILL be 'desi' food at the table waiting for you. ;)