The Indus flavours

Updated: Mar 26 2006, 05:30am hrs
To experience food from all over Pakistan, heres a festival after your heart. For those fond of sumptuous biryani, delectable gosht and lip smacking yakhni this festival, called Lahore Express, brings together food from four provinces of Pakistan.

The 10-day lunch and dinner festival (concludes on March 26) has three chefs from Holiday Inn, Lahore, invited by InterContinental The Grand, Delhi. Why Pakistan The current phase of general bonhomie between the two nations has led to improved and more frequent interactions in all spheres, including food, says Nikhil Wahi, food and beverage manager, at the hotel.

The sheer range of dishes at the festival will leave you a little dazzled. The hotel changes the menu every three days so that new dishes can be on offer, explains Wahi. If you prefer a dish that youve had in an earlier menu, that shall be prepared too, he explains.

He says the food is authentic. We have only got traditional Pakistani food, stresses Rehan Raees, senior sous chef from the Holiday Inn, Lahore.

For starters theres Chati di Lassi, Sardai, a blend of almonds and maghaz, flavoured with blackpepper and Sharbat-e-Tookh Malanga, an exotic blend of basil seeds. And the famous Peshawari Chapli Kabab, Lahori Boti Tikka, Fish Seekh Kabab (yes, they use minced fish) besides others. You cant have enough.

A word of caution for vegetarians. Almost all Pakistani dishes have meat in them, says Kanwar Asif Maqsood, director food and beverage at Holiday Inn. And mutton is the most popular of the dishes, he adds. However we have a number of dishes here that are vegetarian, Raees interjects.

In the main course, there are fairly familiar dishes like Bhindi Pyaaz, Aloo Gobhi, etc. Try the Sindhi dal, it doesnt have meat, though dal and subzi in Pakistan generally do! Among the meat preparations are the Lahori Dhoowan Gosht, Bhaap Gosht (steamed lamb shins marinated with hot spices), Gujranwala di Chaap Masala (baby lamb chops cooked in mild curry) or the special Lamb Paya, a dish you will have to request.

Pakistani food is quite similar to north Indian food, say the chefs. The cutting of the meat differs sometimes, the use of nut paste is absent, and no coconut milk is used, Raees highlights the differences. While you savour the food, including the non-veg dessert, Mutanjan, coloured sweet rice with small pieces of mutton and nuts, try picking out the differences, for the meal is bound to be lavish. Leaving you yearning for more even as your stomach protests.