What do people eat in Pakistan?
Food in Pakistan is relatively inexpensive. For $10 you can have all what you want; may it be spicy potato pastries (samosas) or the much loved Biryani. Roadside vendors proliferate throughout Pakistan and they offer very cheap rates on the delicacies they produce. You can have a good, hearty meal at a Pakistani roadside restaurant for $3 at the most.
The food is generally a feast for your taste buds, with the only problem being hygiene; roadside vendor do not usually take that much notice of the flies around their place. But you can manage to swat a few of them and the rest will stay away from you!!
Good things to eat in Pakistan include the heavy chicken biryani ($1 a plate at most outlets), the mouthwatering samosas and pakoras ($1-2 for a whole package, they are the best of snacks), the tantalizing barfi and gulab jamun ($3 and $2.5 per kg respecitvely, they are great sweets!). Plus there are a lot of traditional cuisines to try out too like Chappal Kebab ($1 a piece, they are great Beef kebabs), Nihari ($3 a plate, it is a traditional kingly dish made from beef meat) among others.
Apart from the roadside vendors, there are some sophisticated restaurants which produce these same meals but charge a little extra because of their hygienic environment and the overall ambiance. A meal at a high quality Pakistani restaurant will cost between $7-12 per head depending upon the dishes you ordered.
Then there are also some fast food outlets which have seen a boom in the last few years. You can easily find the likes of McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Pappasallis, Subway and Dominoes in most major Pakistani cities.
Apart from the exclusively traditional restaurants, there are many restaurants that offer only International cuisine on their menus. There are restaurants that offer Italian, Oriental, South American, French and other regional delicacies from around the world. The most popular international dishes in Pakistan belong to the Chinese genre and you can find a plethora of Chinese restaurants around the country.
In addition to all these types of restaurants there are also a few restaurants that offer Sea Food. Such restaurants are mostly present on the Coastal belt (cities including Karachi and Gwader) and offer a variety of tasty sea food dishes.
There are 5 provinces of Paksitan and each one has a signature dish that you should try out. A roasted trout is a must if you go up North to the Gilgit-Baltistan region, the spicy Chappal Kebabs are a must-eat if you happen to be anywhere in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, the lamb-skewed Sajji is an appetizing Baloch recipe, Punjab is the most rich province in food items and has a large selection of products to chose from including Korma, Qeema, Shami Kebab and more, Sinhdi biryani is the variant of the normal Biryani originating in the Sindh province and is a very spicy and delectable rice dish. Most of the aforementioned dishes cost in the $2-8 range per person.
Pakistan also has a very rich diversity in the sweets department and there is a variety of flavorsome sweets to chose from. Burfi (made from milk), Pateesa (made from gram floor) and Gulab Jamun (made from rice) are the most popular sweets in Pakistan and they can cost you $3-4 per 1 kg package at the most.
Drinks in Pakistan include tea ($0.5 a cup), espresso ($1 a cup), most famous international soft drink brands with the traditional drinks being the yoghurt-based Lassi ($0.5 a glass) and various flavored sherbets that cost between $0.5-1 a glass. Fresh fruit juice vendors also exist in numbers throughout Pakistan.
Heart patients, people suffering from chronic diabetes and other people suffering from GI tract dysfunctions should be careful in eating out in Pakistan. Most dishes in Pakistan are cooked in ghee (clarified butter) which scores a lot on the cholesterol index. The sweets in Pakistan are also overly saccharine and diabetics should refrain from eating them. The spiciness of many of these dishes also puts ulcer patients at risk. So generally you should be careful about eating in Pakistan if you have any health problems.
The waiter culture in Pakistan is also not very refined. If you go to the roadside vendors, they are mostly loud-mouthed and do not understand English very well, but as you move up the ladder the more sophisticated and understandable the waiters get. Waiters in Pakistan usually prefer a tip in the local currency and 40-100 Rs (0.5-1.5$) will be enough for them. Also a word of advice, local Pakistani people and restaurant waiters are not very fluent in English so it is always a good idea to have an educated Pakistani (or a translator) beside you to straighten the kinks out.
Pakistan food outlets have a propensity for spicy items, so you will find a conglomeration of spices in whichever dish you eat. However dishes from the Western Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan regions generally contain less oil and spices than those avaiable on the Eastern side, as they are mostly influenced from Afghani, Irani and Central Asian dishes. But whichever dish you eat or wherever you eat it you are sure going to enjoy the taste it leaves you with. Pakistani people are hearty eaters and they expect you to be as well.