Shinwari -- a taste of Kabuli pilaf in Peshawar
PESHAWAR/KABUL (Pajhwok): A visit to the ‘Shinwari Pulao’ -- a food joint on Peshawar’s University Road -- will land you bang in the middle of a commotion.
The halls located upstairs are boisterous and one can see visitors streaming into the outlet to relish the steamy kabuli pulao, containing large pieces of beef and topped with thinly-chopped carrots and raisin.
The commotion at this and hundreds of other similar eateries is a testimony to the popularity of the kabuli pilaf with many Pakistanis and Afghan nationals living there.
The Shinwari Restaurant, just like Pakistanis, is frequented by Afghans as well. Many Afghans like dam pukht (slow-cooked meat), mantu (dumplings filled with onion and ground beef or lamb and usually topped with a tomato-based sauce), ashak (a dumpling recipe), rosh (another beef/mutton dish), sulemani tea and sheer yakh (Afghan ice cream).
These items have become household names in Peshawar and other parts of province. But it is the Kabuli pilaf that has found its way to the menu of every big or small food outlet in all parts of the country -- from the shores of the Arabian Sea to the Karakorum.
Hungarian traveler Arminus Vambery, in his book Sketches of Central Asia 1868, descried the preparation of pulao in great detail. “This dish is excellent and indispensable alike on the royal table and in the hut of the poorest. From here it was introduced among the Afghans; by them to the Persians, who call it kabuli (Kabul). The pilau, if I am not mistaken, has its origin in Central Asia, and spread from thence far and wide over Western Asia,” he wrote.
Sirajuddin, a kabuli pulao lover, said he did not miss the chance of eating it whenever he is in Peshawar. He particularly likes the cooked rice containing meat with bone. This is best prepared by chefs of Peshawar restaurants. “
One can have the real taste of pilaf in Peshawar," he said, adding perhaps it was due to Afghan chefs who cooked meals at many of Peshawar restaurants. He said Afghans were not only good cooks, who prepared delicious pilaf, but also served the customers in a pleasant manner and had also a good presentation style.
Shujaat Khan, another local who regularly visits restaurants to satisfy his taste buds with tantalising pulao, said not only it was tasty and wholesome but at the same time it was cheap as well. He said that at most of city restaurants popular with middle-class people, a plate of pilaf costs Rs. 300.
Luqman Khan Shinwari, owner of the thriving eatery, said his outlet was drawing a large number of customers daily. The reason why such a large number of people visited his restaurant to satiate their taste buds is that the quality of food his outlet offers is unmatched in the city.
Another reason for the large number of visitors is that the Shinwari Restaurant offers a big quantity of meat besides aromatic rice.
He added that previously his restaurant was located in another part of the city; however, he had to relocate to due to the increasing clientele base. However, in contrast to many other outlets across the city, Luqman said pulao chefs at his restaurant were local Shinwaris, who skillfully cooked rice. “A total of 27 people work at my restaurant,” he added.
Sher Alam Shinwari, a local journalist who writes about culture and food, is of the view that Kabuli pulao is inextricably linked to Afghans refugees. He said Kabuli pulao was unknown to the city of Peshawar before the arrival of Afghan refugees.
The people of Peshawar, as indeed the entire country, came to taste the unique dish only after a large number of Afghans arrived in the city in the aftermath of the 1979 events in their country.
“Prior to that, local rice dishes were in vogue; however, Kabuli pulo was something unknown then,” he said, adding that it had become a staple dish.
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