pakistani toronto

The essential guide to Pakistani cuisine in Toronto

Pakistani cuisine in Toronto goes way beyond generic South Asian eats like Butter Chicken. Offerings in the city span a broad range though meat and Central Asian and Afghani influences are prominent. Pakistani restaurants might not get all the attention, but there's plenty of options if you know where to look.

Here's my essential guide to Pakistani cuisine in Toronto.

See also: The best Pakistani restaurants in Toronto.

Halwa Puri at Iqbal Kebab and Sweets Centre.
This breakfast of champions consists of sweet yellow halwa, savory potato and chickpea curries, and flaky, fried puris. Add to this raw mango pickle which provides that extra kick for the brave. Halwa puri is traditionally enjoyed on weekends and holidays.

Bun kabab at Lahore Chat Paan House.
This spicy kabab (lentils and/or meat) laid in between lightly pan seared buns is topped with tamarind sauce, raita (cilantro and mint infused yogurt) and a touch of raw onions. I like mine topped with an omelet while others prefer a spicy red sauce. During lunch time, queues of hungry customers line street corners of Karachi for this fast and cheap chow down.

Nihari at Patna Kabab House.
The slow cooked flavorful beef stew is served with naan and garnished with a choice of coriander leaves, fried onions, green chillies, strips of ginger, lemon and sliced white radishes. It's a dish traditionally served just after sunrise. Post consumption, most diners can expect to be overtaken by a food coma.

Bihari Kabab at Cafe de Khan
Otherwise known as the "King of Barbecue," this kabab includes pieces of beef marinated in aromatic spices, yogurt and raw papaya. It's often served with a choice of naan or paratha, raw onions and tamarind based chutney. Once marinated, the kabab is grilled on skewers over hot charcoal.

Biryani at Student Biryani
Biryani is the central attraction to most traditional celebratory occasions. When made right, it consists of layers of rice, meat or vegetables mixed with exotic spices. Once layered, the biryani is sealed for a number of hours allowing all the flavours to amalgamate.

Chicken Karahi at Karahi Point
The karahi is to the South Asian kitchen what the wok is to East Asian cuisine. This sturdy metal pot is able to withstand extremely high cooking temperatures. Once ready, the dish is served in the same vessel that it's cooked in. The wonder of this Pakistani staple is that it consists of only five basic ingredients - meat, tomatoes, green chilies, ginger and salt.

Haleem at Zeerah
A popular dish during the holy month of Ramadan, Haleem is a stew made from barley, wheat, lentils, meat and aromatic spices. It's slow cooked for several hours before attaining a thick soup-like consistency. You can then customize the dish by choosing from a variety of garnishes including coriander, thinly chopped ginger, diced green chillies and lemon juice.

Paya at Zeerah
More popular amongst the older Pakistani generation, Paya is a slow cooked stew made with regional spices and the hooves of lamb. It's predominantly served for breakfast with freshly baked naan and a choice of add-ons. This rich stew is not for those with a weak stomach but it's a must try for more adventurous eaters.

Chapli Kabab at Bar B Q Tonite
Similar to a burger patty, Chapli Kabab is a staple in the northern parts of Pakistan. The word Chapli or 'flat' refers to the appearance of the kabab. The key ingredient in this kabab is pomegranate seeds which maintain the kabab's subtle bite while simultaneously fusing it with the fiery kick of savoury spices.

Kabab Roll at Cafe de Khan
A cousin of the famous Indian Kathi roll, Kabab roll is a Pakistani version of this flavourful wrap. Perfect for a quick bite, it's a variation of beef or chicken based kababs marinated with finger-licking spices, wrapped in a fried paratha. A pinch of diced raw onions and a variety of sauces are drizzled inside to marry all the flavours together.

What did I miss? Add your favourite Pakistani eats to the comments.

Writing by Hussain Peermohammad. Photo by Nadia88 on Instagram

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