An introduction to Pakistani-Chinese cuisine
China and Pakistan not only share boundaries and a friendly relationship but also flavors. Chinese immigrants brought along the taste of their food to Pakistan. They developed a fusion of Pakistani and Chinese cuisine, such as Chicken Manchurian (shown above), which has its own distinctive style.
The first Pakistan-Chinese cuisine restaurant was established in the 1930s. ABC Chinese Restaurant in Karachi served Pak-Chinese food until its closure in 1988. Mei Kong, the oldest Chinese restaurant in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, was established in the 1970s. Today, there are hundreds of Pakistani-Chinese cuisine restaurants in Pakistan serving such dishes. The blend of Pakistani styles in Chinese dishes evolved over the past few decades. Chinese variations of local Pakistani dishes are named as Chinese Samosa and Chinese Palau (rice) .
There are a number of main courses or complementary dishes in Pakistan-Chinese cuisine. They are served in restaurants as well as cooked at home. A common feature in these cuisines is the frequent use of chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and chicken. Cabbage, capsicum, and onions are also used. MSG, or ajinomoto, is a crucial component of these dishes. It is widely used in several other recipes for flavouring. Pakistanis opposed to fast food love eating Chinese food. Here are some of the Pakistan-Chinese dishes favored by both nations.
Hot and sour chicken soup: This is a Chinese inspired soup that is widely cooked in the kitchens of Pakistani homes. It is an old tradition to enjoy a bowl of warm soup in the evenings during winter.
The stock is prepared by first shredding the boiled chicken. Next, salt and pepper are added to taste. It is important to constantly stir the stock over a low fire. Finely sliced vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, onion, and capsicum are added to the stock along with a beaten egg. Corn flour is also added as a thickener to the soup. Soy sauce and chili sauce could also be added, if preferred. It is recommended to serve the soup hot and garnished with Chinese parsley, as well as boiled corn seeds.
Chicken Almond: This is a famous Pakistani-Chinese dish cooked with skinless and boneless chicken. It can be found in all major restaurants across Pakistan.
Diced garlic, onion, ginger, carrot and capsicum are stir-fried in olive oil along with chicken and boiled peas. Salt, pepper, and corn flour mixed with water are added followed by chicken stock. Next, almonds that are salted, blanched and roasted are added to the mixture. Spring onion stems are used for garnishing. This dish is best enjoyed with rice.
Chicken Manchurian: This is the most popular Pakistani-Chinese dish in the country.
Chicken Manchurian is prepared by frying medium-sized cubes of boneless chicken with chopped garlic, onion, ginger, sugar, salt, pepper, tomato ketchup (homemade tomato sauce can also be used), and olive oil. The chicken stock is prepared with black peppercorns, corn flour, and vinegar. Its consistency is maintained by constant stirring. Chicken pieces and the seasoned mixture are added to the stock. Chicken Manchurian is usually eaten with egg fried rice or plain white rice.
Egg Fried Rice: Pakistani-Chinese egg fried rice is a light, salty and toothsome dish eaten as a main course. It is different from other Pakistani rice dishes.
The dish is prepared by boiling the rice grains that are already soaked in water. Next, fried chopped onions, garlic, grated carrots, salt, and finely cut omelet are mixed into the boiled rice. Soy sauce, chili sauce, shredded chicken, and lemon can be added according to taste. This fried rice could be eaten alongside with curries or gravy-heavy dishes like chicken Manchurian and chicken Shashlik.
Green Chili Chicken: A widely eaten Pakistani-Chinese dish with chili as the main ingredient.
It is prepared by first frying pieces of boneless chicken in onion, garlic, ginger paste, and tofu. Then, medium size cube-shaped tomato, and capsicum are added together with finely cut green chili pepper. It is served with chapatti (Asian staple bread made with ground wheat) after garnishing it with basil leaves, ground black pepper, Chinese salt, and lemon.
Pakistani Style Chinese Noodles: Noodles have been part of traditional Chinese cuisine for ages and are considered as their staple food.
Noodles are boiled and added to the already prepared vegetable-meat mixture. Shredded soft chicken that is marinated with lemon, curd, ginger, garlic paste, white vinegar is used in the recipe. Vegetables such as carrot, onion, cabbage, and capsicum are stir-fried before being added into the mixture of white flour and chicken stock. Some people add cheese chunks and bean sprouts in the hot noodles. It is served with a dash of sesame seed oil and a sprinkle of coriander leaves. Now, there are ready-to-eat noodles available at many outlets in Chinese style.
Pakistanis love eating Chinese food in their own style. The tradition of having Chinese-Pakistani dishes to the menu at home parties is gradually increasing. Almost every Pakistani fancies one or two dishes of this cuisine. A number of restaurants known for Pakistani-Chinese cuisine are thriving in the country. In Islamabad, people are attracted to the Pakistani-Chinese cuisine restaurants because guests are received with warm hospitality. There are trained chefs in these restaurants, who had mastered their culinary skills from expert Chinese cooks. Chinese dishes are healthy, delicious and are loved by many Pakistanis.