Sindhi cuisine refers to the cuisine of the people who originated from the Sindh province of Pakistan and originally belonged to the Indus Valley civilization. The people of the Sindh province are known as Sindhis. During the time of partition between India and Pakistan a lot of Sindhis migrated to India and so, with the passage of time, the Sindhi cuisine became a part of the diverse food culture of India.
Sindhi cuisine has incorporated the influence of the Mughlai, Arabian and Turkhani cuisines. The traditional Sindhi cuisine is strictly vegetarian in nature and does not allow the use of even onions and garlic. Sindhi cuisine is a spirited cuisine with a spectrum of warm flavors, an amazing assortment of tasty sweets, delicious spicy curries, perfectly flavored gravies, lavish Biryanis, fresh vegetables and various kinds of flatbreads or papads. The pickles and papads of this cuisine have earned a reputation for themselves worldwide.
Though the Sindhi cuisine is somewhat similar to other north Indian cuisine, it has its own characteristics that make it distinct from the other cuisines of the northern part of the country. The cuisine is based on the flavors of fresh vegetables, unlike the other north Indian cuisines, where spices play an integral part in the cuisine. The Sindhi cuisine uses spices in a limited manner and quantity. The most commonly used spices are turmeric, coriander powder and garam masala (which is basically a mixture of spices containing primarily cardamom, clove and cinnamon. The spices are used to flavor the dishes in such a manner that the taste of the spices does not overpower the taste of the curries. The one particular spice that almost all Sindhi households use abundantly in their food is the dry mango powder or amchoor. Dried seeds of pomegranate are also used extensively to spice up the dishes. The gravies are given a spicy and tangy taste by combining ginger, garlic, tomatoes or tamarind. These ingredients are used as the basic items in most of the Sindhi curries and gravies.
Sindhis traditionally have a heavy breakfast as they believe that the first meal of the day must be a heavy and filling affair.
A few popular dishes of the traditional Sindhi breakfast are mentioned below.
The Dal Pakwan, is a crisp fried Maida flatbread served in combination with a side dish of Chana dal, which is rich in protein. It is one of the most common breakfast dishes of a Sindhi household. Normally chutney is served with this dish. Some people prefer to have a salad consisting of onions, carrots and lemon with this item.
Sindhi Koki is a kind of whole-wheat flour bread which is combined with onion, garlic, chilies, dried pomegranate seeds, cumin and cooked on griddle. It is also a common dish. Another form of Koki is Bori, which is actually sweet in taste. Lolo is also a form of sweetened bread.
Dodo is another kind of bread prepared from millet flour or jowar or bajra. It gives energy as it is high in fiber. Bhaat is made from broken wheat porridge.
Bending from traditions, the modern Sindhi household has started to modify some of its recipes to suit the fast life of the modern age. Items such as Chola dhabhala or bread soaked in chickpea curry have become a preferred breakfast item in many households. This item also contains moong dal or split yellow gram, which provide the body with protein and fiber.
After the breakfast comes the turn of lunch, again is a lavish affair in this cuisine. A simple Sindhi lunch would comprise of rice, dal and vegetable curry. But when we want to describe the traditional items of lunch we have a long list of delicious items before us. There are particular styles of cooking dishes in the Sindhi style. Daagh is a style in which the curry is cooked with browned onions. Seyal is a style of cooking dishes combined with ginger and garlic and with the minimum use of water. Then there is another style of cooking dishes with tomato gravy.
Various stuffed vegetables are common in lunch of the Sindhi people. Stufeed ladies finger, stuffed capsicum, stuffed gourd are popular among others. Sindhis also love to eat green leafy vegetables and Sindhi palak is a dish of green leafy vegetables enjoyed at lunch. Lentils are also a prominent part of this cuisine and they have various side dishes like Chilra kadhi. Aani ji bhaaji is a side dish comprising of gram flour (besan) dumplings.
Sindhi Kadhi is a dish relished by all Sindhis. It is basically made with a gram flour based curry flavored with tamarind and containing beans, ladies finger, drumsticks, etc. It is savored with boiled rice and accompanied with a side dish of boondis, which is a sweet delicacy of the Sindhis.
The Sindhis also love spicy food and Amritsari wadis is one such item that shows their love for spices. This dish is made with potatoes and seasoned with spices. Sindhi Saibahji is another spicy item quite popular among the Sindhis. It is made from spinach, fenugreek leaves, sorrel leaves, beans, potatoes, carrot, eggplant, okra, chana dal, etc. The mouth-watering taste of these items can tempt anyone to fall in love with this cuisine.
On festive days and traditional occasions special ingredients are used to cook the dishes. Lotus stem is one such item. It is used to cook the dishes on ceremonies. The lotus stem is even getting preference over paneer. Bheepatata and Degh Waara chaanwara are two traditional delicacies of the Sindhi cuisine. One of the most popular dishes of the Sindhi cuisine is Degh, which is cooked with lotus stems, potatoes, peas, onions and tomatoes. This spicy curry is served with another traditionally made rice dish called pulav.
The Sindhis are great lovers of snacks and the Sindhi cuisine is the example of the love of this community for snacks. Aloo tikki is a famous snack enjoyed by the people all over India. But this aloo tikki is actually a Sindhi snack. Sanna pakoda, Batan papdi, Sindhi Kheecha, Chilli pakora are other very popular and very delicious snack items of this cuisine.
The Sindhis simply love their papads and pickles. Grated mango pickle is a favorite of any Sindhi. Pickles are made with varieties of fruits and vegetables like onions, turnips, carrots, chillies, lemons and of course, raw mangoes. The Sindhis are expert in preparing pickles.
The Sindhi cuisine also features a variety of sweet dishes like Tosha, Praghuree, Geear and Khuskhus Halwa, carrot halwa, gulab jamun, coconut barfi and laddoo, to name a few items.
The Sindhis love a rich taste even in their beverages and the influence of Mughlai style of preparing food items is obvious even in this case. Thandai, Sherbet, falooda, rose sherbet, etc. are popular beverages of the Sindhis.
The Sindhi cuisine has dishes dedicated to festive and special occasions. For instance, during the occasion of Diwali a vegetable dish called Chiti Kuni is cooked by combining seven kinds of vegetables. If anyone gets chicken pox, then after recovering completely he or she makes an offering and prepares “mitho lolo”, a sweet griddle-roasted flatbread.
Vermicelli is combined with sugar and other items and served as a dessert item. The taste and feel of this cuisine can simply be described as distinct and delicious.