‘What? You went to Barbecue Delights? But that’s a Pakistani joint’. Yes, sounds incredulous, but many miles across the Indo-Pak border and the LOC (lines of control), we Indians and Pakistanis still let Politics rule our conversations in our Dubai drawing rooms, while pretending to be neutral and oh-so-enlightened-and-educated. When I had started my blog, I had promised myself that I will not be discussing Politics, Religion and other social calamities that might affect the world, not because they didn’t affect me. It’s because I believe that food connects to people, bringing them closer as they dig upon memories and nostalgia – in a way heal the wounds left behind by mindless regional politics. But, tasting the Afghani Rosh in this Pakistani restaurant has brought back so many memories, that I am forced to break my vow of not discussing the Indo-Pak issue in my blog. If I don’t do this now, when will I? Politics is a very dirty power game. I believe that the common man has no interest in it and gains nothing from it. Yet, for years and years, countries are at loggerheads, people’s lives are at stakes and generations after generations suffer from one battle that may have sliced a country through. Then you taste a dish and realise that this could well have been a dish from your country, only that it’s not because Partition set us apart.Like this Afghani Rosh (above). The dish hails from Peshawar, a city in the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan. Arriving in a plain white bowl, the Afghani Rosh appears unpretentious and clean. A clear Mutton stew with bright orange carrots and huge chunks of potatoes shining through. The sprinkling of fresh pepper, a few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves, the strong aroma of garlic and a few sliced green chillies – it brings back my childhood memories when my Mom would cook a similar stew during the winters. We would dip our hot Chappatis into a bowl of simmering Mutton stew, the over-generous sprinkling of fresh pepper occasionally making us cough aloud as it cleared our throats and nostrils. Tasting the same flavorful Mutton Stew in a restaurant in a posh Dubai locality like The Downtown, can only break me into tears. And a smile thereafter. I do remember my Mom telling me that she learnt it from a cook who worked for a corporate guest house in Durgapur, an industrial town in West Bengal. And his family hailed from Peshawar in the pre-Partition days. And Durgapur, situated in Eastern India was more than 1000 miles away from Peshawar, located in the North-west frontier, in Pakistan!
If we randomly pick up a packet of Basmati Rice from a supermarket that has been produced in Pakistan, we become an India-basher. Biryani should be from Delhi Darbar and not Karachi Darbar. Ravi’s Biryani is Pakistani. We shouldn’t wake up on a Friday craving for a buffet from Al Ibrahimi in Karama. If Pakistan is playing against West Indies in a cricket tournament, an Indian should support the latter. I have nothing against West Indies, but why not stand up for someone who’s geographically closer – our own neighboring state? Ironically, even in the annual International fare at the ‘British school’ that the Z-Sisters study in, the Indo-Pak border issue creeps up in a subtle way. The Indian stall has to outdo the Pakistani stall and vice versa and there is an undercurrent of competition as to which stall brings in more money into the school fund. I fear that there must still be some families living here, who nurture this animosity through their conversations (however hushed up it might be) and sincerely hope that this doesn’t transcend down the generations. The counter arguments that I get to hear from my friends are ‘ Show me one Pakistani who supports India in a similar situation’, ‘Pakistanis are very patronising and they would prefer a Pakistani restaurant to an Indian restaurant any day’. I do understand the sentiments attached to one’s roots. But I refuse to understand the bitterness that originates from them. We have been ordering a lot from Barbecue Delights before, but they had never, ever inspired me enough to write a post on the restaurant. The Afghani Rosh is a fresh addition, specially for the winters – an addition which is very ‘unlike-Barbecue Delights’, in the sense, that most diners associate the food from the subcontinent to be strong on the spices and taste. The broth is strong in garlic flavours, reminds one of a home cooked pot roast with light gravy or simply the soulful stew and breaks down all the myth about subcontinental cuisine. True, subcontinental cuisine can be spicy but not necessarily hot. The Barbecue Delights’ dishes that we were familiar so far had been very ‘typical’ – the Chaapli Kababs or the deep-fried patty kababs of mutton minced that has been spiced up with green chillies, fried pomegranate and whole coriander seeds. My better half’s favourite is the Friday Breakfast Buffet (seems like the entire subcontinental diaspora descends upon these buffets), which serves almost everything that the menu has to offer – from Paya Curry (hoof curry) and Brain Masala to oil dripping Puris with Sabzi and Halwa. I wouldn’t however, ever eat hoofs that have been running around, that too cooked in curry – however tasty they might be! Revamping post with a giveaway: Initially I hadn’t planned a giveaway for this post. An impromptu one now, as I celebrate Instagram reaching 500 friends. If you are on Instagram, do join me with my daily pictorial update of my culinary travel journey. Also, click here to enter the blog giveaway… A Meal for 2 persons at Barbecue Delights in Emaar Boulevard, Downtown.
The Afghani Rosh tasted exactly like what my Mom had fed me in my childhood. This brings a lot of hope for the future. I imagine myself being able to visit the exact place in Peshawar, from where the cook who worked in the Durgapur guesthouse came from. I also imagine that Peshawar being a semi-dry region, the hand-made Chappatis and the Naans are lovingly brushed with dollops of butter or Ghee before they are served onto the plate. The severe Peshawari winters must be calling in for barbecues and bonfires outdoors. I also crave for the Paratha that a Dubai Taxi cab-driver who hailed from Peshawar, was once talking about. He said how he missed those Parathas, specially the ones that are made for breakfast during the Eid celebrations and smiled at the thought how his kids refuse to have their normal Subeh ka Chai or the morning tea without these Parathas. And yes, he also missed the Shir Khurma that his Ami or Mother made (Shir Khurma – it is the same Vermicelli Pudding that I’ve just written about), specially during Eid. It’s amazing how he shared these special emotions with me – an Indian, while driving me to my destination. The only common bonding at that hour must have been that we both hailed from the subcontinent.
The Afghani Rosh did that nostalgic magic. And perhaps, a few other dishes that I tasted from the North-West frontier – the Afghani Lamb Pulao, the delicious Banjan Borani, the crispy Khandari Naan etc. It broke my vow not to talk politics on my blog. Would love to hear what do you think of this?
Unblogging it all… Ishita
PS1: I feel blessed when a post evokes emotions… Lovely post Ishita! As a daughter of two families displaced from Pakistan who both tell stories of being helped by Pakistanis to avoid the mobs and cross the border safely, I find myself firmly on your side. Although, I can’t be completely sure that I would feel the same if our family had lost members during the partition.The bitterness among Indians and Pakistanis seems to me similar to what you would see among two brothers who have had a falling out. You hate most those who you loved once. Isn’t it? The betrayal of trust on both sides during partition sowed a lot of anger. But it’s worth remembering that people do mad things in mobs and in war. It doesn’t make them inherently bad. It’s certainly not fair to hold it against new generations, and it’s simply not worth our short lifetimes. Sharing Rogan Josh is so much better! Yes, FootWalker, I definitely agree – sharing Rogan Josh is a lot more better!
PS2: Coming on the heels of the Afghani Rosh post, dear friend Sunanda shares her recipe of what she calls a one-dish dinner, ‘a lighter/European-palate-friendly version of Afghan Rosh’. You can see more of the recipe here.
PS3: Naila writes… Wonderful just wonderful blog post!!! Thank you so much for writing this Ishita. You have done the right thing to write this article and I don’t think it’s like discussing “POLITICS” . It’s about telling that Pakistani and Indians are humans too and that they share the common vision of love and harmony between each other. The citizens of both countries have relatives on either sides of the border and are dying to meet each other!! only if it was that easy thanks to the diplomatic hurdles!! and if an Indian goes to visit Pakistan, he will be surprised and overwhelmed at the welcoming response he gets in Pakistan. I know of many Indo-Pak Matrimonial unions, dating back to more than 30 years and also of those taking place now which shows the true feelings of both the sides. I wish that this Political and Media war is done over with and let Humanity, Respect and Understanding rule over us!!!
PS4: And Google comes with it’s Reunion ad which has had 4,095,833 hits on YouTube in just 5 days. Am I right to assume that Google has been inspired by this post?
Disclaimer: Please note that this is not a sponsored blog and all the opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. The lunch was hosted by Chef and TV personality Saba Wahid and Barbecue Delights. Personally, we have visited the restaurant on The Walk many times and the average bill that we have incurred is around Dhs 150 for two persons. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.