A Diamond In The Rough: The Sindhi Cuisine

Sindhis are known far and wide for their love for diamonds. The problem with stereotypes is that they misdirect us from new and fascinating aspects of culture and peoples. Like Sindhi cuisine, which is a rather unexplored domain. Sindhis, or Sindhi people, are native residents of Sindh (now, of course, a province in Pakistan), which was under the Bombay Presidency before the partition of India.

The cuisine stemming from the Sindh region is influenced by Central Asian, Iranian, and Mughal food traditions to a significant degree. Though it is mostly a meat-based cuisine, there are some plant-based (or vegetarian) options available as well. Sindhi cuisine made its way into India after the arrival of Islam, which influenced the local cuisine to a large degree. The main distinction between Hindu and Muslim Sindhis is the choice of meat. Muslim Sindhi cuisine focuses on ingredients like beef, lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit, and dairy since it is forbidden for them to consume pork or drink alcohol. Also, the meats will be consumed only if they meet the halal dietary guidelines. Hindu Sindhi cuisine is similar inmany ways except for the omission of beef,which is considered forbidden.

Sindhi cuisine found its way deeper into Indiaduring and after the freedom struggle, more precisely during the partition of India in 1947. Many Sindhi Hindus migrated to India during the partition, and brought with them their rich culture and food. Currently, pure and authentic Sindhi restaurants are quite rare, with only a few truck stops seen around the areas of Sindh province and urban Sindh. Most Sindhi homes eat phulka, which is a flatbread made from wheat and rice, with two dishes, one with a sauce and one without, and sides like curd, papad, or pickles.

As established, certain sections of the Sindhi community are vegetarians. This is because some sections like the Thathai, Halai, and Kutchi Bhatias are followers of Vallabhacharya, who put forward a way to worship Sri Krishna called Pushtimarg. As a result, they became strict vegetarians, even eating onions and garlic, and devotees of Srinathji, Sri Krishna's child form.

Now let’s have a look at some famous Sindhi dishes.

    A high-quality variety of Bhee (or lotus root) is grown in north Sindh and cooked in a clay pot using various spices, which gives birth to an excellent delicacy that is famous all over Pakistan.

    A Diwali special dish called Chiti-Kuni is mostly served on special occasions like Diwali and is essentially a vegetable dish, or "Bahji," made with seven vegetables.

    Aside from being extremely delicious, some Sindhi dishes are also known to help patients recover from serious illnesses. One famous dish is called "Mitho Lolo," which is given to patients to help them make a full recovery from chicken pox. It's a sweet griddle-roasted flatbread made with wheat flour dough, oil, and sugar syrup and flavored with cardamom.

    A popular Sindhi dish is sai bhaji chawal, which is white steamed rice served with spinach curry that has been "tempered" with tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

    Koki is a type of Sindhi flatbread made with wheat flour, similar to a phulka, which goes well with any dal, sabzi (curry), chai, and even sides like curd.

    Seviyan, also called vermicelli, is a popular Muslim dessert made with sweetened milk and vermicelli. It is often eaten during Bakri-Eid and Eid-ul-Fitr.

    Sindhi Kadi is another unique dish prepared on special occasions, mostly by Sindhis residing in India. It is essentially a thick spicy gravy made from chickpea flour along with seasonal vegetables, unlike buttermilk, which is normally used in kadi preparation.

    "Kheer Kharkun" is a sweet dish similar to the Indian kheer, which is mostly served on Eid ul-Fitr. When making it, combine the dates and milk, simmer the mixture for a few hours, and then serve it warm in the winter or cold in the summer.

    For some non-vegetarian options, one of the most popular Sindhi delicacies is called Pallo Machi. It is a fish dish that uses Hilsa fish and is either deep-fried or barbecued.

    Palli is a leafy green dish that is cooked and consumed either by itself like spinach or along with fish cooked in the palli and is called "Machi Palli." It has an acquired sour and salty taste that takes some getting used to.

In the current times, some aspects of Sindhi cuisine and culture seem to be on the brink, and in danger of fading away permanently. That would be tragic because Sindhi food is an important thread in the tapestry of larger Indian culinary traditions.