The food of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is intertwined as the cross-cultural ties of the region far outdate the borders between them. Among the many commonalities are the spices, spicy food and slow cooking techniques that all four swear by, whether it is the Afghani naan, Bangladeshi qorma, nihari from Pakistan, or India’s ubiquitous biryani. To mark Independence Day, I collect four unique recipes from families with roots across the region, who pass their food traditions down to every generation.

Mother-daughter artist duo Arfa and Wajiha Naqvi from Karachi have a family recipe for a unique fried chicken from Kashgar, a city in modern-day Xinjiang, China, which borders Pakistan. They were generous enough to share it with me. Wajiha’s grandfather’s uncle married a Muslim girl Xinjiang, who brought the recipe to the Naqvi family, which made a few changes. Bangladeshi food writer Dina Begum shared her chicken qorma with panchphoran, the five-spice blend commonly used in Bengal too as a flavouring agents.

Jahidaa, who moved to India from Afghanistan 20 years back, brought with her a family recipe for pacha, lamb trotters’ soup, which we know as paya in India in a slightly different form. Her family eats it every Sunday morning with Afghani naan. And from my own family’s cookbook, I share the recipe of a unique goolar kebab that’s been passed from my grandmother to mother, mother to me. Try these recipes and cook up a feast that celebrates a borderless world.

Goolar Ke Kebab

Ingredients

Split Bengal gram (chana dal) 200 gm, soaked for two hours

Water 3-4 Cups

Mutton (boneless) 1⁄2 kg

Red chilies (whole) 8-10

Ginger garlic paste 1.5 tbsp

Salt To taste

Coriander seeds (roasted & crushed) 1 tbsp

Cumin seeds (roasted & crushed) 1 tbsp

Coriander leaves 1⁄4 cup

Mint leaves 1⁄4 Cup

Green chilies 2-3

Garam masala powder 1 tsp

Yogurt 1 tbsp

Eggs 1

Oil for Frying

Stuffing:

Posto Dana: 2.5 tbsp

Soaked Raisins: 4 tbsp

Roasted and chopped Cashew: 4 tbsp

Fried onions: 1⁄2 cup

Sugar: 1.5 tbsp

Salt: To Taste

Method

Bring split Bengal gram, water to boil, and add chicken.

Toss in red chilies, ginger garlic paste, salt, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds, give it a stir and cook until tender (6-8 minutes approx.) Cover the pot with a lid.

Remove the lid and cook on high flame to reduce water and let it cool.

In chopper or mixer, grind coriander leaves, mint leaves and green chilies.

In the same pot, add chicken mixture, whole spices powder, yogurt and egg, grind until well combined.

Wet your hands with water/oil, and, make small patty

For the stuffing, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and keep it aside.

Stuff these patties with the mixture of and Shallow fry them in a not stick skillet. Fry them until kababs turn golden brown.

Serve with Chutney.

Anda Chicken by Arfa & Wajiha Naqvi, Karachi, Pakistan

Anda Chicken by Arfa & Wajiha Naqvi, Karachi, Pakistan (Illustrated by Atashi Saini)
Anda Chicken by Arfa & Wajiha Naqvi, Karachi, Pakistan (Illustrated by Atashi Saini)

Ingredients

500 gms chicken (on bone, medium size)

200 gms potato (medium, divided into fours)

3-4 eggs

4 tbsp Chilli Powder

Salt to taste

Oil to fry

Steps

Wash and pat chicken and potatoes dry.

Whip eggs with salt and chili till foamy.

Heat oil in a kadahi, dip chicken pieces in egg and fry till they are half done.

Repeat the process with potatoes

In the same kadhai, layer the fried chicken and potatoes, pour the leftover whisked egg on top.

Cover with a lid and keep cooking on slow flame till the oil evaporates and the chicken becomes fork tender.

Pair it with paratha or tomato ketchup.

Chicken Korma by Dina Begum

Chicken Korma by Dina Begum (Illustrated by Atashi Saini)
Chicken Korma by Dina Begum (Illustrated by Atashi Saini)

Ingredients

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

5cm piece ginger, roughly chopped

100ml oil

2 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon panchphoron

3 medium onions, finely sliced

1½ teaspoons salt

3 dried red chillies

2 bay leaves

8 cardamom pods

4 cloves

6 black peppercorns

2 cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

1 1/3 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/3 tablespoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

800 g skinless chicken breast and thigh meat, chopped into bite-size pieces

300 g Greek yoghurt

6 whole green chillies

Method

Crush the garlic and ginger together in a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil and ghee in a large pan on medium-high heat and add the garlic, ginger and panchphoron. After a minute add the onions, salt, dried red chillies, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and star anise and sauté until golden – around ten minutes. Add 200ml water, cover and simmer on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the onions have broken up and the oil has separated.

Keep checking regularly and if the mixture gets too dry or catches at the bottom of the pan add a dash of water and continue cooking.

At this point stir in the cumin, coriander, chilli powder and turmeric and turn up the heat to medium. Cook for two to three minutes until the spices are fragrant and have separated from the oil. If the mixture gets too dry, add a dash of water so the spices don’t burn then cover and cook for a few minutes.

Add the chicken pieces to the pan. Stir for a couple of minutes to seal the meat, then cover and cook for ten minutes, checking now and then to make sure nothing’s burning. Towards the end of the ten minutes, you’ll notice the chicken releasing moisture – which indicates that it’s almost fully cooked.

Take the pan off the heat, wait for a minute and then gradually add the yoghurt, a little at a time so it doesn’t curdle. Finally, toss in the green chillies, return the pan to a very low heat and simmer for another eight to ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender and the gravy is thick and silky. Serve with pilau rice.

Kalah wa pacha by Jahidaa (Lamb Trotter Soup)

Kalah wa pacha by Jahidaa (Illustrated by Atashi Saini)
Kalah wa pacha by Jahidaa (Illustrated by Atashi Saini)

Ingredients

1 kg of lamb (cleaned feet and head)

1 bowl chickpeas

1 bowl whole wheat

5-6 cloves of garlic

2-3 tbsp Red chili powder

50 gm black pepper

Salt to taste

Method

Wash the meat thoroughly and roast the parts that still have fur attached to them to ensure that it is sterile for cooking. Simultaneously, soak the chickpeas.

In a slow cooker, add the meat, chickpeas, garlic, black pepper, a spoonful of chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Leave it to simmer for about 3 hours or till the meat is extremely tender. Add more water if required.

Serve with Afghani naan.

Sadaf Hussain is a chef and author of the book Daastan-E-Dastarkhan. @hussainsadaf1