Recipes of Pakistan

After two weeks of vacation, I’m back in the kitchen! Our vacationing actually ended last week, but I planned very poorly and did some impulse shopping at the grocery store so our meals didn’t make sense last week. Have you been there before? Lesson to be learned: Stick to the list.

The next country on our calendar is Pakistan! We’re praying for them for the next few days so I made a daal recipe to help us as we try to learn more about Pakistan and its culture. I’m a new lentil fan so I needed little convincing to pick a recipe like this, but I’ll be adding some chicken to go with it to please my carnivorous husband (I’m also a carnivore. Omnivore. Om-nom-nomivore. Too much? Maybe…).

Unlike some of the other countries I’ve covered so far, Pakistan is a country we seem to hear about in the news all the time. After learning more about Pakistan, it is not very surprising why. Sadly, they have been involved conflict almost since becoming a country in 1947. The seeds of this split came earlier in the century when Muslims in British-ruled India began fearing their interests were not being addressed and took action, forming their own political party.  Pakistan ultimately was formed as the political result of these concerns, splitting off from the rest of India – the best comparison I can think of is the split that became the U.S. and Great Britain.  The Pakistan-India relationship has been tense every since.

Throughout its history Pakistan has been involved in multiple wars with India, faced the threat of division within its own borders, been under military rule, developed nuclear weapons, suffered several coups, experienced government inconsistency and corruption, and in 2010 was crippled by flooding. Though it is now a democratic state, Pakistan seems to remain in a tenuous position, with the nuclear weapons housed here and the presence of terrorist groups only adding to its reputation. Interestingly, some say terrorism here is partly due to the U.S. as the U.S. encouraged Afghan militant groups to fight with Pakistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but then drove those same groups into Pakistan when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan after September 11th. 

Of course, a country is more than its conflicts. Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world with almost 205 million people living there. Life centers on family and traditionally Islamic values. Seeing as it was founded as an Islamic nation, it’s not surprising that the majority of the population is still Muslim at about 96%, however Christianity, Buddhism, and Hindu pockets also exist.

Some prayer points, per the Operation World calendar (ours is circa 2000. There are many more points listed on their website, which is more current):

  • The Christian Church continues to grow despite adversity – praise God for that! However there is always the aspect of rejection that those from Muslim backgrounds face when converting to Christianity, so prayers for protection, comfort and community for them are needed.
  • Poverty, persecution and intimidation are realities for Christians in Pakistan – pray for flourishing of the Church and strengthening of faith for those persecuted, and for that faith to be a witness to those persecuting
  • Pray for more missionaries and indigenous resources to be provided for the spread of the gospel to the people of Pakistan!

And now, for the one of the recipes of Pakistan!

This week, I followed a recipe from Sumayya Usmani of My Tamarind Kitchen. She is an acclaimed food writer and culinary instructor, and her blog features recipe after recipe of Pakistani food that make your mouth water just looking at them. I chose her Trio of Daals, though I couldn’t find one of them, so mine is a duo of daals.

A Trio of Daals with a Tempering of Red Chili, Cumin and Garlic

  • 50 grams Masoor daal
  • 50 grams Maash daal (Urid daal)
  • 50 grams Moong daal
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced thinly
  • salt to taste

For the tempering/bhagar:

  • 2 tsp ghee or vegetable oil mixed with 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 dried red chillis
  • 3-4 curry leaves, fresh (optional)

Garnish with:

  • Chopped coriander
  • Chopped green chillis
  • A pinch of garam masala
  • A handful of fried crispy red onions


  1. Mix all the daals together, wash them and drain. Heat enough water to cover the daals in a saucepan and add 1 sliced garlic, turmeric and mix well. Boil until daal is cooked though. Approximately 12 – 15 minutes or so on medium heat, keep stirring to avoid it sticking to the pan and add more water if it dries up quickly. Using the back of a spoon, mash up the daal after its cooked. Pour into a serving dish.
  2. Once cooked, add the salt to taste. In a small frying pan or tarka pan, heat the ghee or oil and butter. Once hot, add the cumin, allow to splutter. Next add the garlic and let it brown slightly, add the red chillis for a few seconds and lastly the curry leaves for just a second. Pour over the daal immediately. Garnish and eat hot with bread or rice as an accompaniment or by itself.

Because part of cooking is experimentation, and because I don’t like to go to more than one grocery store (bad for my budget of time and money), I skipped some of the ingredients. Like I said, I couldn’t find moong daal (mung lentils) so I obviously didn't use them. Also, my husband and I can't handle the heat of spicy food so I left out the red chilies. Also, if you’re like me and you had to google “50 grams of lentils is how many cups,” the answer is half a cup.

As promised, we ate our daal duo with chicken. I "cheated" on this and used Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce. Oddly enough, you can buy this on Amazon here. Would I trust that? Maybe not. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, I'd probably recommend finding a similar sauce at your preferred grocery store. Or making one from scratch!

Let me just tell you the smells in my kitchen while all this was cooking were incredible! My daal ended up tasting a little bland, but I didn't add any salt until after my first bite. The salt helped. I also drizzled some masala simmer sauce on top after I scooped out the chicken and let the sauce reduce down quite a bit. 

Now, I love lentils and I can follow directions well enough to whip up a Pakistani meal like this. But I am by no means an expert (see description of my daal as bland above). For more recipes of Pakistan, from a true Pakistani and experienced Pakistani recipe maker, check out Sumayya Usmani’s recipes at My Tamarind Kitchen. I can only assume her versions of these recipes taste a thousand times better than my own.