Struggles Pakistani Foodies Go Through Living in Pardes – UK Diaries!

By Bilal Arshad

As a desi foodie living in the UK, one tends to experience all sorts of Pakistani cuisine ranging from boiled rice with a chicken piece labeled as pulao (seriously!) to one of the most authentic biryani EVER! Just to begin with, we have been living in the United Kingdom for the past 4 years now and finding desi food is not that big of a deal considering the amount of Pakistanis living here. The only issue is how to spot an authentic desi food spot that tingles your taste buds just like the biryani made by mom back home on Fridays. Or the anda shami (egg and a patty of minced meat with chickpeas and spices in a bun) burger guy at the corner of the street.

Even with the deluge of restaurants on the famous streets of Birmingham (a city in the midlands of UK) or Manchester (a hub of Pakistanis living in the UK), finding that authentic taste is somewhat of a challenge. With a range of Pakistani ethnicities settled all over the UK, there is a huge variety of what these restaurants have to offer. Starting from the grill platter filled with all sorts of meat varieties, grilled to perfection to the gajar (carrots) ka halwa topped up with khoya.

One can cook every possible desi food here thanks to companies like Shan and National as you can find those masala (spices) packets at every general store in cities like Birmingham.

Sunday mornings can be brightened by the array of sweet shops offering halwa poori with chanay (chickpeas) and to top it all up with freshly made lassi (buttermilk). One can satisfy every taste bud, reminiscing what halwa poori tasted like at the Capri (a shop in Liberty Lahore) or Refreshment Centre (a shop in Rawalpindi, Satellite Town). Not to mention the availability of samosas or pakoras (fritters) right next to where halwa poori is being served in these sweet shops. Other delicacies include ras malai, kheer, paithay ka halwa etc. You name it and it is available at at least one shop in Birmingham or Manchester. With the increasing demand of desi food outlets, some restaurant owners are keen to bring in authentic chefs from all over Pakistan just to get that perfect taste.

On one of our recent trips to Europe, we were surprised to see the number of desi food outlets in every major city. From Rome to Paris, where ever Pakistanis settle, they tend to bring a bit of home along with them in the form of serving authentic tasting Pakistani food.

A friend of mine encountered an authentic Pakistani restaurant in Vienna, Austria that served every possible Pakistani dish and the customer can pay to their satisfaction. No fixed prices whatsoever. What amazed him was the fact that the owner was super friendly and wanted to encourage people to try Pakistani cuisine and spread the word around. What better way to spread the message of love than by filling hungry tummies with authentic Pakistani food.

We will bring to you a series that will showcase an array of restaurants all over the UK in order to develop a deeper understanding of how to fulfill ones’ desire of authentic Pakistani food whilst you are staying in the UK.

Stay tuned for more!