Opinions

Indian Vs Pakistani chhole-bhatoore

Recently, a Pakistani Urdu daily carried a light-hearted article written by a culinary expert, who loves to gorge on Indian delicacies. He wrote that one gets to relish the tastiest chhole-bhatoore in Pakistan, esp. in Sahiwal (southern Punjab, Pakistan) and the most delicious mutton-biryani in Lucknow, India. Being a hardcore vegetarian, I cannot comment upon his second claim but yes, one really enjoys the chhole-bhatoore in Lahore, Karachi and of course, in Sahiwal. Having tried chhole-bhatoore at Chandani-Chowk in old Delhi, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, I dare say, chhole-bhatoore of Sahiwal da jawab nahin

Now let me enumerate upon why Sahiwali or Pakistani chhole-bhatoore will triumph over chhole-bhatoore of north India on any day. Pakistanis use Rawalpindi or Peshawari chhole (chickpeas) whereas in India, we use Kabuli chhole. Rawalpindi or Peshawari chhole are bigger, softer and far tastier than Kabuli chhole. Moreover, Pakistanis put a dash of heeng (asafoetida) in chhole while preparing the gravy. Heeng, though used in Indian cuisine, is seldom used in chhole-bhatoore. A very little heeng thickens the gravy and further softens chhole. It also helps digest easily because bhatoore (made of maida) are often heavy on stomach. 

Pakistanis also mix a little curd with maida while kneading it for making bhatoore. This takes away the greasiness. Furthermore, chhole-bhatoore in Pakistan are invariably served with either boondi ka raita or dahi-bade. Both go very well with chhole-bhatoore and increase the taste manifold. 

I once had chhole-bhatoore on Clifton Road, Karachi where I'd gone to deliver a lecture on Urdu-Persian poetry. It was a humdrum-looking eatery. Its owner was a Sindhi-Muslim. He immediately realised that I hailed from India because the people of Karachi have a distinct Sindhi-Punjabi accent and mine was completely different. I ordered chhole-bhatoore. He served the delicacy with a huge bowl of Rawalpindi chhole-bhatoore with a bowl of pineapple raita. It was the best pineapple raita I ever had in my whole life. The taste was divine. The owner simply refused to accept money because I was a guest to his country!

Sahiwali chhole-bhatoore are made of Peshawari chhole and there's a desirably piquant tangy taste to their preparation of chhole. Their bhatooras are smaller and one can have 3/4 in one go. The taste was finger-licking and lip-smacking.

But, when I'd chhole-bhatoore at Rahim Yar Khan of Pakistan's Punjab province, I felt as if I was in Delhi or Ludhiana. The taste of Rahim Yar Khan's chhole bhatoore was same as that of north Indian  chhole-bhatoore

Lastly, the way food is served, increases or decreases the taste of an item. On this count, Pakistanis are perhaps the best hosts. They lovingly served whatever I ordered and that made the difference in taste and its lingering effect. Because there's a Persian adage, ' Food tastes the best when served with utmost love, cordiality and hospitality.' I agree with this in toto.

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