“India is so unique, one can find three different recipes for the same dish in the three houses lined in the same row. Every kitchen has its own cook book, unlike the rest of the world.”- Author Unknown
Food often defines the character of a community. This is especially true when it comes to niche culinary traditions such as the delectable Sindhi cuisine.
For the people of Sindh, a community uprooted and dispersed by Partition, cooking provides a vital connection to their homeland. Their kitchens, with their distinct recipes and ingredients, helped identify and anchor them in the places they adopted as their new homes
This history is also why frugality lies at the heart of many Sindhi recipes — having to rebuild their lives from scratch led to them valuing what was available to them wherever they settled.
For example, Sindhis use every part of the lotus plant – the flower, the stem, the bud, pods and even the seeds within them – in different types of traditional dishes!
Sindhi cuisine also reflects the influence of culinary cultures of the Rajputs, the Mughals, the Sikhs and even the Arabs, For instance, karaha prasad (wheat halwa) has been adapted from Sikh cuisine, gheeyar (Sindhi jalebi) is a gift from Rajasthani food. Perhaps that’s why its said that the true distinctiveness of Sindhi cuisine truly lies in its adaptability.
What also adds to the distinct flavours of the Sindhi cuisine are three things: slow cooking, layering of garam masala and a penchant for combining sweet and savoury flavours. A love for amchoor (dry mango powder) and basar (onions that have been sautéed white instead of brown) are some other characteristic features of this rustic and robust cuisine.
Unsurprisingly, in recent years, Sindhi food has been subtly making its way up the regional food charts.
For those who wish to sample the marvels of this little-known cuisine, here is a list of traditional Sindhi dishes – simple, easy to cook and undeniably delicious.
1. Dal Pakwan
A signature Sindhi breakfast packed with flavours, dal pakwan is a culinary couple made in heaven. It’s basically lightly spiced yellow lentils served with deliciously crisp and thick deep-fried flatbread. A perfect bite of dal pakwan also includes a topping finely chopped onions and fiery chilli-coriander chutney!
2. Seyun Patata
Another breakfast favourite in Sindhi cuisine, seyun (sweetened and ghee-soaked vermicelli) with shallow-fried patata (potato chunks) is a dish with the perfect balance of sweetness and savouriness.
3. Bhugal Bhee Alu
Sindhis have a soft spot for bhee (lotus stems), a high-fibre vegetable with a bland taste. However, when cooked right, bhee is an ingredient that is sure to perk up a simple weeknight dinner. Especially when its paired with slow-cooked potatoes in a hearty tomato-based gravy!
4. Sai Bhaji and Bhugha Chaawran
A dish most Sindhis swear by, the healthy and wholesome sai bhaji is basically dal slow cooked with spinach and vegetables. It is best complemented with bhuga chawraan, which is rice cooked with caramelised onions, tomatoes and garam masala.
5. Sindhi Kadhi
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For most Sindhis, a lazy Sunday afternoon is often synonymous with a bowl of hot steaming rice and fragrant Sindhi kadhi (a besan-based preparation loaded with okra, drumsticks and cluster beans). Garnished with juicy, sweet boondi and crisp alu tuk, this combination is a much-loved comfort food for the Sindhi community.
6. Tidali Dal with Juar Jo Dodo
A soul-satiating combination of three different types of lentils – like chana dal, arhar and green moong – is what gives a unique taste to this earthy dish that goes best with juar jo dodo. A Sindhi speciality, this dodo (flatbread) is made with jowar and often has a spicy garlic-green chilli sprinkling mixed into it.
7. Baingan and Alu Tuk
Double-fried crispy appetizers, tuk can be made from potatoes, brinjals and even arbi (yam). What makes this humble recipe a culinary gem is a wonderfully tart flavour it gets from amchoor (dried mango powder).
8. Kok Pallo
A complicated baked preparation, kok pallo is basically Hilsa fish stuffed with a hand-pounded green masala (made of simple spices, green chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander) and tawa fried. Interestingly, according to traditional Sindhi technique, this stuffed fish was wrapped in a roti and roasted in a sandpit!
9. Seyal Teevarn
While Sindhi kitchens are more famous for their fragrant dal preparations, meat delicacies also play a central role in their traditional cuisine. One of the most popular ones of these recipes is seyal teevarn , a delectable dish in which mutton is slow-cooked (sometimes for as long as two hours) till its moist, tender and delicately flavoured.
A must on all important Sindhi occasions, tairi is a scrumptious dish made from aromatic rice that is sweetened to perfection, flavoured with fennel and garnished with roasted nuts. Any true-blue Sindhi will tell you that the simplicity of complex flavours in this dish literally feels like a symphony on the palate!
Thick wheat-flour flatbreads perked up with onions, whole seeds (of coriander, cumin and pomegranate) and a generous slathering of ghee, Sindhi kokis are similar to Punjabi parathas but are made differently by toasting twice.
12. Singhar Ji Mithai
Unsalted sev (gram flour vermicelli), khoya and slivers of assorted nuts cooked to melting perfection is what creates singhar ji mithai – a dish that may seem odd in theory but makes complete sense on the palate.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)