In this day and age where we have begun to learn and appreciate Regional food rather than food defined by political boundaries, here’s my small bit of gyaan to add to your food appreciation pages..
The “Punjab” as we know it today has had many facets attached to it, not just in terms of geography, but cuisine as well.
Punjab itself is divided into several “Punjabs” -the Royal Punjab,the most historic seat of royalty being Lahore, then there is the farmer’s Punjab, agrarian community being pretty influential.
Talking about Royal Punjab,during some part of the Mughal era & Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time,the food had European influences, since his generals & some sections of the Barracks were European.
Later all the smaller (as compared to Maharaja Ranjit Singh) Royalties – Nabha,Patiala,Kapurthala, etc,carried the same European infatuation in their lifestyles & kitchens. A true royal Punjabi cookbook would be incomplete without these dishes.
Then we have the traders’ Punjab, Lahore & Amritsar being major trade cities. Followed by Khatri Punjab, the Sufi Punjab & of course, Urban Punjab. And there’s the fine line between Sindh & Punjab too.
Old Punjabis will tell you that there’s nothing called Punjabi food beyond Lahore. What we had in Indian Punjab was either the food of minor royalties, that was influenced by the west, the French & the British; or the peasant food.
We eventually got a taste of Lahore, Karachi food post Independence, when they came here & adapted that food to our palate. That again cannot be termed Punjabi food! How would you then place Punjab in a bracket and say this is Punjabi food?!
For eg, Sarson da saag is peasant Punjabi food. Karahi Paneer is a form of Karahi cooking that’s typical of old Punjab, most of which is now in Pakistan.
Amritsar being a major trade centre, traders from all over used to come in and settle down. Plus the pilgrim influx. So between the traders & the pilgrims, the dhabas as the quick vegetarian food source, became famous.
The list isn’t comprehensive either, there’s more to discover! Do leave your thoughts on this in the comments too…