New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) If you thought Pakistan has only a limited menu to offer, you were wrong! Renowned chefs from across the border dished out a cuisine that is robust and nuanced, infused with sensibility and made with the best local ingredients at the four-day Pakistan Lifestyle Expo in the Indian capital that ends Sunday.
In an evolutionary sense, offering and sharing of food straighten social and cultural bonds. Tariq Puri, chairman of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), hoped as much. "Almost 20 top chefs have been brought from Pakistan to give India the flavour of our country," Puri told IANS.
The food court at the Pragati Maidan fairgrounds helped raise the warmth and level of new bonhomie between the two neighbours, who share a common history and culture but suffer a trust deficit.
"The food served here have an altogether different aroma and a very rich spicy flavour," said Shalini Singh, a visitor. "It is so tasty that even the huge chunks of butter being served on top of it is not making me feel guilty enough to resist my temptation," she added, gorging on the aloo paratha with her friends.
Besides the buttered aloo parathas, spicy pickle naans and rich and creamy palak paneer, the pavilion had on its menu delicious non-vegetarian food, including Nehari prepared with chicken or mutton, Sindhi Biryani, Lahori Fried Fish, Reshmi Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka.
There was a strict no-no to use of beef in any of the dishes. "When we have come to India, we will ensure that we respect their tradition and culture," Ijaz Nabi, general manager of Zaffron, a Lahore-based catering agency, told IANS, conscious of the religious and cultural sensitivities of the majority Indian population.
Asked about their experiences of eating in Indian hotels, some chefs said the aroma was missing in the dishes.
"Wo baat nahi thi!," said Shahbaz, with a smile. "The food, specially the Mughlai that we prepare in Pakistan, is completely different. Most of us have even brought our spices from Pakistan because sourcing some from India might have been very difficult," he added.
And since the exhibition was a trade show, business interactions could not be far behind. Some of the leading food companies of Pakistan, where food is a high-return and growing business, were said to be exploring the Indian market to launch their products.
For example, Engro Foods, which is a growth story in Pakistan, unveiled its liquid tea whitener at the expo and said it would decide on its business plans after looking at the response. The company has launched 'paratha' and rice products in North America.
A delegation of Pakistani rice exporters met their Indian counterparts and discussed ways and means to enhance cooperation in the field of marketing and technology exchange.
Pakistan has urged India to formulate a joint strategy on marketing and export of premium basmati rice, a common heritage, to counter the non-tariff barriers imposed by other countries.
A cross section of companies IANS spoke to said there is a lot of interest in terms of buying and selling in both the sides. Retailers can either open their exclusive outlets or go for joint venture and shop-in-shop formats to cut costs.
The Indian government Friday decided to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) from Pakistan. Until now, Pakistan was the only country from where where FDI was not allowed into India.
Bashir Ali Ahmed, president of the International Textile Manufacturers Federation, said Pakistan's industry now believes that both the countries should trade directly and also as a region.
(Priyanka Sahay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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