Two of Quetta’s best-kept culinary secrets are date naan and Aash, which are actually a part of the city’s heritage as well.
Going to Quetta to discover more about these two recipes is like going back to my childhood days, my ancestral heritage. The city’s ancient name is Shalkot, with Kot being the Pashto for fort. It has changed a lot since I last came, with more traffic in what was a walking city. I pass St Francis Grammar School and St Joseph’s Convent. There is Minoo Marker’s residence. There used to be 21 Parsi families in Quetta but now only four people are left.
If you visit Quetta you should definitely buy dry fruit at Thana Road where the best produce from Zhob, Ziarat, Qila Saifullah, Pishin is on sale. On Price Road go to Green Hotel, next to Lal Kebab for a cup of tea or something to eat in their family rooms. If you venture into the cantonment you will pass the very old China Café on Club Road, where I spent a few meals.
On my way to discover the date naan recipe, I pop in for a bit to Imperial Bakery, which is the oldest in the city. It was founded by Azizuddin sb’s family in 1923 and is famed for its original shortbread. They’ve been feeding the Qazis, my family, for generations. Its most famous item is the Mastung cake, but more on that for another video.
At the naan paratha shop, I ask Muhammad Sharif to show me how he makes his unique date naan and he demonstrates.
He makes his dough with wheat, adding yeast, baking soda, salt and flour. He lets it sit for an hour after kneading it. He pulls off a handful and rolls it into a cinnamon roll and brushes it with ghee or oil.
The roll is then flattened and brushed with date water or syrup. Sharif then uses a tappa or stamp to punch holes in the disc before he sprinkles it liberally with sesame seeds. The dough is spread onto a naan pad and patted into the tandoor.
My next stop is Hazara Town’s Alamdar Road, named after the alams from the Ahle Tasheeh tradition. Here is Punjtan Hotel where Mohammad Ali explains how they make a Hazara specialty: Aash.
Aash is made from wheat strips, almost like pasta, that are dry baked. You can buy them and take them home. To make Aash you boil the strips with coriander (no salt). Add red and white kidney beans, chickpeas, cumin and coriander powder, ghee and mincemeat.
One of the secret ingredients is Quroot, or hardened yoghurt balls, that are left in hot water overnight to liquefy and soften. This is all layered together.
If you are in the neighbourhood I’d recommend popping in to French Cuisine bakery, where owner Mohammad Tahir tells me about the Hazara snack Bosrakh, which is fried bread in the most fantastic shapes. You can also pick up Tikki or the fabulous walnut cookies.
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Nilofer Afridi Qazi comes from Pishin, Balochistan and Babribanda, a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As a Foreign Office child she lived in 13 countries and studied and worked outside Pakistan. She went to film school in New York three years ago so she could film this series, Pakistan on a Plate.
With gratitude to BRSP Baluchistan Rural Support Program’s Zainab Kakar, Nadir Gul and Anwar Sb for being a great resource and support for the Balochistan part of the series.