Pakistani food has been available in Jakarta for a while. Just check out several restaurants in the Jalan Radio Dalam or Fatmawati areas. During the day these restaurants are rug stores.
In Pakistan, preparing food is like making medicine, according to chef Haroon Adeem, who hails from Lahore, the culture-rich capital of Punjab region.
Pakistan has four provinces and each has different cooking styles, Haroon explains.
“If the cooking method is not carefully done, then the sources of goodness, such as protein, will be gone,” said Haroon, who has his own consultancy company dealing with hotel and culinary specialisms.
Curry ingredients, such as turmeric, are actually good for the brain. People who eat this are protected from Alzheimer’s disease.
“Cooking Pakistani food is all about finding the balance between salt and chili. For the dessert it’s about finding the balance of sweetness.”
Haroon, who is also a media person producing documentary films on the local political scene, has been cooking for forty years. He is 55 years old.
He said that people prepare international dishes for two or three persons, whereas Pakistani cooking is bulk cooking, in which the cook prepares food for up to twenty people. It takes an average of 30 to 45 minutes to prepare Pakistani dishes.
The secret of Pakistani gastronomy lies in the way it is prepared. “The pan, which is made of copper and the various sources of natural fire makes the difference,” added Haroon.
The chicken which is cooked in the oven and that grilled near the fire will have different flavors. He says the chicken cooked near the fire will taste “1,000 times” better.
Haroon likes to make home style food, just like people usually prepare in their own kitchens. “People who taste my creations should feel that they are eating at home,” he said.
Haroon has the opportunity to show off the taste of Pakistani food in Jakarta from August 27 to Sept. 7, at the Peacock restaurant at the Sultan Hotel. Several buffet sections in the Peacock, which is a popular place in town to hang out, are dedicated to Pakistani food during this period.
The buffet is available from 11:30 to 2:30 P.M. during lunch and from 6 to 10 P.M. for dinner.
When The Jakarta Post was invited for lunch, the kitchen team prepared several dishes, such as vegetable bhujia (mixed vegetables), lamb and potato (alloo gosht), chicken handi (boneless chicken), Lahore fried chicken and daal (like mashed beans).
Home cooking means that the food goes down very comfortably and most of these home cooking dishes are excellent.
The essential ingredients for all Pakistani cooking include onion, garlic, ginger and green chili. They permeate the tastes in these different dishes without overwhelming the flavors.
There were also three kinds of great tasting desserts on the table. They were shahi tukra (fried bread with milky sauce), khair khass (milky rice and fresh cream) and shahi halawa (pie crumbs with fresh cream). All three are must try items.
“It’s up to the chef to see how he will create the tastes. Here again I try to create a balanced set of flavors,” said Haroon, who created all the dishes with the ingredients already available in Jakarta. The kitchen rotates the buffet menu every day.
He reckons that being in the culinary business is tough. “If there are 999 people who love your food and there is one person who complains about it, then the hotel management will remember only the one and forget the other 999. It’s a thankless business.”
Nevertheless, Haroon still keeps going with his passion in the kitchen. “I have other jobs beside cooking, such as a columnist and author of many books. If you want your children to live a comfortable life, you have to have many jobs.”