Absence of local food outlets disappoints tourists

CHITRAL: The absence of an outlet of local cuisines in the Chitral city restaurants and the tourist spots of Kalash valleys and Garam Chashma has greatly disappointed the tourists yearning to have a taste of the these foods.

The tourists, including foreigners, said they very much liked local foods apart from seeing the district’s beautiful sites, historical places and cultural heritage. They said though Chitral was full of attractions for eco-tourists and mountaineers unavailability of local cuisines put them off.

They said fruits like grapes, pear, apricot and mulberry were abundantly found in the market and villages, but not the local varieties of food.

Hartwig, an Austrian tourist in the local food street at PIA Chowk in Chitral city, asked this scribe about any restaurant where purely local foods were served. But the answer in negative disappointed him.

“I have read a number of books on Chitral in which there is a description of rich variety of local foods whose flavour and taste have also been praised,” he said and named a few of the cuisines.

The cuisines of Chitral are said to have resemblance with that of Central Asian states and the neighbouring areas of Afghanistan in which meat, butter, cheese and ‘desi’ ghee are lavishly used while their flavour is enriched by addition of walnut, honey and local varieties of herbs, dry fruits and cappers.

Though Chitral is known for abundance of trout fish it is also not available in the market which can be presented as one of the specialties of the area and similar is the case of yak flesh which is abundant in upper Chitral and known for its superb taste.

The owners of a number of leading restaurants of the city, when contacted by this correspondent for their version, said that the local foods were costlier than the national varieties due to which they were in demand by only a small fraction of their customers.

They said the local foods were available in homes only which were cooked for guests or for special occasions.

Prof Rahmat Karim Baig, a researcher on local culture, said at first the local kitchenware became extinct which were made of wood, stones, clay, leather and horns of animals. He said a number of local dishes had also died out and their very names were not known to the members of the new generation.

He expressed his satisfaction over the availability of rich literature about the local dishes, including an exclusive book ‘Dastarkhwan-i-Chitral’ written in 1950s by Shahzada Hissamul Mulk who served as governor of Drosh in the princely state of Chitral.

Shahzada Sirajul Mulk, the owner of a hotel with a restaurant offering continental foods, said there were highly expensive as well as cheap varieties of local foods that could be made available in almost every restaurant of the city.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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