A popular traditional food Painda or Sohbuth in southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata has recently gained widespread fame in northern areas too because of its peculiar taste and composition.
A number of outlets offering traditional Painda have sprawled out in and around Peshawar over the last few years. Painda is not only a favourite dish of students but also local residents, who cherish it at parties, weddings, etc.
Salahuddin Marwat, 68, who runs a Painda restaurant at Dhobi Ghat near Peshawar University, told this scribe that composition of Painda used to be simple. Describing the preparation of Painda, he said that domestic chicken cooked in desi ghee was strewn with small broken pieces of unfermented bread (chapatti), while pumpkin was used to make its soup more delicious. He said Marwats also offered Painda to guests at wedding ceremonies as a favourite food.
He said that now ghee, onion, garlic, ginger, lemon, tomato, potato and boneless chicken or beef steak were mixed in different spices which took four hours to cook. He said it was served with salad, raita and pickle.
Traditional painda comprises desi chicken cooked in ghee, strewn with small pieces of chapatti. Pumpkin is used to make its soup more delicious.
He added that his customers placed orders for takeaway and a many university students visited his cafeteria daily. He said he charged around Rs130 per person. “The flavour of Painda is relished now everywhere in KP and Fata .We should keep alive traditional foods as mark of our identity,” he maintained.
Wagma Siraj, a private university student in Peshawar and resident of Charsadda, told this correspondent that IDPs from southern districts and Fata introduced their unique culture, including a peculiar flavour of poetry, dance, music and foods, wherever they went. She said that Painda was one of them. She goes dining out to Saddar Bazaar every Monday evening to enjoy Marwat Painda along with her colleagues. “I have learned to cook Painda, but still I need a master hand to cook it for guests at home,” said Ms Siraj.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Waziristan and adjacent areas of Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, and Bannu are responsible for introducing and popularising this delicious cuisine in Peshawar and other areas. Marwat, Wazir and Bannuchi Pakhtun tribes take credit for traditional Painda. Some people call it Warra Marrai, Randa Cherga or Taodai in their own respective dialects.
"Painda reflects a family's mutual love and unity as everyone eats from one dish," remarks local lecturer Rahim Shah
Amjad Ali, an Islamia College University student and a resident of Mardan, said that he came to Dhobi Ghat to enjoy Painda along with his classmates.
He said that great rush was being seen, as students came from the university hostels to two Painda cafeterias located at Dhobi Ghat to dine out there . “Some of the students placed orders for their hostel rooms to entertain their private guests. “It is a delicious food, which is also good for a soft stomach,” he observed.
Painda is already popular in most Pakhtun areas whether in south or northwest of KP and Fata, but with different names and cooking styles. Painda or Pund is a Pashto word which means ‘gathering’. Long ago, people used to cook Painda or a similar single dish for their family who would huddle around a big open dish called khanak to enjoy the most scrumptious food. In southern districts, Painda is available at restaurants in bazaars where local residents also offer it to guests.
Rahim Shah, a lecturer at a local college on Warsak road and resident of Bannu, remarked that Painda reflected mutual love and unity of family members typical of Pakhtun culture as everyone ate from one dish.
Originally published in Dawn, March 13th, 2017