Tribal people are known for their hospitality and it never comes without variety of foods and beverages which they offer to their guests.
Specially cooked rice, Kurmawaale Ruje (Kurram rice), is one such most relished tribal cuisine originated in Kurram Agency long ago.
“The recipe for Kurmawaale Ruje is even simpler and cooking it doesn’t take much time,” Subhan Ali, a resident of Kurram, told this scribe. He said that people of the settled areas had also learnt the way of cooking Kurram rice as it needed less effort.
He said that Kurram rice was different from Swat Begumai and Charsadda Keechrrai Ruje in taste as well as in way of cooking. He said that first Moong Daal (black gram) was boiled in water for an hour and then it was mixed with cooked rice.
Mr Ali said that local people added different things to the rice like desi ghee, curd, mixed Russian salad and pieces of chicken to enhance its taste and flavour. “Kurram rice is served to guests in big open ended plates called Khaanak in local dialect. Although Kurram rice is a winter cuisine, yet people also cook it in Ramazan for enjoying it at Iftar,” he added.
Tajir Hussain, a senior research officer in Parachinar, said that currently only two varieties of rice — Begumai and Fakhre Malakand — were being produced in Kurram in abundance.
He said that Begumai was an old variety of rice first introduced in Swat but Fakhre Malakand was recently brought to the area by experts.
“Black gram is grown in our areas without which the taste of Kurram rice is lost. A house without Kurram special rice is considered a naïve household in our agency,” said.
Mr Hussain said that he had conducted research on varieties of rice in Kurram Agency and was of the view that Fakhre Malakand was the best quality and farmers mostly grew it in their fields. He said that Kurram rice was a signature food of the local tribesmen.
“This particular type of rice is produced in the fields of Karman, Sultan, Shablan, Sadda, Bagan, Alizai and Sambar areas of Kurram Agency. We are blessed with water of the Kurram River which irrigates our fields of rice. Whereas in other places, people are suffering from water scarcity, we have plenty of it and that’s why special Kurram rice gets way through our food tradition,” he said.
Sibtain Turi, a resident of Bilyamin village, said that Kurram rice was his favourite dish. He said that although he currently lived in Peshawar yet he still liked to cook the special rice and served to his guests.
“I have been living in Peshawar for the last over a decade. Kurram rice is cultural cuisine. I arrange special Kurram rice Iftar party in every Ramazan for my friends belonging to other districts. My neighbours also love Kurram rice due to its taste,” said Mr Turi.
Sajid Nawaz, a resident of Sadda, said that Kurram rice was served to guests and friends most often on the propitious occasions including wedding ceremonies, Iftar parties and festivals. He said that Kurram rice was also popular in Peshawar areas because of its unique way of serving and delicious taste.
Tariq Afghan, a resident of Dir, told this scribe that rice was cooked in all Pakhtun areas but Kurrmawaale Ruje had a different taste. He said that recently one of his friends from Kurram Agency had invited him to an Iftar party where the special rice was the lone dish.
Mr Afghan said that he enjoyed it and also noted down its recipe.
Originally published in Dawn, June 16th, 2017