Monday Meal Review: Pakistan

Keith once told me that he hated cilantro. He despised how green and soapy it felt in his mouth and how the little green bits snaked through his teeth, sticking with him throughout the day like a tag-along little brother.

This was in the days before our Global Table Adventure, a time when he also hated tomatoes, had no idea what eggplant was, and had never had fresh spinach. A time when one salad per year was a major accomplishment.

So, naturally, when I pop the platter of garlic rice on our rough, wooden dining table, I neglect to mention it is tossed with cilantro. After all, cilantro and parsley look remarkably alike.

I heave the extra wide spoon into the rice and scoop him a large serving. Leaning in, I say “this is garlic rice,” purring over the syllables as though they themselves are made of ghee. He leans in, sniffs his plate, and digs in. A few stray bits of cilantro flutter dangerously on the edge of his spoon.

He chews a moment and then says “This is good.” Raising his eyebrows, he looks from me to his mother. They both smile and go in for more. Ava isn’t quite as enthusiastic. She’s overtired thanks to a long, hard afternoon of playing with grandma at the park, but she eventually settles into my lap and lets me scoop her rice.

As I listen to the contented click of spoons on ceramic, I think “Yes, this is good. Very good, indeed.”

I nonchalantly pass Keith the Pakistani Mixed Bean salad, filled with even more cilantro.

I hold my breath, but he eats it without a word.

Time to cross cilantro off the list of things Mr Picky won’t touch.

Our diet is really changing thanks to this Adventure… so many fun, new dishes. I hope yours is, too. 

Garlic Basmati Rice with Pine Nuts [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

This salad is so warm and inviting – it would go well with any food from any culture – especially roasted meats or veggies. The soft onion and garlic float through the rice, while the pine nuts and cilantro making the entire dish really special. Keith did not put down his spoon on this one, and Grandma Martin insisted she ate more than her fair share. Considering I doubled this recipe for 3 and a toddler, and it was all gone by the end of the meal, well… I’d say that certainly speaks volumes on what we thought.

What I loved least about this dish:

Nothing. This is going into the regular rotation, cilantro and all!

Pakistani Mixed Bean Salad [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

This bean salad is fresh and bright thanks to the lemon juice, as well as slightly exotic thanks to the garam masala, a popular spice in Pakistan. The lemon juice can be replaced with white vinegar, depending on your preferences, but I enjoyed the citrus shine in August – it just seemed like the right thing to do. I think this would be great for picnics and potlucks alike.

What I loved least about this dish:

Not much. Initially, I put too much lemon juice (2 lemons worth), but I think with just one lemon or maybe 1 1/2 this salad would be perfect. Poor Mr Picky – we were loaded up with cilantro this week. Thankfully, he didn’t really notice.

Pakistani Coffee with cinnamon & cardamom [Recipe]

What I loved most about this drink:

Everything from the sweet cardamom kiss to the cinnamon hug… this Pakistani coffee made me want to put coffee back in my regular rotation. I brewed mine with decaf and enjoyed it enough that I probably will. As an aside, I love that I don’t need a coffee maker for this recipe.

What I loved least about this drink:

I was the only one to really enjoy the it (not that that stopped me from finishing the entire pot!). Keith just took one sip. Ava couldn’t have any. Grandma drank it, although I don’t think she’s a coffee drinker so she was probably just being polite.

Ava’s Corner


*Winner from this week’s Pakistani Menu Giveaway was selected at random by There were lots of great ideas for how to fill the potluck baker.  Congratulations to Christina, who said:

“If a genie in a bottle gave me 1 wish, I would put Peruvian pollo a la brasa & lomo saltado in it & have a picnic lunch at Machu Picchu or anywhere in the Andes in Peru or Ecuador. A big chunk of my heart got left in Peru & I really, really want to go back. Plus, the food is amazing.”

Please email me to claim your prize.


  1. So did you ever TELL Keith that it was cilantro and not parsley? To this day does he even realize that’s what it was?!

    • Sasha Martin says

      haha I don’t remember… good question. I’ll have to ask him if he figured it out. 🙂

  2. Mette says

    Personally I can never get enough cilantro, but apparently for some people it actually does taste rather like soap. I thought that might why Keith didn’t like it, but if he didn’t mind it in this meal that’s probably not the case. Good for you, now you can have it as often as you want!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Maybe it was because I didn’t use a ton of it…I was careful to keep his portion mostly rice.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Fascinating! I particularly like that he adapted his tastes over time (I quoted the article below). Maybe that’s what’s happened with Keith. Plus, like I always tell him, it’s in salsa and he likes salsa.

      “I didn’t like cilantro to begin with,” he said. “But I love food, and I ate all kinds of things, and I kept encountering it. My brain must have developed new patterns for cilantro flavor from those experiences, which included pleasure from the other flavors and the sharing with friends and family. That’s how people in cilantro-eating countries experience it every day.”

      “So I began to like cilantro,” he said. “It can still remind me of soap, but it’s not threatening anymore, so that association fades into the background, and I enjoy its other qualities. On the other hand, if I ate cilantro once and never willingly let it pass my lips again, there wouldn’t have been a chance to reshape that perception.”

  3. Heather says

    I’m one of those that strongly tasted the soap/cilantro effect. It’s really awful tasting. However after having many meals ruined by a speck of cilantro in them I decided to try and get over it. With repeated limited exposure over a long time I now actually like cilantro. I’m shocked that I do. I was simply hoping for getting to ‘not hating it quite so much’.

    Both before and after, but especially before that changed, I can easily distinguish cilantro’s flavor from parsley. I’m not sure how Keith missed it.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Maybe he was just being nice haha. Read that scientist’s quote I pasted in the comment above – that must be what happened to you!

      • Kelster says

        I’m one of those persons who thinks cilantro tastes like soap. But over time that has changed. Now I just don’t taste anything at all. Weird.

  4. Brian S. says

    My final musical contribution from Pakistan…
    Sophisticated, exalted compositions worthy of being played before a king and indeed often heard in royal palaces. That’s the glory of the Indian and Pakistani musical tradition. The one that gets the limelight, anyway. For there are other musical traditions to be found on the Indian subcontinent, hidden away, far from the palace. Most are fast disappearing, many doubtless have vanished forever without trace, swept away by the Bollywood filmsong juggernaut. Here’s one of them.

    In the coastal plain of southern Baluchistan in Pakistan west of Karachi are bands of low-caste itinerant women singers who eke out a living performing at weddings and circumcisions. Rowdy, rollicking songs full of satire. Here’s one recorded in the tiny town of Jiwani on the Iranian border. It’s called Zahirok Sot, a satire, I’m told, on lower-caste snobbery. But I’ve read that zahiroks are “performances in free rhythm which express loneliness and longing.” So which is it? Perhaps this electrifying performance from a scorned and lonely woman wanderer fuses both in a bittersweet blend.

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