QUETTA: Every afternoon in Ramadan, Muhammad Zubair lights up the stove to begin to prepare over 300 pieces of lamb to serve fasting Muslims who will arrive at the restaurant where he works on the outskirts of Quetta even from remote towns in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.
Rosh, as the dish is called, is lamb slow-cooked in its own fat and a mix of onions, garlic and ginger. Though it is popular through the year, during Ramadan, locals and restaurant owners say its demand skyrockets.
“We prepare all our traditional dishes, but rosh is the hottest selling commodity,” Zubair told Arab News as he stirred soup in a large metal pot. “I prepare three large pots for iftar-dinner, each carrying over 300 lamb pieces, since this becomes our staple food during Ramadan.”
“Each pot requires about five percent of oil since lamb pieces are supposed to be cooked in their own fat,” he said. “Our job is to leave them steaming for almost three hours on light heat to keep them soft and juicy.”
60-year-old Hajji Muhammad Essa Tareen, who has been running a restaurant business on the Quetta-Islamabad highway for the last 22 years, said he served rosh throughout the year.
“While it’s true that this dish gains tremendous popularity during the holy month,” he said, “residents of Quetta and people from other provinces come to our restaurant to enjoy rosh in other months of the year as well.”
Tarheen said the lamb dish was just the right type of food to eat during the Muslim fasting month.
“It’s both juicy and healthy,” he told Arab News. “It is probably the best form of food for Ramadan since people should get proteins after fasting for long hours. Rosh is also popular with the people of Balochistan since they are usually not fond of spicy or fast food items and prefer simple and salty cuisine.”
Tareen said though the coronavirus pandemic had hit his profits, a large number of customers still came to his restaurant to break their fast where he said he provided a “hygienic environment” and followed all necessary coronavirus safety protocols.
“Still, we prepare about 800 pieces of lamb on a daily basis since many people prefer the takeaway option instead of breaking their fast here,” Tareen said, saying he was using the meat of mountain lambs imported from Afghanistan.
As dusk fell and the prayer to break the fast echoed through Quetta, Zubair and other chefs lifted the lids of the pots of rosh and started filling up plates with lamb, and sides of lentils, vegetables and salad.
“Rosh can be eaten without lentil and vegetables,” Zubair said as he piled a plate with pieces of lamb, “but we prefer embellishments since they make the food richer.”