Zubaida Apa’s favorite dish revealed!

Zubaida Tariq, aka Zubaida Apa, was a lovely woman. Her talent of inspiring people to cook just through her words and the way she carried out everyday chores was extraordinary. If you look at TV chefs nowadays, they lack the magic that Apa possessed on screen while she cooked up a storm in the kitchen.
Originally hailing from Hyderabad Deccan, and settled in Karachi, she was born into a eminent Urdu-speaking family known for engendering intellectuals and artists. She made her TV debut in 1996 while she was in her 50s. Her first cooking show – Dalda Ka Dastarkhwan – became a widely popular evening engagement for millions of TV viewers in both Pakistan and abroad. Apa attained immense popularity doing culinary shows on TV and writing famous cookbooks.
For more than a decade and even now, ZubaidaApa was quite the sensation in her color-coordinated outfits, sandals and sets of bangles, with styled hair and make-up and STAMINA. Even now it beats me how to get to work and not look akin to a drug addict!
 Originally hailing from Hyderabad Deccan, and settled in Karachi, Zubaida Tariq was born into aeminent Urdu-speaking family known for engendering intellectuals and artists. Her maternal grand-uncle was BahadurYar Jung, a Muslim nationalist of the Indian subcontinent. She has ten other siblings, the most prominent of whom include Fatima SurayyaBajia, an Urdu novelist and playwright; ZehraNigah, an Urdu poet; her brother Anwar Maqsood, who is a popular poet, humorist, writer and entertainer and Zubaida’s nephew Bilal Maqsood, who is a vocalist and guitarist for the pop rock band Strings.

Zubaida Tariq made her TV debut in 1996 in her 50s. Her first cooking show- DaldaKaDastarkhwan- became a widely popular evening engagement for millions of TV viewers in both Pakistan and abroad. Zubaida Tariq attainedimmenserenown doing culinary shows on TV and writing famous cookbooks. Her regular culinary “totkas” on various TV channels became so popular that Pakistanis gave her the title of Apa( elder sister).

I have tried many of her totkas but one that stands out and I religiously follow it even now is for weight loss: She always firmly stated that weight loss required effort and dedication. Her suggested regime advised everyone to start the day with five small glasses of lukewarm water. Follow that up with a breakfast comprising brown bread, a boiled egg and an apple. Fruits and vegetables at two-hour intervals as snacks would help eliminate the craving for rice and roti, lentil soup for lunch. And always walk with correct posture with the stomach held in.


With her often surprising solutions to everyday problems, ZubaidaApa had worked her way into the hearts of millions of TV viewers in Pakistan and abroad. She also ran a restaurant by the name of Z’APA with her son, Hussain. The menu is desi with her own recipes. The idea was that continental and Italian food were available in abundance but good desi food wasn’t.

Zubaida Tariq’s recipe for success is “whatever one does should be done wholeheartedly so that other people can learn and benefit from it as well.”


Apa has been a huge inspiration to many of us and her energy, zest for life and of course her totkas will be greatly missed. She introduced our rich culinary traditions to younger generations and thus, leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.


She was a woman of diversified taste. From Desi to Chinese to desserts she had mastered everything and was always flirting with flavours.Moreover,she always stayed true to her Hyderabadi roots- I never knew the beauty and divergence of Hyderabadi cooking till I religiously started following her shows.MirchikaSalan (Chili Curry) and BhagareyBaingan(Eggplant)and Hyderabadi Biryani being some of her most famous dishes. Simultaneously, reinvention and growth was at the core of who she was. I still recall how awestruck I was when she made Tarbooz Kai ChilkonkiSabzi(Watermelon Rind).


She used to start her TV shows with counsel… words that actually made an impact. Maybe it was her grandmotherly outlook. Maybe it was the ease with she made everyday problems resolvable. Nevertheless, she made a difference… at least for me. She made me realize that in this day and age where people shy away from giving honest advice out of societal fear of being scorned at, one should still give honest advice in good faith, you never know who it might influence. She made me appreciate that there is always wisdom in the knowledge of grownups… no matter what generation, it should always be heeded. ZubaidaApa was also a prime example that one can start their career at any stage of life, one should never think they are too old or time has flown by.


I chose to make Hyderabadi Biryani for two reasons 1) this was the first biryani I ever tried making some years ago and miracle of miracles it garnered praises from my family who had given up hope on me ever cooking anything edible. Secondly, ZubaidaApa was famous for it- its a bestseller at her restaurant as well.

I chose the SujiBesanHalwa because when my I told my grandmother what I was writing about, she asked me to make it because she remembered ZubaidaApa making it once plus the cold weather dictates it as well.


Rest in peace Zubi Apa. This is my way of paying tribute to a wonderful character, a truly great woman and a true original in her field. We are all going to miss you very very much.

Hyderabadi Biryani



Mutton/Chicken 1 kg

Yogurt 1 cup

Warm milk 1 cup

Ghee 1 cup

Onions 4 (sliced)

Cloves 4

Lemons 6

Green chilies 6 (sliced)

Black peppercorns 8

Green cardamoms 8

Mint 1 bunch (roughly chopped)

Yellow food color 1 pinch

Red chili powder 1 tbsp

Raw papaya paste (Only if you are using mutton) 2 tbsp

Ginger garlic paste 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Rice 1 kg (parboiled in salted water with 1 tsp black cumin and 1 tbsp white vinegar, drained)




1)In a cooking pot, add mutton/chicken, raw papaya paste, red chili powder, salt, yogurt, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice of 2, green cardamoms, mint, green chilies, black peppercorns and cloves and mix together.Keep aside for an hour.Then cook on low flame and until water dries.


2)In a frying pan, heat oil and sauté finely sliced onions till golden brown.Then sieve out spread fried onion on absorbent paper and pour hot oil on the mutton mixture.


3)Grease the base of a cooking pot and spread a layer of half the quantity of rice.Then spread a layer of mutton and sprinkle half of the fried and crushed onion on top.Drizzle the juice of 2 lemons over mutton.Then spread a second layer of remaining rice.


4)Dissolve a pinch of yellow food color in warm milk and pour over rice.


5) Top with remaining fried onion, lemon juice and Ghee.

6) Cover the pot tightly with its lid.Heat a griddle pan on high flame, place the pot over it and reduce the heat to low.

Cook for 15 minutes or until done.


Suji and BesanHalwa



Gram flour (besan) 1 cup

Semolina         1 cup

Sugar   1 1/2 cup

Milk     1/2 cup

Water  1/2 cup

Ghee/ oil  1/2 cup

Cardamoms     8, peel and crush seeds

Almonds and pistachios finely chopped as required for garnish

Raisins 10-12




  • Heat ghee in a pan; add the cardamom seeds when hot.Then add sooji and besan, lower heat and cook stirring continuously.
  • Remove from the pan. Combine ½ cup water and sugar in the pan and cook for five minutes or till the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Add the besan and sooji to sugar syrup and cook stirring constantly, add raisins, continue to stir, then add milk and stir till the milk is mixed in thoroughly. If you feel its not fluffing up add water gradually till you get the right texture (all the while stirring)
  • Apply a little ghee to a large platter and spread the halwa in it.Garnish with almonds and pistachios.

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