Bataring Daudo: A Centuries-Old Recipe for Apricot Soup

This deceptively simple soup has sustained the Hunza community in Pakistan for centuries and may be the purest celebration of both fruit and Hunza ideology.

In the harsh Himalayan winters, at a roadside kiosk, chef and restaurateur Lala Shahzadi fills the air with the heavenly scent of wood-fired apricots, tinged with the aroma of jaggery. She prepares a centuries-old recipe passed down through generations: Bataring Daudo, or apricot soup.

Shahzadi (whose full name in Urdu means "Red Princess") is part of the resilient Burusho community in Hunza, Pakistan, known for their hospitality and antiquity. She manages a food kiosk called the Hunza Food Pavilion in the district capital of Karimabad and is deeply connected to her land, advocating for organic ingredients and local methods.

"The Hunza diet naturally relies on fruits—fresh in the summer and dried in the winter. Simple food without fuss [means] a simple life without fuss," she says.

The recipe for Bataring Daudo, as proposed by Shahzadi, is one of embodied simplicity. "Bataring in my Burushaski language means apricot, and daudo means soup," she explains.

Hunza's natural dried apricots, wrinkled and dense, are nothing like the perfectly round and plump apricots seen in the West, and when prepared, they resemble candy. To make the robust soup, apricots are first washed and boiled. Wheat flour is then mixed with water to form dumplings resembling noodles. These small pieces of dough, added to the boiling apricot water, help thicken the mixture, resulting in a kind of soup with musky notes.

Bataring Daudo is not just a recipe; it is more of a strategy to survive lean seasons with limited resources, and it speaks to self-sufficiency, resilience, and the spirit of survival. The soup pays homage to a way of life and dietary approach rooted in an ancient way of living in harmony with the land.

"This soup has been used for centuries because it protects against colds and is rich in nutrients," says Shahzadi. According to her, it also aids in sluggish digestion and is believed to alleviate joint pain and cure fever.

"Wheat makes [the soup] fortifying and filling. It provides a surge of energy and warmth for strenuous work," says Shahzadi. "Apricots remind you that better times of abundance are ahead."

Shahzadi's picturesque valley, nestled between Central and South Asia, appears as an oasis untouched by modernity—and for a long time, it was. Writers such as Horst Gerken and Annette Breaker marveled that children in Hunza did not see bicycles or cars until the 1950s. For over 900 years, it was an independent principality—a royal state ruled by a Mir (local prince or ruler) until 1974.

Its location and rugged terrain made this region impervious to external influence or interference. For example, Shahzadi's native language, Burushaski, is an isolated language and bears no resemblance to any other human speech.

In fact, the existence of a large Hunza population in this isolated mountainous region baffles historians. The prevailing theory is that they are descendants of Alexander the Great, but historical evidence to support this claim is disputed.

"How this small race, speaking the language of Hunza, came to fill these valleys will perhaps never be explained by historical evidence... The Hunza are mysterious... a disjointed block of the ancient world, still with its own special knowledge and traditions, preserved from the ravages of time in their deep rift," wrote British agronomist Guy T. Renton in his book "The Wheel of Health."

The mystique surrounding this idyllic region has turned it into a legend. Hunza is often referred to as the "Lost Kingdom of the Himalayas," almost a utopia, and some believe it eerily resembles beautiful and secluded worlds like the mythical Shangri-La of James Hilton.