Kashmir is not just a place but an emotion that every person wants to experience. The natural beauty of this gorgeous paradise has been defined by several poets, authors and philosophers. The beauty of Kashmir Valley is beyond description but yet
many great poets tried to quote beauty of Kashmir in words. With the gushing rivers, shiny waterfalls, picturesque surroundings and the lush green forest, it has always appealed tourists despite disturbances in Kashmir. Both geographically and climatically captivating, the scenic splendour of Kashmir attracts tourists not only from India but from all over the world.
It is just not the beautiful lush green landscapes of Kashmir which attracts tourists, the rich cuisine of Kashmir is also a crown which is hard to neglect. Food is an integral part of Kashmiri culture and has attracted food lovers from across the globe. The valley of rich cuisine as it is called, people of Kashmir have always taken pride in their ability to conjure royal feasts out of simple ingredients. From royal feasts of wazwan to routine dishes cooked in every home. The Kashmiris have mastered and maintained the knack of adding a distinct flavour to their food. Talking about Kashmiri kitchen ingredients or spices, the popular saffron flashes our mind, but there is more to it than just saffron spices which are simple, yet unheard that uniquely together in perfect harmony impart that unique Kashmiri flavour which just cannot be put into words. Due to Kashmiris geographical locations and being ruled by various dynasties such as the Mughals, the Afghans, the Britishers the cuisine of this princely state is highly influenced by them. The cuisine is dominated by non-vegetarian food, there is also an abundance of vegetarian dishes. As winters in Kashmir are quite harsh and temperature dips to sub-zero which is not conducive for local produce. This dearth of vegetables is overcome by locals by using dried vegetables and leafy greens which are dried during summer and stored for winters.
Most sought after commodities during winters are the dried frozen vegetables. The locals buy fresh produce (meat to be dried) during peak summer and early autumn, to gear up for freezing winters. Many of the vegetables, which once dried can be stored for months together and are sometimes paired with lotus stem, lamb, chicken, wild duck and pulses, and turnout to be real food lovers delight. Having medicinal properties, the consumption of such food also generates heat. Some of the “Hokh-Syun” delicacies enjoyed during winters are Al’e – Hatche, these are long strips or roundels of bottle-gourds which are peeled, sliced, made into garlands, and sun dried. The vegetable is generally paired with dried egg plants or tomatoes, lamb or fava beans.
Waangan Hatche is thin and long variety of aubergines is used to make waangan hatche. Each aubergines is sliced length wise into four sections in such fashion so as to ensure that the green calyx holds the slices together usually cooked with tamarind based gravy and are paired with moong dal. Bummtsoonth is Kashmiri word for unique, the pear-shaped fruit, native to the valley, it is cooked in its fresh as well as dried forms. During winters, sun dried cubes of quince are combined with aubergines or mutton.
Gogje Aare is black turtle been delicacy is a must have during winters in Kashmir. It is quite nutritious and its heat generating properties makes it one of the most sought-after dishes.
Kangechh is wild, musky flavoured mushroom, with its characteristic honey comb appearance is a fine delicacy. It has antioxidant properties. These morels are tossed gently with wild spices to retain their earthy aroma.
Hoggaade is a very important delicacy and commonly consumed during winter in Kashmir, and refers to dried fish. “Gaade” means fish and “Hock” means dry. Lean fish are gutted, cleaned and hung from strings to dry. They are fried and cooked whole, with spices and dried tomatoes.
Pharre is a smoked fish dish is also one of the very popular winter dishes. This dish is made from gutted fish, which are laid out on dry grass and the grass is set alight to impart a smoky flavour to it. The charred black skin is scraped off before the fish is cooked with tomatoes and local greens.
Guran is fingerling-based fish dish is also quite in demand during the winters and is cooked like any other fish dishes.
Bote-tser Maaz is unique and delectable dish is made from lamb and dried apricots, almonds, saffron, peppercorns and mint enhances special flavour of the dish. The name of the dish comes from bote-tser and maaz, the Kashmiri words for dried apricots & meat respectively.
Shabdeigh is a very flavoured duck/ mutton and turnip stew, mildly flavoured with saffron and almonds cooked in sealed earthenware vessel, simmered overnight over a low flame and savoured the following morning. The name of the dish comes from Urdu words shab, meaning ‘night’ and deigh meaning ‘cooking pot’.
Harissa is a breakfast dish and vastly influenced by central Asia. It requires overnight cooking and is relished by local populace with great gusto. This stew of meat and lentils is gently spiced with fennel, cardamom and other local spices. It is traditionally had with local over-baked flat-breads like naan or kulcha.
Kashmir culture is full of local festivities and picturesque locations complimented with great culinary culture and is a dream trip for any traveller. Kashmir culinary traditions and cooking style has eluded itself from the Indian mainstream. More the people know about these hidden gems of Kashmiri culture, the more it will contribute towards economic development of the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
Let’s bask in the Kashmiri flavour of excellence !!!!