Meet Suman Kaul, the self-trained master chef
Suman Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit, ran a computer centre in Hyderabad and cooked for friends during parties.
Ten years ago, during one such party at the ITC, her culinary skills were noticed by the hotel’s senior staff.
The rest, as they say, is history. Now a celebrated chef with the ITC Maurya at Hyderabad, Kaul travels to different outlets of the hotel chain across India to treat patrons to Kashmiri food through the year.
“It is a misconception that Kashmiri food is heavy and not suited for summer. Of course, Kashmir has a cold climate and so, a lot of the cuisine includes meats and spices. But we marinate the meat in curd or saffron milk for hours, sometimes even for two days, before we slow cook it.
Also, we have a lot of green vegetables, such as spinach or sundried brinjals, ridge gourd, kidney beans and lotus stem. We also use a lot of fruits in our food. You will find green apple in pakodas and cherries in meat,” she says.
Chef Kaul’s favourite is the Shofta - a dessert with assorted Kashmiri dry fruits simmered in honey and saffron. Another favourite is the Trout. “In India, you only get Trout in Kashmir. So we fly these down specially for food festivals,” she says, offering us a delicious sampling of Trout cooked in tomato and Kashmiri spices.
A Kashmiri pandit, she insists she makes “Kashmiri Pandit cuisine,” as opposed to Wazwan — the multi-course specialty meal that is popular among Kashmiri Muslims. But for us foodies, it’s all just great food. Period.