Whiff of flavours from Kashmir

Jun 18, 2014, 10:40 IST | Ruchika Kher

Our resident Kashmiri Pandit reviewer, Ruchika Kher rekindled memories of several cherished homemade delights when she dropped by a Kashmiri Pandit food festival currently being held in Mumbai

We left Srinagar, our home, 26 years ago and moved to a contrasting landscape in Delhi and then we landed up in buzzing Mumbai. Yet, wherever we went, our traditions, especially our food, were always integral to our lifestyle. We got a chance last weekend, to relish the same flavours at Koshur Saal, a Kashmiri Pandit food festival, organised by ITC Maratha.

Few would be aware that Kashmiri cuisine has two variants, one that the Hindus from the valley consumed and the other, more popular cuisine, Wazwan, that the Muslims of the area prepared. Both cuisines, while presenting overlapping elements, have a few distinct features. The most important being that authentic Kashmiri Pandit cuisine doesn’t include onions and garlic, while Wazwan makes full use of these two ingredients.

Kahwa with breads
Kahwa with breads. Pics/Kaushik Thanekar  

Excited by the prospect of savouring Kashmiri food, we headed to the festival one evening and opted for the Non-Veg Thali (confession time: we couldn’t let go of an opportunity to tuck into our favourite red meat preparation, Roganjosh!). The culinary journey began with a cup of aromatic Kahwa, which is a Kashmiri green tea, garnished with grated almonds. An energising drink, the beverage, which made us miss home, was top notch and prepped us for what was in store.

Kabargah and Kokur Kaanti
Kabargah and Kokur Kaanti

Soon, starters arrived that featured Kabargah (lamb ribs simmered in yoghurt and saffron) and Kokur Kaanti (marinated chicken boneless cubes that are roasted). Both took us to gastronomic heaven. However, the mains overwhelmed us entirely; it arrived as a thali. The spread was immaculate: Kashmiri Roganjosh (lamb chops cooked with hot gravy), Nainey Yakhini (lamb cooked in yoghurt), Roowangun Kokar (chicken cooked with tomato), Kasher Gaad (fish cooked in Kashmiri spices), Monje Haak (greens in clear syrup), Kasher Madhur Pulao (Basmati rice mixed with dry fruits simmered in saffron and sugar), steamed rice, and curd. The thali was presented well. Be forewarned: arrive on an empty stomach to do justice to this meal.

The Shufta (assorted dry fruits simmered in saffron and honey) and the famous Keseri Rice Kheer was the perfect sign-off on our nostalgic, culinary joyride. Indulging in these two traditional sweet delights left us content and, sigh, a tad homesick too.

Till: June 22 (dinner only)
At: Peshwa Pavilion, ITC Maratha, Andheri (E).
Call: 28303030
Cost: Rs 1,650 + taxes

From the chef's notes
>> Main ingredients in Kashmiri Pandit cuisine are saffron, asafoetida (hing), ghee and curd,  that give our dishes the requisite flavour. Saunf powder and Kashmiri chilli powder are used extensively as well.

Chef Suman Kaul, specialist in Kashmiri Pandit cuisine
Chef Suman Kaul, specialist in Kashmiri Pandit cuisine

>> Our most famous dishes are Roganjosh, Kabargah, Dum Aloo, Yakhni and Kasher Mudur Pulao.
>> Traditionally, Kashmiri Pandits never ate chicken; they were mutton eaters. But a few decades ago, they adapted to chicken dishes as well.
>> This cuisine is a blend of Indian, Iranian and Afghani influences.

Did you know?
Kashmiri Pandit cuisine does not include onions and garlic.

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