Kashmiri Cuisine - Food from the State of Jammu & Kashmir
Kashmir is also known as the "Paradise on Earth"
Kashmiri cuisine is the cuisine of the Kashmir Valley. Rice is the staple food of Kashmiris and has been so since ancient times. Vegetable curries and meat, along with rice, are the most popular food items in Kashmir.
Kashmiri food that we have today in the restaurants has evolved over the years. Kashmiri cooking developed through the ages as two schools of culinary expertise: Kashmiri Pandit and Kashmiri Muslim.
The basic difference between the two was that the Pandits used hing (asafoetida) and curd and Muslims used onions and garlic. However, meat is consumed by Kashmiri community voraciously.
Kashmiri food combined and evolved from the features of the cooking styles adopted in Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan. the cuisine makes an extensive use of turmeric and yoghurt.
The beautiful state of Kashmir is not only famous for its beauty and serenity but the state also offers authentic non-vegetarian dishes too.
Kashmiri food is mild in taste and rich in flavour with the high use of hot spices like cardamom, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and saffron.
Evolution of Kashmiri Cuisine - The Food from Kashmir
The traditional Kashmiri Muslim banquet known as Wazwan is a feast fit for kings.
The ancient epic of Kashmir, namely the Nilmatapurana informs us that Kashmiris were heavy meat-eaters. This habit even persists in today’s Kashmir.
From the Mahabharata to the Mauryans who established Shrinagar to the Gupta Empire to the invasion of Kashmir by Timur, the culture and cuisine of Kashmiris are linked to the greater Indian and Central Asian cuisines mixed with local innovations and availabilities of ingredients.
Apart from chicken, fish and game, Kashmiris use only mutton (meat of mature sheep) or goat’s meat. Beef is consumed in towns and villages of Kashmir more so for its affordability.
Kashmiri cuisine has evolved over hundreds of years. The first major influence was the food of the Kashmiri Buddhists and Pandits, the Hindus of the valley. The cuisine was then influenced by the cultures which arrived with the invasion of Kashmir by Timur from the region of modern Uzbekistan.
Subsequently, it has been strongly influenced by the cuisines of Central Asian, Persia, and the North
In the early years of this century, every other Kashmiri Pandit home in the plains had a professional Kashmiri cook in residence, whose mastery of his art was demonstrated twice a day, at lunch and dinner.
Kashmiri Pandit cuisine evolved in the Valley several centuries ago and in course of time absorbed some of the delectable elements of the Mughal art of cooking and, thus enriched, acquired a distinct personality of its own.
Over the years, the ladies of the household acquired specialised training from these culinary masters and in due course, became as proficient as their gurus.
Professional cooks in Kashmir still continue to thrive, though more and more are beginning to face an uncertain future as the days of lavish hospitality are on the decline and current conditions have reduced the occasions for feasting to traditional festivals, banquets and marriages.
Known as wazas, these cooks are descendants of the master chefs who migrated from Samarkand and parts of Central Asia at the beginning of the fifteenth century and formed a vital part of the entourage that came to Kashmir during the reign of Timur (or Tamerlane).
As in days of old, the traditional Kashmiri Muslim banquet known as Wazwan is a feast fit for kings.
The word ‘waz’ means chef, a master of culinary arts and ‘wan’ means the shop with its full array of meats and delicacies. Perhaps nowhere else in India will you find a royal meal as unique and as elaborate as a Wazwan.
Though, being in the same belt – Kashmir and Ladakh regions have different cuisines. The Kashmiri cuisine is largely meat-based while the eating habits of the Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris differ in its use of certain spices and the prohibition of beef for the Hindus.
The food of Jammu and Kashmir also differs from region to region with the Hindus Dogras of Jammu being predominantly vegetarian; eat a staple diet of rice, wheat and beans.
The Ladakhi cuisine comprises of rice, wheat, millet, locally produced vegetables and fruits, goat meat and dairy products made from yak milk.
Special Food of Kashmir | Notable Kashmiri Dishes
Delectable dishes from Kashmiri cuisine that locals love & share.
Rogan Josh (lamb shoulder cooked in red sauce) – Literally, rogan: oil; josh: hot, Roganjosh is made with lamb shoulder simmered in a gravy made from mustard oil, yoghurt, red coloured water from cock’s comb flowers, brown onion paste, and spices such as kennel and cardamom. Ratan jot, the Alkanet root is used to bring the fiery red colour. Kashmiri spice mix called ver may also be added to the dish for flavouring.
Yakhni (lamb cooked in curd based sauce) – Boneless pieces of lamb (boti) along with boned pieces of lamb are stewed in yoghurt based gravy flavoured with fennel, cardamom and dried ginger powder to make yakhni.
Matschgand (minced lamb) – Matschgand recipe is a dish of milled meatballs curved in spicy red gravy. This is a minced meatball dish which gets its fiery flavours from a blend of Kashmiri spices.
Rishta (Minced Meatballs in Red Sauce) – Rishta is prepared by poaching the lamb dumplings in a rich red gravy, flavoured with saffron and an extract of mowal.
Goshtaba (extra-minced meatballs cooked in a creamy sauce) – Goshtaba is a very popular Kashmiri dish normally eaten towards the end of the Wazwan. Since it is a yogurt based curry, eating it at the end helps in the digestion.
Qabargaah (Kashmiri Muslims refer to this as Tabak Maaz; It is similar to Roasted Lamb) – Qabargaah or Tabakh Maaz are barbecued lamb ribs prepared with milk, ghee and ground spices.
Syoon Pulaav (Meat Pulao) – Syoon pulao is a delicious meat pulao made with fragrant basmati rice, lamb meat, whole spices, dry fruits & saffron.
Modur Pulaav (Sweet Pulao, usually as a dessert) – Modur Pulaav is a Kashmiri Sweet Pulao prepared using dry fruits and nuts. It is considered to be a delicious aromatic rice preparation using a surplus amount of ghee.
Lyodur Tschaman (Cottage Cheese cooked in turmeric based sauce) – Lyodur Tschaman is a rich gravy dish with chunks of cottage cheese. Lyodur means yellow ( brought about by turmeric) and tschaman is cottage cheese or paneer.
Dum Oluv (Whole Potatoes cooked in Red Sauce) – Dum Oluv is made with roasted whole baby potatoes (Aloo) are simmered in a spicy wholesome mixture of yoghurt gravy.
Muj Gaad (Fish with Radish) – A Kashmiri Hindu pandits speciality, Muj Gaad is a unique Kashmiri style fish curry that is cooked along with diced radish.
Nadir-Waangan (Lotus Stems with Brinjal) – This Kashmiri Hindu pandits dish is made with lotus stems and brinjals. Nadir-Waangan can be cooked in two different ways- one is cooked in red spicy gravy and the other with a yogurt base curry/gravy.
Nadir-Haaq/Gogji/Monji (lotus stems cooked with Spinach or Radish) – In this dish the lotus stems are cooked with spinach saag or saag made with radish leaves.
Raazma-Gogji (Kidney Beans with Turnip) – Raazma or rajma (red kidney beans) are cooked with turnip pieces in it.
Chaman Qaliya (Cottage Cheese Cooked with Turmeric) – Chaman Qaliya is a dish made with paneer (called Chaman in Kashmiri) or cottage cheese cooked in aromatic spices like turmeric, cardamom & fennel. It is very nutritious and is known to boost your immunity.
Zafran Kokur (Saffron Chicken) – Zafran kokur is a special wazwan preparation of chicken with saffron sauce.
Aab gosht (Milk Meat) – Aab Gosht is a meat is traditionally cooked with milk, or aab. Fresh milk is reduced with cinnamon, green cardamom, paste of praan (Kashmiri wild onion or shallot), garlic, ginger powder and fennel powder and the tender boiled meat is simmered in the milk sauce until the flavour becomes well-rounded.
Dhaniwal Korma (Lamb in a Yoghurt Based Gravy) – Leg of lamb cooked in ghee seasoned with garlic paste, cloves, green cardamom and finished with yoghurt, little turmeric and coriander powder and finally served garnished with coriander leaves.
Haaq Saag (Saag made with Collards)- Haaq is a mild flavoured and healthy Kashmiri saag made with green leafy collard. Further, sochal haaq and karham haaq are a variety of mallow leaves and ganth gobi (knoll koll) respectively. Haaq may at times be paired with nadru (lotus stems).
Doon Chetin (Walnut Chutney) – Doon is a walnut chutney particularly important in wazwan, made from milk-soaked walnuts, mint leaf, yoghurt, green chillies and salt.
Muji Chetini (Radish Chutney) – Fresh, grated radish is mixed with yoghurt and a few spices to make this flavoursome side dish/salad.
Desserts of Kashmir | Unique & Common Kashmiri Sweet Dishes
Delectable desserts from Kashmiri cuisine that locals love & share.
Khir (Rice Pudding) – Khir or Kheer is the perfect marriage of rice and milk cooked to a delicate creaminess.
Kong Phirin (Saffron Flavoured Semolina Pudding) – A light and creamy phirni dessert that’s made with saffron (kong), semolina and milk and garnished with nuts.
Shufta (Candied Nuts) – Shufta is a traditional dessert made with chopped dry fruits, spices like pepper powder, cardamom and more, in sugar syrup, garnished with rose petals.
Shufta Kanaguchhi (Cottage Cheese & Mushrooms with Nuts) – A dessert made with cottage cheese, dry fruits, saffron, milk, desi ghee and morels from Srinagar.
Roth (Sweet Roti) – Sweet rotis made with flour, ghee and sugar.
Basrakh (Sweet Dumplings) – Refined flour is mixed with thick sugar paste and is given a cylindrical but hollow shape. It is then fried in ghee to keep the shape intact. It may have special colors, dry fruits and spices like cardamon.
Tosha (Flour & Nuts Dumplings) – An age-old Kashmiri dessert akin to roti ke laddu made by crumbling maida (refine flour) roti and then mixing the crumble with nuts, poppy seeds and sugar and then rolling the mixture into oblong balls.
Beverages of Kashmir | Unique & Common Kashmiri Drinks
Kashmiri Beverages | Delicious Kashmiri Drinks
Noon Chai (Salted Tea): Noon chai is made with green tea, milk, salt and bicarbonate of soda. It is a common breakfast tea in Kashmiri households and is taken with breads like bakerkhani brought fresh from the Sufi, or bakers. Often, this tea is served in a large Samovars.
Kahwah / Kehwa: Kahwah a tea made with saffron, spices, and almonds or walnuts. Over 20 varieties of Kahwah are prepared in different households. Some people also put milk in kahwah (half milk + half kahwah).
What are the cooking methods for Kashmiri Food?
Traditional and modern methods are both employed for cooking Kashmiri cuisine.
Kitchen Equipment for Kashmiri Cuisine – The traditional stoves and ovens used to cook & serve Kashmiri food include:
Bushkab – Traditional bowl used for eating meals by Kashmiri men.
Deg – Among the Kashmiri pundits, most vegetarian and non – vegetarian dishes are cooked in pots made up of baked clay. The pot is called a Deg, a Degul or a Leij according to its shape and size.
Digcha – A big round-bottomed, deep brass conking pot, with a narrow mouth, is called a Digcha, by Pandits. It is mainly used to cook Rice, and sometimes Pulavs or other Dishes prepared in larger quantities. A similar pot, made of copper or aluminium and usually used by Muslims, is called by them a Deg or a Digchavar according to its being big or small.
Tchooteh – It is a pestle made of wood and is used to mince soft items.
Kajwouth and Nyem – Its is the Kashmiri name for mortar and pestle. Both are made of stone and are used to to mince hard items
Takht and Goshtperr – It is made of wood and takht is a pounding board while goshtperr is the wooden mallet. The pair is used to make Rista and Goshtaba.
Tash-t-nari – A wash basin that is a set of two utensils used for purpose of a hand wash.
Kandur – Kandur is not actually a cooking tool for the Kashmiri cuisine, however, it form an essential part of the same. Kandur is a word that is used for a local bakery in Kashmir. In Kashmir there is bread for every season and every reason. Bread is an integral part of Kashmiri social customs – engagement, wedding, birth. These breads go very well with the Kashmiri salty pink tea called noon chai.
Kafgir – Kafgir is a perforated ladle or jharna made of metal and is used for frying or skimming. Kafgir literally means a foam catcher.
Kray – Kray is another name for a Kashmiri cauldron.
Dan – Dan is an oblong clay oven, about 3′ x 2′ – and a foot and a half in height. It has a floor-level hole, through which firewood is fed and has usually 3 holes on the top, on which the food, in different pots, pans and vessels, ete., is heated or cooked.
Taev – It is the Kashmiri name for an iron griddle or tawa.
Masala Vatur – It is the Kashmiri name for a masaledani or a box for keeping spices.
Mujikond – It is the Kashmiri name for a grater.
Tilavar-Krond: It is the Kashmiri edible or cooking oil pot and its ladle
Voakhul-Kajivadh – It is a stone mortar and pestle
Samavar or Samovar – A samovar (Kashmiri: samavar) is a traditional Kashmiri kettle used to brew, boil and serve Kashmiri salted tea (Noon Chai) and kahwa. Kashmiri samovars are made of copper with engraved or embossed calligraphic motifs. In fact in Kashmir, there were two variants of samovar. The copper samovar was used by Muslims and that of brass was used by local Hindus called Kashmiri Pandit.
Kaenz – A kaenz is a traditional bowl used for eating meals by Kashmiri women.
Doonga – It is a food Serving bowl.
Toor-Pyala – Toor-Pyala is used for serving small dishes
Trami Sarposh – Its a pair of utensils. A trami which is a large copper platter is covered with a lid called the Sarposh. Trami Sarposh is used to serve dishes in a Wazwan.
Dechewaer – Dechewaer is a Kashmiri vessel used to cool dishes before serving.
Bothlai and Chhegla – Pots for cooking rice etc.
Chumta and Sanaes – Tongs for holding hot things and lifting hot pots.
Damchula – Iron charcoal stove.
Hahkol – Clay charcoal stove.
Chalan and Raemb – Broad spatulas
More About Kashmiri Food | Kashmiri Cuisine
Kashmiri Wazwan - The Formal Celebratory Banquet Prepared by Wazas
Wazwan is the traditional Kashmiri Muslim banquet that is a feast fit for kings.
In Kashmir it is said that the food should both taste and look good. As a result, the wazwan is the traditional Kashmiri Muslim banquet that is a feast fit for kings.
The word ‘waz’ means chef, a master of culinary arts and ‘wan’ means the shop with its full array of meats and delicacies (or the place where the food is prepared).
Traditionally the wazwan is prepared in unique nickel-plated copper vessels (locally called deyghs). It is customarily prepared outdoors, in an open-air kitchen locally known as “vurabal“, over simmering fires of hardwoods obtained from old trees.
The Wazwan banquet consists of thirty-six courses, of which fifteen to thirty dishes are varieties of meat. Additional dishes include cheese, mushrooms, spinach and, apricots with hot ‘Pulao’ made of special quality basmati rice.
All this is accompanied with ‘Chutneys’ that are at least six to eight in number, salad and curd that are served to the guests during the entire course of the wazwan .
Many of these delicacies are cooked through the night under the expert supervision of a ‘Vasta Waza’ or head chef, assisted by a retinue of wazas or chefs.
It is said that ‘the host must lay out all the food he has at his home before his guest and the guest, in turn, must reciprocate the gesture by doing full justice to the meal’.
The Wazwan is not only a ritual, but a ceremony. Guests are seated in groups of four on a dastarkhwan – the traditional cushioned seating on the floor and share the meal on a large copper platter with a cloche-like lid called a trami or traem.
It is believed that the tradition of the wazwan started because of the need to use all parts of a sheep. Each dish in a wazwan uses only a precise cut of lamb: tabak maz uses only the ribs, the slightly sour qorma is made with the chest of the lamb, mild and milky aab ghosh uses only the tail of the animal and so on.
Traditionally, the wazwan begins with a washing of hands at a portable copper washbasin called the Tash-t-Nari, which is taken around by attendants who happen to be relatives, neighbours and friends.
Then ‘wazwan ‘ with the initial course of carefully cooked rice with two large chicken, two deep-fried ribs or Tabak Maaz, two Kebabs, a large single piece of mutton or Dani Phol, and small pieces of lamb viscera cooked with thick gravy called Methi Maaz is presented on a copper plate traem to a group of four where they share their meal.
After the guests are done with the entire main meal, again Tash-t-Nari, comes around, to help guests wash their hands. Phirin and Halwa, but sometimes ice cream are served to the guests as Desserts.
Kashmiri Wazwan isn’t only popular because of its taste, rather it is primarily because of the culture associated with it that teaches equality, togetherness, love, sharing, and respect for others.
Eating Habits & Etiquettes in Kashmiri Families
These traditions do exist among Kashmiri Pandits even now, inspite of modernisation
- Each person eats in a separate plate.
- Eating of stale food is prohibited, and is to be avoided.
- Putting Katoris of vegetables etc. inside the eating plate (Thali) is prohibited.
- Water for drinking is always kept near the diner. In fact, before every main meal a little water is taken in the form of an Achman with a prayer. Without the tumbler touching the lips, water is poured into the mouth from a little distance while drinking.
- One cannot touch the unused food articles, or bowls containing the food, with the hand with whichone is cating.
- Fruits and green vegetables have to be thoroughly washed before being eaten. Even the knives etc.have to be scrubbed before using these for dressing etc.
- Food is eaten while sitting on floor, while eating plates etc. are placed on clay washed wet floor or ona clean sheet, preferably woolen.
- Washing of hands and mouth, before and after eating any food, is a must.
- One cannot leave the eating place before the plates (Thalis) etc. are removed and the place is cleaned.
- Eating meals in good light, preferably after sunrise and before sunset, is a directive.
- ‘Fasts’ (Vrat) on certain days of every week and every month and on certain days of a year, are recommended, for spiritual and physical welfare.
- Talking during eating is thought unwise.
- Short prayers, before and after taking main meals, are to be offered.
- Before eating always some food is set apart, as a ‘Vishnu Arpari’, portion, to be used for serving an atithi ie., an unannounced guest or a hungry person or an animal.
- Use of aluminium utensils is not recommended. Brass or bronze or terracotta utensils are used for cooking. Bronze Thalis for eating food, and bronze cups for drinking tea, were common. To clean bronze it is scrubbed with ashes. For brassware wet clay is used for scrubbing and cleaning. Copper utensils are mainly used for Puja. Silver tea-cups and tumblers etc. are used by aristocracy.
- One can serve food only after he or she washes his or her hands. Any food touched by unclean hands cannot be served or eaten. Even food touched with the hand with which one has been eating cannot be served to other people.
- One cannot transfer any portion of his food, which the person has been eating, to another person’s plate.
- Meat eating, and use of intoxicants, are Tamsik and are considered to retard spiritual growth and physical welfare.
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