Site icon Recipes, Reviews, Travelogues

Kashmiri Cuisine – Cuisine from the Valley – Zaeka-e-Kashmir

Kashmiri Cuisine | Food from Kashmir

Kashmiri Cuisine | Food from Kashmir

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.

Kashmiri Cuisine | Food from Kashmir
Kashmiri Cuisine | Food from Kashmir

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
Indian plains.

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.

Kashmiri mutton rogan josh | roghan josh

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.

Yakhni | maaz yakhni | kashmiri mutton 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.

Matschgand | kashmiri machh | mutton kabab curry | mutton kofta

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.

Kashmiri wazwan rista

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.

Kashmiri goshtaba

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.

Kashmiri syoon pulao | kashmiri wazwan mutton pulao

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.

Modur pulao | kashmiri meetha pulao | shahi meetha pulao

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.

Lyodur tschaman | kashmiri 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. 

Dum oluv | kashmiri dum aloo | dum aloo kashmiri

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. 

Muj gaad | kashmiri muji gaad

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.

Nadir haak | kashmiri nadru saag

Raazma-Gogji (Kidney Beans with Turnip) – Raazma or rajma (red kidney beans) are cooked with turnip pieces in it.

Kashmiri raazma gogji

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.

Zafran kokur | kashmiri wazwan saffron chicken

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.

Aab gosht | dodhe maaz

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.

Kashmiri dhaniwal korma | wazwan dhaniwal korma

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). 

Kashmiri haakh | haaq saag | saag with collards

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.

Doon chetin | kashmiri walnut chutney

Muji Chetini (Radish Chutney)  – Fresh, grated radish is mixed with yoghurt and a few spices to make this flavoursome side dish/salad.

Muji chetini – kashmiri radish chutney

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.

Kashmiri khir | chawal ki kheer

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.

Kashmiri kong phirin | saffron flavoured phirni

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.

Kashmiri shufta

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.

Kashmiri sweet basrakh

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.

Kashmiri tosha

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.

Kashmiri noon chai

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).

Kashmiri kahwa tea | kashmiri kehwah

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-PyalaToor-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.

DechewaerDechewaer 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

    1. Each person eats in a separate plate.
    2. Eating of stale food is prohibited, and is to be avoided.
    3. Putting Katoris of vegetables etc. inside the eating plate (Thali) is prohibited.
    4. 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.
    5. One cannot touch the unused food articles, or bowls containing the food, with the hand with whichone is cating.
    6. 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.
    7. Food is eaten while sitting on floor, while eating plates etc. are placed on clay washed wet floor or ona clean sheet, preferably woolen.
    8. Washing of hands and mouth, before and after eating any food, is a must.
    9. One cannot leave the eating place before the plates (Thalis) etc. are removed and the place is cleaned.
    10. Eating meals in good light, preferably after sunrise and before sunset, is a directive.
    11. ‘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.
    12. Talking during eating is thought unwise.
    13. Short prayers, before and after taking main meals, are to be offered.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. One cannot transfer any portion of his food, which the person has been eating, to another person’s plate.
    18. Meat eating, and use of intoxicants, are Tamsik and are considered to retard spiritual growth and physical welfare.
Dining & Eating Etiquette for North India


Connect with me directly on my Instagram and Facebook or on Pinterest.

If you like this article, you can let us know in the comments below or on social media using #gosumitup and tag @gosumitup.

I am always happy to read your feedback and if you liked the dish or if you made the dish. :)

Better still, take a picture and post it on Instagram and tag it as #gosumitup

Connect direct – You can also connect with me directly on my Instagram and Facebook or on Pinterest.

And, keep visiting us for more of such awesomeness. Do bookmark into your web browser now or simply subscribe to our browser notifications.

I always  endeavour to provide you with as accurate information as possible, however I make no warranties on the completeness or accuracy of the information and/or products on this blog.

Some information will understandably change or be less accurate as time passes.

When it comes to opening hours, website addresses and restaurant addresses, please double check this information as things may have changed since writing the blog post.

I am always 100% honest in my reviews.  If I don’t like something, I probably wont give it any attention on my blog and if I write about it, I’ll ensure it is elaborate enough so that the business owners can make relevant change.

never accept payments to compromise my food philosophy, so you wont see me recommending or promoting restaurants or products that go against what I believe.

I prefer to dine anonymously and pay for my own meals. I believe that provides a more truthful dining experience for me as well as my readers.

My reviews are not just about my experience, they are also a clear endorsement of what I liked and what an entity or an eatery can do better to better enhance their business. This is a moment of truth for them.

Occasionally, I may do sponsored posts as I cannot afford to spend so much time on my blog (as much as I love it, and as much as I love food) without a little something extra.

While they aren’t my favorite thing to do, I really cannot afford to keep this blog running without doing the occasional sponsored post.

Something about being paid to write about a subject bothers me, but I will always be completely honest.

I never accept payments to write something that I do not agree with and I only accept sponsored posts that fit into my food philosophy so you’ll never read about me recommending everything people may pay for.

Exit mobile version