Kashmiri cuisine is just like the state itself – heavenly and unique. It is full of some rare flavor blends but as opposed to most Indian cuisines, you are not likely to find it as easily as most of the others. It deserves to be celebrated more. It is blend of the foods of Kashmiri Pandits and the Muslims residing there, not to forget some strong influences from Central Asia, Middle East and Persia.
When it comes to this cuisine, there is a distinct variation in the food of the Kashmiri Pandits and the Kashmiri Muslims. The Muslim community has more usage of onions, tomatoes, and ingredients like the ginger-garlic paste. The Muslim food will also be richer, with dry fruits and nuts as a part of their gravy. As for the Kashmiri Pandits, they use more of ingredients like hing / asafetida in their cooking to substitute the onions and the ginger & garlic. The Muslims like to have their food as a community, where there are much larger plates the food is served in, and 4 people will be seen eating out of one plate. But one of the common ingredients in both communities is the use of yogurt. They both use yogurt in abundance to prepare the gravy, along with a mix of spices. The Muslim dishes are more of the non-vegetarian ones (mainly mutton), as opposed to those of Kashmiri Pandits.
One of the most popular dishes prepared in both the communities is the Rogan Josh. This is a mutton dish prepared in gravy. You will find this dish prepared in a much lighter way in the house of a Kashmiri Pandit, than in a Kashmiri Muslim’s place. The thickness of the gravy will differ. The main ingredients which set them apart are the onion and garlic. Another ingredient which differs in their making is that the Muslims use flour called cockscomb / mawaal, whereas the Pundits use Ratanjot to achieve the specific color in their Rogan Josh. But now, in most households, people use good quality red Kashmiri chili powder, and this will give the same results to the color of the dish. They grind their spices extremely finely to get the desired texture in the gravy. There are different colors in Kashmiri gravies which are specific, like the red color is for the gravy like in Rogan Josh. There is also a green colored gravy which is a spinach based, non-vegetarian dish like the Methi Maas, which is a Muslim dish. There is also a yellow colored gravy which used in Kaliya which is mutton rice. There are also some fish dishes that are prominent in this cuisine and a popular one is Gaad, and fresh water fish is used to make this dish. It is made shallow fried, and is made similar to the Bengali preparation of fish, which is with some turmeric, salt and red chili powder, cooked in mustard oil. It made crispy and hard, that is how the Kashmiris like their fish. It is also cooked in Rogan Josh gravy and cooked with lotus roots / Nadru and few other rare ingredients.
This was a little about the wonderful and rich cuisine of Kashmir. I want to visit Kashmir mainly to have the heavenly food this place has to offer. I learnt a lot of new things looking up the Kashmiri cuisine, and I hope you did too. Do let us know if you enjoyed this article!
- Kinjal Dixit