Srinagar: Paradise of India is also the Paradise for Foodies!Feb 27, 2019
Srinagar meaning ‘Sri’ for Goddess of wealth and ‘Nagar’ for City – is the summer Capital and the largest city of Jammu and Kashmir, the northern most state of India. Despite being a highly militarized area, tourists throng to visit this state, fondly called as the paradise of India. Srinagar is famous for the majestic Dal lake, Mughal gardens, house boats and the mouth-watering Kashmiri cuisine.
Kashmiri Wazwan, a multi-course meal served in a trammi or traem is considered as a pride of the Kashmiri people and is typically served during the weddings. Most of the dishes are meat based with a few vegetarian options. Other signature dishes include Qabargaah, Shab Deg, Dum Aloo, AabGhost, Matschgand, Rogan Josh, Yakhni, Harissa so on and so forth.
Let’s look further on how a chef will explore the food selections of this city.
Nowhatta Market, the downtown of Srinagar, is just located outside the Jamia Masjid which is the largest mosque in the place. Not just fresh vegetables and fruits, but this place houses spice shops, clothing stores, tailoring shops and kitchen utensils shops as well. One can see sacks and varieties of Kashmiri chillies (supposed to add more colour to the food and is less spicy), snow garlic (Kashmiri Lehsun in Hindi), turmeric and chilli powders, cinnamon, pink shallots etc. Veri masala, a special mix of spices made into cake shapes, has no substitute for the flavour it adds to the food.
Bakeries around the Dal lake are a must visit when in Srinagar. Ahdoos, a restaurant cum bakery, is flooded with people during Eid days just for its special delicacies such as bakerkhanis, puffs, kulchas, sheermal, Chicken/Mutton patties, and varieties of breads and biscuits that just fly away in a blink of the eye. Here the Wazwan is served on separate engraved trammis – a good quantity of rice with seekh kebab, tabak maz and methi maz. Nadru Yakhni (mildly spiced lotus stem cooked in a yoghurt based curry) is a must try. (Residency road, Regal Chowk, Raj Bagh)
Try the road side eateries for brunch or evening tea – Khayam Chowk. Almost all the shops have the same menu – Kebabs, Seekhs (cylindrical meat grilled on skewers), Botis (meat pieces cooked in high fire) and Lawas (Kashmiri Naan bread). Tandoori chicken and deep fried fresh-water fish are also served. Green tea with cardamom and saffron called ‘Kahwa’ is a treat to your taste buds. Salted tea called ‘Sheer’ is a pink tea which gets its colour from baking soda added to the milk and helps reduce the acidity after a heavy heavenly meal. (Chai Jaai Tea Room, The Bund Road, Munshi Bagh). The pushcart vendors have fresh cherries and strawberries that are so tempting.
Lunch should be with the locally grown rice called Kosher Tamoul. For vegetarian options, try Gogji Rajma (red kidney beans and turnip gravy), Rogni Chaman (panneer curry), Dum Aloo ( potato gravy cooked in dum), Nadir Haaq (spinach or radish with lotus stems), Haak Saag (leafy vegetable), Kashmiri pulao with Doon Chetin (Walnut chutney) at the Mughal Darbar (Shervani Road). Krishna Vaishno Dhaba offers vegan options for pure vegetarians. For non-vegetarian options, some eat gaadh (fish) for lunch.
Fresh and authentic pickles can be bought from the Senoo Kashmiri Pickles which is a bit of a drive on narrow lanes. The owner, fondly called as ‘Kashmiri Achaar wala’ (Kashmir’s pickle man) makes pickles from almost all country vegetables, meat, fish and every sort that one can think of. About 100 varieties can be found here. (Barbar Shah, Habba Kadal)
Persian poet Amir Khusru called Kashmir as the paradise on earth. There is an engraving at the Shalimar Gardens, which states "Agar firdous baroye zameen ast, hami asto, hami asto hami ast”, meaning "If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here". If one were to ask me where the paradise for food is, I would buy a ticket to Srinagar and say – “It is here, it is here, it is here”. Do convey my salute to the jawans on your trip to Srinagar.