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Kashmiri cuisine (Kashmiri: कॉशुर खयॊन / kashmiri; Kashur khyon; Urdu: کشمیری پکوان) is the cuisine of the Kashmir Valley region of India. Rice is the staple food of Kashmiris and has been so since ancient times. Meat, along with rice, is the most popular food item in Kashmir. Kashmiris consume meat voraciously. Despite being Brahmin, most Kashmiri Pandits are meat eaters.
Some noted Kashmiri dishes include:
The Kashmir Valley is noted for its bakery tradition. On the picturesque Dal Lake in Kashmir or in downtown Srinagar, bakery shops are elaborately laid out. Bakers sell various kinds of breads with a golden brown crusts topped with sesame and poppy seeds. tsot and tsochvoru are small round breads topped with poppy and sesame seeds, which are crisp and flaky, sheermal, baqerkhani (puff pastry), lavas (unleavened bread) and kulcha are also popular. Girdas and lavas are served with butter.
Kashmiri bakerkhani has a special place in Kashmiri cuisine. It is similar to a round naan in appearance, but crisp and layered, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is typically consumed hot during breakfast.
A Wazwan is a multi-course meal in the Kashmiri Muslim tradition and treated with great respect. Its preparation is considered an art. Almost all the dishes are meat-based (lamb, chicken, beef, but never fish). It is considered a sacrilege to serve any dishes based around pulses or lentils during this feast. The traditional number of courses for the wazwan is thirty-six, though there can be fewer. The preparation is traditionally done by a vasta waza, or head chef, with the assistance of a court of wazas, or chefs.
Wazwan is regarded by the Kashmiri Muslims as a core element of their culture and identity. Guests are grouped into fours for the serving of the wazwan. The meal begins with a ritual washing of hands, as a jug and basin called the tash-t-nari is passed among the guests. A large serving dish piled high with heaps of rice, decorated and quartered by four seekh kabab, four pieces of meth maaz, two tabak maaz, sides of barbecued ribs, and one safed kokur, one zafrani kokur, along with other dishes. The meal is accompanied by yoghurt garnished with Kashmiri saffron, salads, Kashmiri pickles and dips. Kashmiri Wazwan is generally prepared in marriages and other special functions. The culinary art is learnt through heredity and is rarely passed to outside blood relations. That has made certain waza/cook families very prominent. The wazas remain in great demand during the marriage season from May–October.
Kashmiris are heavy tea drinkers. The word "noon" in Kashmiri language means salt. The most popular drink is a pinkish colored salted tea called "noon chai." It is made with black tea, milk, salt and bicarbonate of soda. The particular color of the tea is a result of its unique method of preparation and the addition of soda. The Kashmiri Pandits more commonly refer to this chai as "Sheer Chai." The Kashmiri Muslims refer to it as "Noon Chai" or "Namkeen Chai" both meaning salty tea.
At marriage feasts, festivals, and religious places, it is customary to serve kahwah - a green 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 and half kahwah). This chai is also known as "Maugal Chai" by some Kashmiri Pandits from the smaller villages of Kashmir. Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits from the cities of Kashmir refer to it as Kahwah or Qahwah.
Rice was, as now, the staple food of Kashmiris in ancient times.
But perhaps the most popular items of the Kashmiri cuisine were meat and rice.
Since Kashmiris consume meat voraciously and statistics reveals that on an average 3.5 million sheep and goat are slaughtered annually for our consumption, the skin can be utilised for production.
Though Brahmins, Kashmiri Pandits have generally been great meat eaters.
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