Kashmiri cuisine (Kashmiri: کأشُر کھٮ۪ن; Kashur khyon) is based on the ancient tradition of this area. The ancient epic of Kashmir, informs us that Kashmiris were heavy meat eaters. This habit persists in today's Kashmir.
The most notable ingredient in today's Kashmir cuisine is mutton, of which there are over 30 varieties.
Kashmiri cuisine has had the earliest influence on Kashmiri Pandit cuisine. Usually, Pandits do not eat meat, however the Pandits of Kashmir have always eaten all meats except beef. Beef is strictly forbidden in Pandit cuisine and in Kashmiri Muslim cuisine, in keeping with the age old Kashmiri tradition known as Kashmiriyat The Wazwan of Kashmiri Muslims never allows for the usage of Beef. However, the Kashmiris have always been heavy meat eaters(lamb, mutton, goat). The Nilamat Purana records that the Brahmins of Kashmir have always been heavy meat eaters (lamb, mutton). The two most important saints of Kashmir, Lalleshwari and Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali were vegetarians for spiritual reasons. Meat is cooked in Kashmiri Pandit festivals and forms an extremely important part of Kashmiri Pandit identity. Some noted Kashmiri pandit dishes include:
- Rogan Josh: This is a lamb based dish, cooked in a gravy seasoned with liberal amounts of Kashmiri chillies (in the form a dry powder), ginger (also powdered), asafoetida (the Pandits use it in place of garlic) and bay leaves, among other things. Due to the absence of onions, yoghurt is used as a thickener, and also to reduce the heat and marry the spices in the gravy. This much loved dish is the most commonly cooked dish using lamb meat in Kashmiri Hindu cuisine.
- Yakhni: Yakhni, is a yoghurt based mutton gravy, which excludes the use of turmeric and chilli powders in its preparation. The dish is primarily flavoured with bay leaves, cloves and cardamom seeds. Its really mild and is considered to be subtle in taste.This is eaten with rice, and is often accompanied with a more spicy side-dish.
- Mujh Gaad
- Monji Haak/Gogji Haak
- Nadir Yakhin
- Syun Pulaav
- Dum Olav
- Gogji Raazma
- Modur Pulaav
- Tschok Wangan
- Lyodur Tschaman
Tea drinking forms a very important of Kashmrii Pandit cuisine and is often used in place of dessert. Two very important types of tea are Kehwa (Sweet Green tea with Cardammom and almonds) and Sheer Chai (salty pink tea with almonds). Such teas are usually taken with Baked Breads like Kulcha and Katlam.
Kashmiri Pandit cuisine has very few dessert dishes or sweets. More importance is therefore given to the main course and tea and not much to the dessert.
Wazwan, a multi-course meal in the Kashmiri Muslim tradition, is treated with great respect. Its preparation is considered an art. Almost all the dishes are meat-based (lamb, chicken, fish).Beef is generally not prepared in the Srinagar region, but is popular among the other districts. 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 are 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 (May - October). Bearing in mind that the Wazwan consists of meat, mostly all lamb dishes, as lamb is considered the occasional delicacy, some of the essential Wazwan dishes include but are not limited to:
- Rogan Josh (lamb cooked in spicy red gravy)
- Yakhni (lamb, usually shanks cooked in curd based gravy)
- Rista (Pounded lamb meatballs in spicy red gravy)
- Tabakh Maaz (Fried Rack of Lamb also known as Qabargah. Hindu and Muslim differences make way for specific names for food authentic to the prevalent religion in the area.)
- Kaanti (lamb pieces in red hot gravy, usually eaten as a snack and not part of the main course)
- Syoon Olav (Meat with Potatoes cooked in spicy gravy)
- Syoon Pulaav (Meat Pulao)
- Modur Pulaav (Sweet Pulao, usually as a dessert)
- Lyodur Tschaman (Cottage Cheese cooked in creamy turmeric based gravy)
- Dum Oluv (Whole Potatoes cooked in spicy red gravy)
- Muj Gaad (Fish with Radish)
- Nadir-Waangan (lotus stems with Brinjal)
- Nadir-Haaq/Gogji/Monji (lotus stems cooked with Haaq, a Collard-Green only found in Kashmir and Portugal, or Radish)
Tea drinking is a very important part of Kashmiri Pandit culture. Two of the most important types of tea that the Pandits drink are "Sheer Chai"(salted pink tea with almonds) and Kehwah(sweet green tea with almonds and cardamom). With tea, they often eat certain types of bread/bakery such as "Katlam" and "Kulcha" topped with Kashmiri Butter made from fresh milk.
- Marcha-wangan korma- (Chilli Eggplant Korma)
- Sheekh kabab: spicy ground lamb on skewers
- Gushtaaba: Pounded lamb meatballs with spices cooked in oil, milk and curds
- kebab- Roasted Chicken, Beef or Lamb Kebabs
- maach kebab
Noon Chai or Sheer Chai
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 green 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."
Noon Chai or Sheer Chai is a common breakfast tea in Kashmiri households and is taken with breads like baqerkhani brought fresh from the Sufi, or bakers. Often, this tea is served in a large Samovars.
At marriage feasts, festivals, and religious places, it is customary to serve Kahwah, or Qahwah (originates from a 14th-century Arab coffee, which, in turn, was named after an ancient beverage of the Sufis) - 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 + half kahwah). This chai is also known as "Maugal Chai" by some Kashmiri Pandits from the smaller villages of Kashmir.
Kashmir valley is famous for its bakery tradition. On the picturesque Dal lake of Kashmir or 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 is a small round bread topped with poppy and sesame seeds, which is crisp and flaky, Sheermal, baqerkhani (puff pastry), lavas (unleavened bread) and kulcha are popular. Girdas and lavas are served with butter.
Harissa is a very popular meat preparation made for breakfast, it is slow cooked for many hours, with spices and hand stirred.
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