Jammu and Kashmir is mostly located in the Himalayan Region and shares the border with Himachal Pradesh and Punjab and shares international border with China.
This state is divided into three regions – Jammu , the Kashmir valley and Ladak]. It is intersting to note that Srinagar is the Summer capital and Jammu is the Winter capital.
Jammu attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims to the various shrines present there.
‘Kashmir’-The very word brings in a picture that is painted in beautiful colors! The valley known as a paradise on earth is a popular tourist spot. It is admired for its rivers gurgling with sparkling water and its sleeping lakes. The flowering meadows speak for themselves. The snow capped mountains look bewitching.
Kashmir is also the home to a great variety of herbs and spices. The most precious of them being saffron. Though expensive it is a popular spice in many cuisines.
Ladak is popularly known as Little Tibet.
The cuisine :
The cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir varies in these three regions and all the dishes that come from these areas are rich and redolent with the flavor of spices that are grown in this land.
Kashmiri cooking developed through the ages as two great schools of culinary craftmenship – the Kashmiri Pandits cuisine and the Muslim cuisine. The main difference between these two are that the Hindus use Hing and curd [Asafoetida and yogurt] and the Muslims use onion and garlic.
Originally onion and garlic was never used in Kashmiri Pandit cooking .But since many of them acquired a taste for this, it was added to their dishes as well.
Here are some points of interest about this cusine….
It is also interesting to note that the Kashmiri Pandits,Brahmins, have been meat eaters for a long time! They prefer goat meat / mutton.
Curd is very vital in this cuisine is used in almost all the recipes that use meat,except for may be a few kebab recipes.
The Kashmiri Pandits cuisine evolved several centuries ago and in time the Mughal cuisine absorbed some delectable elements from the Kashmiri Pandits cuisine.
It is said that in the early part of this century, every Kashmiri Pandit home in the plains had a professional kashmiri cook and the salary was like 10 bucks a month with food , shelter and clothing provided by the family.So we can imagine how the food would have been! Each and every meal would have been a royal feast.
As the years passed by the ladies of the household slowly started acquiring the the training from these professional cooks and soon became proficient in the art of cooking elaborate meals.
Then years passed by and the people migrated and the culinary mastery started to fade slowly!
The food can be an family meal or a 36 course banquet called the Wazwan!When the number of dishes in a meal is more, it is the sign of lavish hospitality!
Kashmiri cuisine still remains in these plains largely is only popular in a few restaurants.The professional cooks nowadays do not make much money as the lavish hospitality is now on the decline and is now restricted to festivals and weddings.
In the olden days, the traditional Kashmiri Muslim banquet known as the Wazwan was a feast befitting a King!Waz here means ‘chef’ and Wan means a shop with its full array of meat and other delicacies. The number of courses in a meal would be 36 and the number of meat dishes can be anything between 15 to 30 dishes!
The meal itself was a sort of ceremony. The guests would be seated in groups of fours on the traditional cushion seating on the floor and share the meal from a large plate called ‘Trami’.A trami would consist of a large mound of rice and the first few dishes from the elaborate meal. So we can imagine how big the metal plate would be!Cud and chutney would be served in small earthen pots.
So after a few morsels of rice and meat, a few sips . spoons of curd would be taken to help digest the richness of the meal.
A large finger bowl/ wash basin would be taken around by the attendants for the guests to wash their hands after a meal since they would eat the meal in the Indian way,with their fingers.
Even today , such types of feasting takes place but only during festivals and weddings…
I am in no position to cook and present a wazwan but here are a few dishes that I have cooked so far from this wonderful cuisine.