From the valley of Kashmir | Best food in Srinagar

Kashmir – The Paradise On Earth

Image Courtesy: vagabondian

Just the other day, I was talking to someone and I realised that despite having one of the most memorable and delectable meals of my life in Kashmir, I have never written about them. Also, it’s that time of the year when everyone in Delhi is sick of the heat and running to the mountains. So the timing felt correct to revisit memories from my journey to the ‘Paradise on Earth’.

It’s been 2 years and I still can’t stop talking about it. I was travelling with my friends to Kashmir for the first time. Being on a budget, we opted to do a break journey, Delhi – Chakki Bank – Udhampur – Srinagar.

Rajma Chawal at Peera

On our way to Srinagar, we stopped at a small, but apparently very famous Dhaba. The driver had insisted throughout, that we have Peera ke rajma-chawal. After travelling non stop for more than 35 hours we were so hungry that we could eat just about anything. And then in a dingily lit up area, we were served plates of Rajma Chawal. The tomato base of the beans and rice, was garnished with dollops of ghee and a unique ‘pomegranate’ chutney. With every bite, I experienced something that was going to become a part of my memories for a lifetime. Before stopping at this place, the driver had promised us that we will never get to taste such a dish ever again. I can say now, he was a man of his words.

Peera, actually was the beginning of a food saga, that was yet to unfold.

In the following days, I had home cooked food in a house boat, Paranthas on the boulevard road and giant sized Pooris with Kesar Halwa at various places. However, I am going to share my most gratifying gourmet experiences with Kashmiri food. Believe me, we hogged like the world’s coming to an end, so much so, that after a while my hardcore non-vegetarian brother switched to yellow daal and lauki ki sabzi, for at least a while.

Ahdoos – Our first stop

For our first lavish meal, we took a shared auto and reached one of the most popular restaurant in Srinagar- Ahdoos. Eager and over excited to try local food, we went over board with our order. Also out of the four of us, two were vegetarians. So all of us ordered individual dishes as if there is no such thing like sharing. We had Kashmiri Pulao, Nadru Yakhni, Rogan Josh (an onion, garlic, aromatics, Kashmiri chillies and red color based thick tangy curry), Jeera aloo, kebabs with breads and sewai.

The food was simply delicious and we were stunned looking at the quantity. The Kashmiri Pulao had meat and kebabs of all types and the Nadru Yakhni (mildly spiced lotus stem cooked in a yoghurt based curry) was a revelation. The carnivore duo (my brother and I) were busy licking the curry of Rogan josh from our plates, such was the flavour and richness.

Rogan Josh
Rogan Josh

After this lunch, we roamed around Laal Chowk and had these delicious roadside sewai (vermicelli cooked in milk with aromatics). We started walking back to our houseboat only with a dream to have home cooked local food. However, the food turned out to be just about ordinary.

Sewai at Laal Chowk
Sewai at Laal Chowk

Wazwan at Mughal Darbar

After our dismal dinner, next day we decided to visit the famous Mughal Darbar to savour the celebrated Wazwan of Kashmir. Even before going to Kashmir, my brother was hugely fascinated by the lavish Kashmiri specialty.

Oddly enough, I realised, that in spite of being a famous eatery and visited by a lot of tourists, the staff at Mughal Darbar simply feigned ignorance, if I, a girl, tried to place an order. This sort of behaviour was sadly commonplace, throughout my journey.

Anyhow, the boys accompanying me placed the order: Wazwan (half), Shahi Naan and Aloo tamater.

And then there was an onslaught of food. We were served large portions of Rogan Josh, Gushtaba, Mutton Yakhni, Kashmiri Pilaf, Rista (Meatballs in fiery red curry), Malai Kofta and Shahi Naan.

All these curries were prepared with different cuts of mutton. Rogan Josh had a tangy red curry, Yakhni was prepared with yoghurt and methi and Gushtaba is what you end your meal with, the curry for this is spicy.

Shahi naan had, pineapple, dry fruits and khoya on top. This sweet bread was a meal in itself. I had never tasted anything like this before.

We tried every bit to finish the meal, but we couldn’t. Even though it was really tasty, it was too overwhelming. As his fascination for Wazwan got over, my brother even decided to take a brief break from meat.

Cherries from the Streets

Then we roamed around on the streets, buying cherries from the local vendors and obsessing over them. Being city mongers, we rarely get to cherish such amazingly sappy and fresh cherries. We even bought a box, to take back to Delhi.

Cherries on the streets of Kashmir
Cherries on the streets of Kashmir

Visiting Old Srinagar

On our third day in Srinagar, we took a bus to Old Kashmir. Starkly different from the Boulevard road where we were staying, this side of the city was old and rooted in tradition. Hoardings at various restaurants had Urdu font and unbelievably, the pictures of Pakistani cricketers. Even the television sets played Pakistani channels. Being the only girl, everyone looked at me with curiosity and I felt little a bit conscious. But soon they warmed up to me and we had roadside kebabs and chicken curry with naan at a small restaurant. The whole experience of visiting this side of the city was so overwhelming, that the food part for once became secondary.

Sheep Kebabs on the streets of Kashmir
Sheep Kebabs on the streets of Kashmir

There on, we took a bus back to Dal Lake, as I carried back a mix bag of emotions.

With so much history, availability of resources and climate conditions, Kashmiri food has always been rich and royal. Considered an art, it’s a matter of pride for Kashmiris that their food is world-renowned. Their bar is so high that it takes great talent to reproduce it here in Delhi. So just enjoy the food from the royal kitchen, a trip to Kashmir is a must.



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