Come summer vacations and tourists flock toward the cooler climes of the mountains. Kashmir is a favoured spot. Kashmiri cuisine is a rich tapestry of Indian, Iranian, Afghani and Central Asian styles of cooking. The intermingling of all these styles has embellished the Kashmiri kitchen superbly. Kashmiri cuisine has a trademark: that is dry ginger, fennel, red chillies, curds and mustard oil. Even though it is dominated by non-vegetarian fare, the vegetarian delicacies manage to carve a niche for themselves. Cottage cheese or ‘chaman’ as it is called, is also a popular accompaniment to many non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. For a simple preparation look up Tamatar Chaman. Puddings, snacks and curries are studded with an abundance of dry fruits like walnuts, dried dates and apricots. It is common to cook vegetables with meat and one good example is the Kokur Nadru.
Wazhawan (traditional Kashmiri cooking) is a unique concept in the world of Kashmiri cooking as it comprises mostly of non-vegetarian dishes that are rich and aromatic. The guests are segregated into group of four who share a large metal plate called trami. First in line is the ritual of washing hands in a basin held by attendants. As this tash-t-nari is taken away, a ceremonious entry by a retinue of attendants is made: bearing tramis heaped with fragrant rice, quartered with long seekh kababs and dotted with a variety of rich chicken preparations. Relishes like raitas and chutneys look pretty in small earthernware bowls. As each trami is consumed, a new one is brought in till the feast runs its course of thirty six presentations: sometimes even thirty of them being based on meat!
It is a revelation that a very high percentage of Kashmiris are meat eaters including the Brahmins or Kashmiri Pandits, who even though are meat eaters many of them refrain from eating garlic and onion. Other influences are that of the Muslim and Rajput styles of cooking. A fantastic taste of Kashmir’s rich cuisine exists in Rogan Josh. Traditional Kashmiri Rogan Josh has thin gravy and a thick layer of oil on top. This dish is best enjoyed with steaming hot boiled rice. Quality of meat plays an important role in this dish. Select meat with a lot of fat.