Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term “Kashmir” denoted only the Kashmir Valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal Range. Today, it denotes a larger area that includes the Indian-administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir (which includes the region of Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Siachen), the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chinese-administered territories of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract. Jammu Kashmir displays a diverse blend of cultures. It is a place where culture varies from place to place. In Kashmir the dialect changes after every 10 Kilometres. The demographical variation of the state is spiced up with the specific diversions in philosophy, making it truly remarkable. Each culture is unique and interesting. The three regions display a great diversity in each part of their values including music, food, lifestyle, dance, tradition, festivals and much more. It becomes even more amazing when one witnesses the cultural diversions within the divisions.
People in Jammu Kashmir have been very conservative as far as their values are concerned. They like to stick to their culture and decades of interactions with the philosophies of other places have not corrupted its own culture. This fact, however, does not indicate that Kashmiris are orthodox or backward, but they are simple and warm hearted. People in most parts of Kashmir valley speak Kashmiri language; the dialect, however, changes remarkably after every 10 km. People in Jammu mainly speak Dogri and Ladakhisspeak Ladaki People usually wear long and lose clothes. In winters the main item of clothing is the long gown, Pheran, which protects them from the chill. The Pheran is different for men and women. Women wear embroidered Pherans in summers as well. Kangri, fire pot, forms an essential part of winter and you will be amazed to see every Kashmiri carrying one inside their Pherans. They take Kangris to bed as well and keep it under their feet to keep themselves warm. The main language of Jammu and Kashmir is Urdu. The other languages spoken here are Kashmiri, Ladakhi and Dogri. Numerous fairs and festivals are celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm in Jammu and Kashmir. Some of the famous fairs and festivals of the state are Baisakhi (the harvest festival), Lohri, Eid-ul-Fitr, Jhiri Fair, Bahu Mela, Mansar Food And Craft Mela and Purmandal Mela.
Capturing the hearts of tourists, the dance and music of Jammu and Kashmir are simply fabulous. No celebration in the state is complete without dance and music. Ruf dance, Bachha Nagma dance and Dandaras dance are the major dance forms of the state. Ladishah is a famous sarcastic form of singing, filled with a lot of humor. The beautiful and fine handicrafts of Jammu and Kashmir are famous the world over. Almost each region of the state has a lot to offer in terms of handicrafts. The most talked about handicraft of the state is the Pashmina shawl, famous for its perfect quality and beauty. The fine embroidery done on them looks stunning. The craftsmen of Jammu and Kashmir are also perfect in crafting articles in wood, metal and stone. Papier mache work is another art of the state.
Cuisine of Kashmir
Food lovers will surely have a great time on their tour to Jammu and Kashmir as the state has much to offer. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian, you will have a lot to choose from. The cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir combines influences from Indian Hindus and Muslims, as well as, Persian and Afghan invaders. It is said that chefs from Samarkand were brought to Kashmir during the Timur invasion. They settled down and influenced Kashmiri cuisine to a great extent. This culinary skill is popular even today. Travelers from all over the world love the rich flavors and delicious aroma of these culinary delights. Various tribes and sections of society have added their own flavor to Kashmiri food. The style of preparation of Kashmiri Brahmins or Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are radically different. Brahmins use generous quantities of curd along with asafetida and ginger in their food, excluding egg, onions and garlic. Muslims use onions, garlic and egg liberally in their food preparations. Saffron and Kashmiri chilies are common spices in the cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meat – Mutton (specially), fish and chicken are essential ingredients in Kashmiri food. Meat is prepared in a number of ways and is usually mixed with vegetables and spices such as cinnamon, saffron, cardamom, cloves and so on. The Brahmins and Muslims in Kashmir prepare similar meat dishes giving their own unique twist to them. Some of the popular Kashmiri meat preparations are:
- Kashmiri Kebab
- Rogan Josh
- Methi Keema
- Syun Alu
Traditional Breads of Kashmir
The valley is noted for offering a variety of traditional bakery items and the love of the populace for baker’s bread will lead one to find at least one traditional bakery shop referred as Kaandar or Kandur in every colony or locality of Kashmir. Different kinds of breads for different seasons are available in the bakery shops that have golden brown crusts and are topped with sesame and poppy seeds. Two such breads that are flaky and crisp and topped with sesame and poppy seeds are tsochvoru and tsot that are small in size and round in shape. Other popular ones include kulcha, small, round, dry, hard and crumbly breads that are embellished with a peanut in the upper middle part; lavasa or lawaas, a large, thin, unleavened flat bread made with maida which can be either crispy or soft; sheermal or krippe, a dry crumbly bread generally served with kehwa; and roth, a huge bread of around 1 m in length and 2 ½ m in width which is more like a Kashmiri dry fruit cake among others. A Kashmiri bakerkhani that is a spiced, thick, roundish flat-bread having almost a biscuit like texture that is crisp with a hard crust, layered and sprinkled with sesame seeds finds a special place in Kashmiri food. Generally the Kashmiris eat it hot as a breakfast item.
Different Types of Tea
Kashmiris drink two types of tea namely Noon Chai, or Sheer Chai and Kahwah. The former is the most popular beverage of the Kashmiris who drink tea heavily. This noon chai where ‘noon’ means salt in Kashmiri language is made of black tea, salt, milk and bicarbonate of soda. The tea gets its unique pink colour from the distinct style of its preparation and of course due to the use of soda. While the Kashmiri Muslims call it ‘Namkeen Chai’ or ‘Noon Chai’, the Kashmiri Pandits generally call it the ‘Sheer Chai’. It is usually consumed in Kashmiri households along with breads during breakfast. Kahwah is a green tea prepared with different spices, walnuts or almonds and saffron. Different households prepare this tea differently thus marking more than twenty varieties of Kahwah. It has become a custom to serve this tea at religious places, festivals and at marriages. Some Kashmiri Pundits belonging to small villages of the region refer this tea as ‘Maugal Chai’ while the Kashmiri Pundits and Muslims living in cities call it ‘Kahwah’ or ‘Qahwah’.
Traditional Foods Which Welcomes You In Kashmir
Kashmir famous foods are based on its ancient traditions. All foods have evolved over the years. Kashmiri Pandits have had the earlier influence on such Cuisines. Kashmiri food makes an extensive use of turmeric and yoghurt. Superb preparation and fabulous aromatic flavor of the Kashmiri food makes people feel hungry. As in other Indian Cuisines, Onions and Garlics are not much used preparing dishes here. Kashmir has more non-veg dishes as compare to veg.Even the Kashmiri Thali is mostly preferred for its non-veg dishes. Traditional Kashmiri thali consists of Wazwan which demands exclusive art in preparation. To make this dish, one need to spend substantial time and efforts. Mostly in big family occasion, this dish is prepared . Kashmiri cuisine has become a popular choice of people around the world.
Here, curd is used to give creamy touch in preparation of food . Asafoetida (Hing) is also used to enhance the flavous of meat dishes. Dry ginger and Saunf (aniseed) are also used as a taste boosters. Kashmiris makes an extensive use of safffron in the form of a colorful flavoring agent. For its amazing aroma, it is added to pulaos and sweet. Dry fruits are used here in preparation of curries. Here people use ghee to cook meals. Mustard oil has also become popular ( anti-fat agent) in urban areas. Kashmiri rice has a good aroma and are light.Kashmiri rice pulao is well liked by people. The Kashmir cuisines are truly unique and has absolutely no comparison.
Below are the Famous Foods of Kashmir.
Mutton Rogan Josh
Kashmir is the place where we can taste the spiciness of the meat. The meat cooks with the seared onion, and the special Kashmiri red chilies. The spices in the meat are delectable and it is popular in Kashmir on many unique occasions. Lamb or meat lovers can enjoy the Rogan Josh in Kashmir. Yogurt adds the flavor to the dish. The healthy dish with low fat is the Kashmir Rogan Josh. The rice or naan is the best main dishes can serve with Josh.
Lamb Leg Roast Curry Raan E Khaas
This is the yogurt based Curry in which lamb leg gets immersed in the spices. The Curry cooked with the mint leaves, Cinnamon, Cardamoms, spicy onion paste. The core ingredient in the Curry is Mawal flowers. Lamb leg is the one which gives the unique taste to the dish. The Curry can serve with the rice, and bay leaves spread over the curry gives the delightful dinner setup during occasions.
While most of the Kashmiri cuisine dishes are non-vegetarian, there is something very special prepared with potatoes for the pure veggies. Dum Olav or Dum Aaloo, one of the most famous dishes of Kashmiri food. Dum Aaloo is cooked with yoghurt, ginger powder, fennel and other hot spices to give it a unique flavour and aroma. You can have it with chapatis or naan to get the most out of this all time favourite and popular Kashmiri cuisine dish.
Kashmiri Muji Gaad
Served on festivals and occasions, Kashmir gaad is a dish made up of fish prepared generally with radish or nadur. This dish is an amalgamation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items as the taste of fish and lotus stem blend together to give it a unique taste while hot spices and herbs add to it’s unique yet amazing flavour and aroma. This dish is usually served in/during festivals like ‘Gaada Bata’ in the month of December.
The dish made of Cottage Cheese drives the veggies crazy. Paneer combines with the spices gives the delicious gravy. Paneer with the milk speckled with green and brown cardamom. This helps in softening of the Curry. The unusual ingredient use to make the delectable Paneer Chaman is fennel powder and dry ginger powder. The chaman looks creamy, and it tempts us to taste it once ever in life.
If you are a mutton lover then you will love Kashmiri food. Mutton is one of the major items used in the everyday food of the Kashmiri people and you can find almost 30 varieties of Mutton dishes in Kashmiri food. Among the many mutton dishes one of the most popular is Aab gosht. It can be made in two ways either Kashmiri or Iranian. The Kashmiri dish is made using milk and several spices including cardamom and black pepper. Yummy!
The tour to Kashmir, will not complete, when people does not taste seven-course Wazman. Expert chefs of Kashmir make out the dish during the night for any marriage and parties. Huge plate use to serve the dinner which consists of the entire meal. The heavenly meal makes the visitor happy while the journey to Kashmir. It consists of the collection of food items like rista, meat cut of ribs, Yakhni. Last but not least the delicious Gushtaba serve at the end of traditional Wazwan.
The fan of Wazwan cuisine of Kashmir, should try the spicy Tabak Mazz, made of the meat ribs. The deep fried ribs of the lamb get stuffed with the spices of Kashmir. The taste of lamb chops drives food lovers towards Kashmir. The meat is deep fried with salt and chili powder.
Kashmiri Chicken Pulao
Pulao is one of the famous spicy dishes in Kashmir which tickles the taste bud of the visitor to Kashmir. Kashmir red chilies used in many biryanis all over India. The spices of Kashmir and its red chilies make the pulao more delectable than others in India.
Jammu and Kashmir, has always been known for its quaint and scenic beauty, but it’s various types of foods deserve equal attention as well. Hopefully, after reading the article you will gear up to taste them as they perfectly represent the food culture of the state.