Kashmir: A Prime Tourist Destination Sans Quality Food Joints

SRINAGAR – The valley of Kashmir which is known all over the world for its mesmerising beauty and rich cultural heritage has virtually no place for the incoming tourists to savour its traditional cuisine.

Only a handful of tourists visiting Kashmir are lucky enough to be invited to a wedding and enjoy the entire course of authentic Wazwan. Sadly, none have the luck to savour real Kashmiri food, that is enjoyed by the locals daily take in their homes.

Boulevard, the tourist hub of the state has some of the fine hotels but not a single good restaurant serving traditional Kashmiri food or any international cuisines. On the contrary, the famous boulevard road of Kashmir is now crowded with Dhabas like Dilli Di Rasoi, Punjabi Dhaba etc

There is no dedicated Chinese, Arabian or Mughlai restaurant in our entire Kashmir Valley. All major international brands like McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Pizza Hut are absent from Kashmir.

“You will get all types of Punjabi, Gujarati and Jain foods but no authentic Kashmiri or global flavours are available in our restaurants”, rues Hakeem Saamir Ali, CEO of Hornet Hos­pex, a leading travel service.

Some restaurants do serve an odd Wazwan dish but that cannot represent the rich feast of wazwan for which presenta­tion is more important than the taste, he said.

All destination cities in india as well as the world have de­veloped street food culture that attracts tourists in huge num­bers but alas Kashmir has none.

Except dingy shops selling mutton barbecue at Khayyam or rediwallas selling kebabs and tikka at Makai Point, there is no place to taste Kashmir’s street food.

Except dingy shops selling mutton barbecue at Khayyam or rediwallas selling kebabs and tikka at Makai Point, there is no place to taste Kashmir’s street food.

Even at Makai Point, Lakes and Waterways Development Authority prohibits foodies from entering its park with barbe­cue bought from adjacant food joints.

Moreover whatever little street food is available it is sold without any checks by the Municipal authorities, as SMC has no mechanism to test the samples, whenever lifted, for quality.

Julia Fernandez who arrived in Kashmir from Moscow has a bit­ter experience to share. “Such a beautiful place has been messed up. There are lot of things which cause inconvenience to the tourists.

“There is no information brochures, travel guides or maps available here. A person is completely lost and often ends up at the wrong place. I wasn’t able to find any food of my lik­ing here. I am not used to taking spicy food or rice but since nothing else is available here, I was forced to eat whatever the dhabas serve here. There is also a huge variation in rates. One person offers a shikara ride at a very less price while as anoth­er person charges an outrageously huge amount for the same ride. Similar is the case with the food being sold.”

Shilpa Gupta, a tourist from West Bengal is happy that she got to taste some amazing dishes from all across North India despite them being served in “not so hygienic manner”.

‘Most of these Dhabas here serve food in the open due to which the dust and exhaust fumes from diesel driven vehicles settles on it, says Shilpa, adding that the Boulevard should be a motor free zone”.

“There is no information available about any food joints and cafes neither can one find anyone to recommend places for good food, says Nazanine Dehqan, an Iranian tourist, visiting Kashmir for the first time. “I can’t even find out if there is a place outside my hotel to have fresh food”, she said.

Commissioner Secretary Tourism has a different take. “We can not force restaurant owners to serve this or that. Tourists usually explore the city and they themselves find out places which serve good food.”

When asked, while doing road shows the world over to lure high end tourists, isn’t it incumbent upon his department to first build infrastructure, he gave no satisfactory answer.

“One of the reasons why dhabas are such a hit in Kashmir is because our valley gets very few foreigners,” says Sohail Iqbal, a businessman.

“Most of the tourists visiting Kashmir are from India. Thus to maximise their profits, dhabas and restaurants are ignor­ing the small percentage of foreigners, a decision which is detrimental for our future trade. Also Punjab Di Rasoi, Delhi Di Rasoi, Prince Dhaba, Lhasa Dhaba etc are all operated by non-locals leased out to them by local hoteliers.”

Quite a few non veg varieties are served here. Even for car­nivore residents of Srinagar whenever they venture out with their families, they have to be contend with Dhaal Roti.

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