Dr. Isra Wasim

I wake up in the morning to the warm homely aroma of noon chai. It fills my senses and brings a feeling of peace and calm over me.

It was love that brought me to this beautiful house in a picturesque village  as a new bride 5 years ago from the hustle bustle of busy New Delhi. I now call it home along with all the family members, customs and alternative practices which i am imbibing and trying to practice every single day.

Home cooked River Fish with Reddish (Muje-te-Gadeh)

Wazwan is the first term associated with Kashmiri culture when first introduced to this beautiful land of tradition and culture. But there is so much more than meets the eye! Food and drink is such an essential part of Kashmir but it goes so much more beyond Wazwan. Wazwan is just the tip of the iceberg. Iceberg being the hospitality- “mehmaan nawaazi” being of utmost importance here and rightly so- and warmth exuded by each and every being of this homely state!

Food that is served at home is as sumptuous and mouth watering as the specialty called Wazwan. And why not as it encompasses all the love and care of the ladies of each and every household! The vegetarian delicacies are as delicious  and full of nutrition as the non-vegetarian ones. Being from outside the state I have had a fresh non-biased taste of everything and I simply love it!

A regular household begins by starting the day with noon-chai- the yummy pink salty tea(which I’ve been told keeps stomach ailments, headaches and cold away) and an array of bread-lavasa, bakirkhani, telwur or home made paratha/rotis. Each type of bread has a personality and stature of its own- one can just not be compared or one-upped to the other.

Lunch and dinner have to have a staple of baath(rice) though some health conscious do have the occasional rotis as well.

The vegetable curries are simply the best- many use home grown vegetables which have the freshness and nutrition of pure earth. Green leafy veggies-Haakh,vost haakh, reddish- mooli, kaddu-al, eggplant-vangan, tomato-ruwaangan, potato-alu, lotus stem-nadru, paneer-tsaman are just a few of the luscious and fresh veggies that are consumed daily in most homes here.

Evergreen Kashmiri leafy vegetable is Haakh

The vegetable curries are simply the best- many use home grown vegetables which have the freshness and nutrition of pure earth. Green leafy veggies-Haak,vast haak,radish- mooli, kaddu-al,eggplant-vangan,tomato-ruwaangan,potato-alu,lotus stem-nadru, paneer-tsaman are just a few of the luscious and fresh veggies that are consumed daily in most homes here.

Non-vegetarian fare is just as delectable- if not more- and consists of fresh lamb, beef, chicken(desi and regular kinds) and fresh fish caught daily by fish mongers! Succulent pieces of beef or lamb – maas – cooked in gravies of either a tomato base or milky/yogurt base are the norm – they could be the famous Roganjosh, Aab Gosht, Yakhni – and would definitely give any well known Michelin chef a run for their money. Chicken-kokur and fish- gaad are also prepared in gravies and first deep fried with an array of Kashmiri masala coating which makes the end product simply mouthwatering and divine!!

Home cooked Yakhni

These are such a great array of dishes prepared with a great amount of love and warmth by mothers, wives and sisters in households filles with hustle bustle of everyday activities. But the blissful taste and aroma of these culinary delights which are cooked and toiled over in the heart of each home bring every family together after a great days work. Matters are discussed, every day happennings are narrated and elderly and youngsters alike all get together to satiate hunger and derive pleasure from the delicious fare cooked by loved ones.

To know the reality and roots behind the heart of Kashmiri cuisine having a first hand experience in a warm loving home of the Kashmiri state is a must. The essence of this beautiful and welcoming state and its cuisine essentially lies in the hearts of the people which is full of love and warmth in abundance. I have experienced all this and more and continue to as each day goes by!!

As a great activist once rightly said- “ If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him. The people who give you their food give you their heart”— Cesar Chavez

Author hails from Sopore and is currently serving in Sharjah, UAE

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