Kashmir is a land with innumerable blessings and a place rich in art, culture and cuisine.

Tanya Rigzin

Four well defined seasons play the most important role in offering the best of local & seasonal produce. As every season has its own persona and an unmatched splendour, the tourist season is witnessed all year long. People holidaying in Kashmir are expected to bring back memories & pictures of poses around the snow clad mountains and bags full of gifts and souvenirs. Kashmiris living away from the state also crave for these listed gems and cannot help but carry back a piece of home to their world away of it.

Providing you with a “things – not – to – be missed” list when travelling to Kashmir.

Kashmiri Almonds, Walnuts, Saffron & Honey

These fantastic four are synonymous with Kashmir. Your trip will be incomplete if you do not shop for these mandatory articles.

Kashmiri almond also known as the Mamra almond is high in nutritional value in comparison to the commonly available California almonds. Unlike the sweet, monotone nuttiness of regular almonds, the Mamra have a distinctly complex flavour. Identified by its unique concave indentation, the peculiar shape results from two kernels tightly snugged in a single pod. A darker hue is accompanied by a rough textural skin.

Kashmir is the largest producer of walnuts in India. You can feast on fresh tender walnuts in September & October and dried ones throughout the year. Kashmiri almonds and walnuts are organically grown and nurtured, making them a healthier option and a power snack.

Around 13 kms from Srinagar, Pampore comes alive in the late months of autumn when saffron crocuses bloom and spread a royal purple carpet over the cultivated fields. Each flower is handpicked and the stamens are painstakingly harvested with great care and finesse. Meticulously dried and processed, it transforms into the most exotic and expensive spice in the world.

The rich and diverse flora of the valley produces some of the finest forest honeys. Known for its superior flavour, it is a collector’s item for food connoisseurs.

Spices & Kashmiri Vaer Masala (Masala Tikki)

The rich gravy of “Rogan Josh” or “Martsawangan or Mirchi Quorma” get their signature deep crimson hue from the iconic Kashmiri red chili powder. It is famous for its unique balance of flavour, heat and colour; making it a favourite choice of most Indian households. Saunf (Fennel) powder and Saunth (Dried Ginger) powder are integral aromats to Kashmiri cuisine and are indispensable to recreating Kashmiri delicacies. Do not forget to pick up a packet or two of these select spices for that unmistakable touch of authenticity. Locally sourced and freshly ground, these Kashmiri aromats are incredibly fragrant and packed with flavour.

The Masalvari or Vaer is a unique blend of spices, shallots, garlic and mustard oil. It is seen commonly in Kashmiri kitchens and used quite a bit in everyday cooking. The ladies of the house would prepare their own vaer according to their family’s likings, but meeting the need of the hour, many local brands are manufacturing packaged Masalvaris that travel well and have a sustaining shelf – life. The Vaer-satile spice mix can be used in non – vegetarian and vegetarian preparations alike.

Noon Chai Leaves & Instant Kehwa Mix

If you enjoyed sipping on this distinctive chai then you must pick up a pack of Noon Chai Leaves from a nearby general store as you will be hard – pressed to find these outside Kashmir.

Reminiscing about your Kashmir vacation, why not bring the magical memories alive with a cup of comfortingly fragrant Kehwa. Just a spoonful of the instant mix into a cup of hot water will take you back to the meadows of Gulmarg or the verandah of the houseboat floating on the calm waters of the Dal.

Gucchi (Morels)

Kashmiri guchi mushroom
Kashmiri guchi mushroom

Worth its weight in gold, the Himalayan Gucchi is an exotic ingredient coveted in the culinary world. Celebrated chefs sing high praises of this prized, best of all edible fungi. Lesser known to the general masses, you can take back this remarkable and highly exalted ingredient from Srinagar. The dehydrated – smoked version is available at most dry – fruit stores. A classic “Yakhni” or a redolent Pulao is the best way to relish the exquisite umami of Kashmiri morels.

Made to Order Girdas & Kulchas

The bylanes of Srinagar are dotted with charming bakeries. These neighbourhood Kandurs offer a fascinating array of artisanal breads. Visitors flock to these kandurs to sample freshly baked goodies like girda, tsachwor and kulcha to name just a few. You can place an order in advance, requesting a customised batch of your favourite bread. The friendly bakers are more than happy to bake ghee girda with a generous sprinkle of poppy seeds making it the ideal bread to carry back home owing to its long shelf – life.

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Freshly plucked apples from orchards around Srinagar are a must try when visiting the region. Plump ruby red cherries are another gem not to be missed during the season. With multiple variants of every fruit, each with its own unique flavour, you will be truly spoilt for choice.

Local markets are a wonderland for lovers of fresh, seasonal produce. You will be surprised to discover, hearty collard greens, delicate mallow, pristine lotus stems, crisp kohlrabi and such exotic vegetables to be staples in Kashmiri markets. Quince apples, seldom heard of outside Europe are readily available and widely used when in season. Make sure to save some space for this glorious farm fresh produce to travel back with you.

So, the next time you visit Kashmir, I urge you to go off the beaten path, delve deeper and explore further. Lying beyond the obvious and popular offerings is a plethora of dazzling, delightful gifts waiting to be unravelled.  

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SOURCE: Tanya Rigzin

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