Glacial lakes, snow-capped peaks and lush valleys filled with vivid greenery, the Indian state of Kashmir boasts some of the most spellbinding landscapes the sub-continent has to offer. Its postcard-perfect scenery has the ability to take the breath from even the most hardened travellers and the same applies to the delicious cuisine of the region.
Introducing Kashmiri Cuisine
As you might expect from the northern heights of India, the land of the mighty Himalayas where temperatures can drop to below freezing during the winter months, the cuisine of Kashmir is typified by warming notes and deep flavours. Comforting spices such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamom provide the trademark flavour of Kashmiri curries, whilst generous helpings of mustard oil and gheeadd a rich consistency to the specialty dishes of the region.
The Kashmiri people have always traditionally favoured meat dishes – there is mention in the ancient texts of the Rigaveda and the NilamatPurana that notes the heavy meat-eating culture – and baking is also a time-honoured part of the culinary culture. These rich, meaty dishes, bulked up with breads, are washed down with a selection of flavoured teas, another important aspect of Kashmiri cuisine.
What to Eat in Kashmir
One of the most famous breakfast dishes of Kashmir is the winter delicacy known as harissa. Succulent mutton or lamb shanks are cooked with rice, garlic and a mouth-watering blend of spices and allowed to gently simmer for between six to eight hours, needing the occasional stir by hand. This might be consumed with a hunk of freshly baked bread such as lava, bakarkhani or girda smothered in butter. To wash down the morning meal, a cup of nun chai, a bubblegum pink beverage made with salt and almonds, certainly hits the spot.
This filling breakfast is guaranteed to keep hunger locked up ‘til lunch, but when it finally comes knocking, consider a seekh kebab, the juicy minced meat expertly mixed with spices and herbs and roasted until crisp in a hot clay oven. A vegetarian option might be a steaming bowl of rajma chawal, a red kidney bean curry served up with fragrant rice. Alternatively, a freshly baked cholekulcha, stuffed with chopped onions, tomatoes and chickpeas, makes for an excellent snack on the move.
Finally, for dinner, look no further than the famous curry house favourite, the rogan josh, a mutton dish cooked through with warming spices and a dollop of yoghurt. Or sample duma loo, a potato curry spiced until the gravy turns a rich, deep red. Kashmir is also the home to an excellent variety of pulaos – try this aromatic rice dish cooked with tender chicken pieces and plenty of Kashmiri chillies.
Finally, end your day of Kashmiri cuisine with one of the regions sumptuous desserts. A Kashmiri shufta consists of dried fruit and nuts, spiced and soaked in a sugar syrup and makes the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of khava, a sweet, green tea, flavoured with cardamom and almonds.
Visit one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants and experience dishes inspired by the best of the Indian states, from the northern reaches of Kashmir to the sunny southern shores of Kerala.