More than wazwan

Kashmiri cuisine

Often Kashmiri food is associated with wazwan, but publisher Utpal Kaul insists on changing dialogue around the world by educating people on the difference between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims’ cuisine.

“Kashmiri food is not only about wazwan that includes dishes like rista, goshtaba. I would like people to know Kashmiri Pandit cuisine as wurbal,” said Kaul at the launch of Kashmiri cuisine – A Historical Perspective on Monday evening.

Written by US-based obstetrician and gynaecologist Nancy Khosa, who took around three years to complete it, the book also throws light on historical relevance of spices and vegetables used in the cuisine.

Kashmiri cuisine is identified as the one that is heavy on spices. It is also one of the cuisines which don’t use onions and tomatoes to make gravy. Instead, curd is used generously in traditional cuisines, and this allows dishing out items of various colours – yellow, green and red on the table. For instance, haaq is green in colour, yakhni in yellow and roghanjosh is blood red.

But for Khosa, the book is not to document recipes of dishes that are cooked daily in Kashmiri household, but also to view it as a treasure that could be gifted to present generation who have distanced themselves from indigenous culture ever since mass exodus from Kashmir in early 90s that scattered the community all around India, and globe.

“My son grew up in the US, but he would always request me to cook traditional
Kashmiri food. These recipes have been transferred from one generation to another by word of mouth, so I thought it would be a good idea to document them,” Khosa told Metrolife.

The book, published by Utpal publications, also provides historical perspective to go along with the recipes so that it becomes a reference book for both – the food and also its cultural context for future generation.

“Many cookbooks have been written before. So when I started cooking from them in the US, none of the dish turned out to be the way it was shown in photographs or even taste. So, I wanted to do something that I tried in the kitchen. So, each and every recipe in the book has been cooked in my kitchen,” she said. The 152-pagebook consists tidbits like how kahwah is brewed from a green tea called ‘oolong’, which is minimally oxidised and thus has less caffeine than other green teas, or how tahiri(yellow cooked rice) is prepared on a person’s birthday and also prepared on the birthday of goddess Kali.

The book also highlights how wild weeds like vopal haakh (Dipsacus inermis), lisa (Amaranthus gangeticus) and nunar (Portulaca oleracea) still are cooked in traditional Kashmiri household.

“The book should be given to bride and groom at the time of their marriage so that the rich culinary heritage of the community stays alive,” said someone from the audience.

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