Winters always draw my thoughts to the snow-capped region of Kashmir. I have always been in awe of this picturesque place and intrigued by its delicious cuisine that complements its cold climate and beautiful produce. The gastronomy is rich in use of mutton and poultry meats with a lot of attention to usage of spice providing natives the much needed heat from food.
Also, the Wazwan or the traditional, elaborate meal spread entailing 36-courses is the highlight of this cuisine and any epicure’s delight. The Wazas or chefs who prepare the Wazwan have recipes handed down through generations and retain their clan’s secret recipes even today to create an enormous and enchanting food spread.
So, when it became known to me that Hotel Grand Sarovar Premiere, Mumbai was holding a Kashmiri Food Festival at its restaurant 180° Dining, I made a beeline for this culinary fest. Signature dishes from idyllic Kashmir are being served up as part of regular dinner buffet until 5th February 2017 at 180° Dining restaurant of the hotel. Each day different dishes that form the Wazwan feast are on the buffet to give Mumbaikars a taste of the deliciousness of the Kashmiri food.
So, here is a look at my gluttony with the special dishes of the Kashmiri cuisine at this food festival:
MAAZ DALCHINI SHORBA
This was a clear, fragrant broth of lamb chunks. Slow cooking with cinnamon had ensured the lamb was moist and was imbued with the flavor of the spice.
These were fritters made from a blend of lotus stem and potatoes and flavoured with cardamom. The crust was crispy while the centre was silken textured. These were paired with a sweet chutney made of dates.
Small sized potatoes (not baby potatoes) were par boiled. The cooking was completed by grilling the potatoes in pomegranate juice and red chilli powder. A garnish of pomegranate kernels completed the dish. Cooking this dish is tricky as overcooking may smash the potatoes and if not cooked long enough the flavors of the ingredients may not reach the core of the potatoes. In the ones I tasted the latter situation had arisen.
Lamb ribs were boiled in a garam masala mix with a predominance of cinnamon. However instead of frying in ghee (clarified butter) the cooking took place in the tandoor or charcoal fired clay oven. This was a departure from the usual method of preparation. But the resulting dish was no less delicious. The meat was succulent and came off the bone with ease. The heat from the spices manifested itself clearly and made the appetizer delicious.
These were grilled boneless pieces of chicken that had been cooked in a marinade of curd and Kashmiri red chillies.
The gravies served were elaborate and quite distinct from each other in flavour profile ranging from spicy to sweet and even tangy. The preparations highlighted some popular ingredients of the cuisine. Here is a look at some of the dishes I ended up indulging in.
This is one of the signature vegetarian dishes in the Kashmiri cuisine and entails use of small-sized potatoes. The dish presented as part of the buffet was creamy and tangy. The gravy was tomato-curd based and was flavoured with spices like dry ginger and cardamom.
This dish had spinach pureed and cooked with generous amount of green chillies and ginger paste. Sliced lotus stems were blanched, then fried till crispy and added into this puree. The lotus stems had retained their crunch and the preparation was spicy and delicious.
This lentil dish had a tomato-based gravy and was cooked with Kashmiri red chilli powder, ginger, asafoetida and subtle amount of garam masala. As compared to the Punjabi-style Rajma this dish does not have a thick gravy nor is it spicy yet it is delectable in its own way.
Lamb meat was ground and shaped into spheres and cooked in a stock flavored with whole spices including cinnamon, cardamom, saffron as well as rose petals till its almost 75% cooked. The remainder of the cooking was done in a creamy, curd-based gravy till a perfectly cooked, soft textured sphere was developed that had imbibed a pleasant amount of heat from the spices and a tart flavor from the curd.
This was a tangy and piquant fish gravy that derived its color and flavor from the use of Kashmiri red chillies.
KUKUR YAKHANI BIRYANI
This was a slow-cooked dish where marinated chicken and soaked rice were mixed together with whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves etc. No additional water was added and the rice cooked only in the juices leeched from the meat. The outcome was a highly aromatic and flavourful pulao-style rice preparation that was in stark contrast to the usual layered, masala-laden biryani served in different parts of the country.
There were three, traditional desserts that I ended up indulging in. Two were milk based – Sheer Kurma (Milk simmered with saffron, sugar, dry fruits and sevaiyan or vermicelli) and Mawa Phirni (pudding of milk solids obtained post milk reduction, saffron, sugar, cardamom powder and dry fruits). The third one was Sutarfeni which was a stringy textured preparation of rice flour that had been sweetened and flavoured with cardamom. The threads of flour are packed in a way to give this sweet delight an appearance of a yarn.
So, do try out this Kashmiri food festival and let me know of your experience.
Till, then HAPPY EATING…
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast