Taste the world around the Valley

  • JAVID PARSA
  • Publish Date: Apr 21 2016 9:43PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Apr 24 2016 11:47AM
Taste the world around the Valley

Cuisines from around the globe have found their way into Kashmir,  redrawing the culinary culture of Valley

 

If people have known Kashmir, it is for its beauty, its people and of course the conflict that has gripped the valley for decades now. But one very important thing that never comes up while discussing this ‘heaven on earth’ is the amazing food that we have. The wazwan, the pickles, dried vegetables, roadside barbeques and an endless amount of breads , the list is long. But wherever you go the only Kashmiri food that people get to eat is ‘Kashmiri Pulao’ – the dish we least relate to. Mounds of rice cooked in spices and loads of dry fruits, because hey! It’s Kashmir, you cannot do without dry fruits!

We Kashmiris take our food really seriously. Whether its marriages, parties or just any celebration, it calls for food, not just food, serious Wazwaan food!

We love meats and love to incorporate it in any thing we cook and eat.

We love it so much so that throughout the course of time, we have found it really difficult to part with wazwaan as our main celebratory meal.

Us Kashmiris love our traditions, and do not like to tamper with them. We have always loved our basic batte and syun and eating out always meant – tuj, kanti or the humble masaletchout. Thus there was no point in looking further away in terms of gastronomy, because we were really happy with the food that we had.

I remember, in my college days, hanging out meant having tea at a stall, or a plate of tuj with all those chats and discussions.

But time changes and how fast and surprisingly it did! Today we have everything from Lebanese to Italian to Indian and all types of foods being catered to people across the valley. And not just this, the bigger thing is that people are fast accepting these foods and it has come to be a part of their everyday lifestyle.

Some people will certainly rubbish it as modernization and under-valuing of our traditions. But  I see is this as the diversity spreading throughout the valley and people becoming more and more flexible to new ideas and cultures through food.

One very important thing that came with the introduction of different foods in the valley was it broke the monotony, the one that spread with the wazwaan and the tuj. That way it had started to lose its specialty. Having it every time you hung out caused it to become plain and simple, like a part of your everyday meal. There was nothing exciting left! But with so many dishes to eat, devouring a wazwaan meal once in a while means it still has its charm, still very special, still very close to our hearts without losing its value.

We could not live in isolation, with only our tradition, culture and food. To survive in the wider society we needed to mingle with the outside world and with food we did just that.

Today we have so many new bustling cafés and all nice restaurants across the city. Not just those, many new restaurants have come up across small towns.  

The youth has always been inquisitive and new experiences meant they had something new to learn. Just that happened when young girls and boys made contact with the world outside Kashmir and got introduced to the wide variety of foods whether it was Indian (not the one we had at the tourist dhabas), international or even fast foods. The important thing was that they realized, there was so much more for the people back home, to enjoy.

The only thing stopping the people was the dearth of such places across the valley.

I might seem biased when I attribute the introduction of new foods in the valley, to the young people. But the fact is that, they realized how important it was to change the way people in the valley hung out, or just chat over a cup of coffee, or take a walk alongside the boulevard with a French delicacy to relish upon. Not just this they introduced innovative measures with the different dishes they offered.

 

The Other Side Café’ changed the way restaurants and cafes functioned around the valley. The food of the world is now on our plates.

‘Kathi Junction’ at Sarah City Centre, offers sizzling hot kathi rolls, shawarmas, biryani and kebabs while it also extends a first of its kind book bank facility to the people of the valley. You’re sure to come back with a full tummy, a book in hand and who can forget , the ‘selfie at kathi’.

Talking about innovative ideas,‘Books and Bricks café’ too hands out books with the coffee you order and how can one forget the amazing burgers they dish out.

 

If it is food, healthy food cannot lag behind. And it was the efforts of a young man that ‘Juice Box’ sprang up in Jawahar Nagar, to offer healthy juices and shakes for the fitness enthusiasts and the juice lovers. This shows how we have moved over our clichéd notions of drinks, from kehwas and nunchai to coffee and fresh juices available throughout the year.

For the more care-free ones, ‘Grill’ sells out lip-smacking shawarmas around Kashmir university, thus increasing the scope of snacks between classes for the students.

Causing the most excitement on their introduction, were the food trucks around Lalchowk. Who doesn’t love it when your food comes to you? Trucks driving around the city, handing out your favorite dishes while you are on the move is a very comforting and interesting idea!

 

The acquaintance of the valley with Italian delights came with Amigo’s restaurant, near Amar Singh college. They dish out the best pizzas in town!

And with ‘Goodfellas’ our youth showed, how a restaurant was not just about food. They have combined food with art that’s sure to give every visitor an experience of a life time. After all the ambience matters a lot!

This is the story of the city, but smaller towns too have picked up the trend and the past years saw various efforts by people to open up different restaurants and cafés. Just small little places to chit-chat and have a good time, but with many new foods to cater.

 

The political situation in our valley makes everyday business very difficult but it is commendable on the part of the people to invest so much into new ideas and plans which has a high degree of failure. Because people were used to old ideas of food, the efforts to open up completely new areas of dining was a risky one.

But people embraced them with open arms. Young guys and girls experienced things outside home and came back only to apply them in the valley. When such new start-ups sprang up in Kashmir, it was the youth first who tried out such places. They got new places to hangout, celebrate birthdays or merely talk. The flexibility with which these places have become a part of our society is surely sourced from the comfort these people projected.

Change is inevitable and Change is healthy.

While the whole world is progressing, who are we to stay behind, enclosed in our own bubble. It is always good to mingle with the outside world, know their tradition, culture, ideas and cuisines, but at the same it is also great to not forget your roots and give it the treatment it deserves!

Over the years the food map of Kashmir sure has changed but it has, only for the good! After all food is love!

 

 

(Javid Parsa is CEO Parsa Foods and Beverages Private Limited / Owner cum Managing Director Kathi Junction, Sarah City Center, Srinagar. Can be mailed at javidparsa@ymail.com)