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Food of Jammu and Kashmir

Discussion in 'Food & Drinks' started by VishaliChawla, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. VishaliChawla

    VishaliChawla New Member

    I am going to Jammu and Kashmir where I will be visiting some tourist places and also be going to Vaishno Devi with my husband and two kids.

    I would like to know what the food of Jammu and Kashmir is like, as my kids are fussy eaters and I would be prepared for them and their meals.
    I am also interested in knowing about the food, as I have a food blog which is updated on a regular basis and mentions the food available at the places I visit, so the query is really both for myself and my kids.

    I am assuming that you would get the normal North Indian meals like dal and sabji. What else is there apart from this?

    Any specialties which we should not miss out on?

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hi, welcome to the forum!



    Largely influenced by its geographical location, its conquerors and the religions that dominate it, the cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir is every bit as invigorating to the senses as its landscapes. It is here where the cooking styles of the Mughals, the Persians, the Afghans, the Dogras and the Pandits combine into a unique fusion of flavours. Each region of the state has their local variations when it comes to the general cuisine, thereby giving you a unique experience from whichever place you visit in here. We can divide the cuisine of the state into two, namely, the Jammu cuisine and the Kashmir cuisine. We would highlight the major differences when it comes to food within each region.

    The Jammu Cuisine

    On the southern part of the state, Jammu, is mainly known as a pilgrimage destination. The famed Vaishno Devi Mandir can be found in this region. Because the region is mostly inhabited by Hindus, the cuisine is also largely influenced by it, with a wide variety of vegetarian dishes. The region is also located a bit lower than the Kashmir region so vegetation occurs more naturally. While snow can be found in areas of Patnitop and in the hilly areas of Katra, the lower areas have varied climatic conditions, ranging from warm, to rainy and to cold.

    Historically, Jammu was conquered by the Dogras, which are largely Hindu rulers. The Dogras ruled over the Jammu region until the late 18th century. The cuisine comprises mainly of vegetarian dishes but there are also a few non-vegetarian dishes. During the pre-colonial era, meat dishes are reserved for the Rajputs, but this isn't the case today, though most Hindus in the region still avoid consuming meats. Rice is a staple, as well as wheat, cereals and also maize. Vegetables such as cabbages, potatoes, beans and cauliflower are also used in many dishes. Spices such as coriander, turmeric, garlic and curd give flavour to the dishes.

    We can largely classify Jammu's cuisine as the vegetarian part of the cuisine of the state. Hence, if you're a devout Hindu or a pure vegetarian, you would find many options for meals when in this part of the state. For desserts or sweets, it's usually milk combined with some sugar or ghee, along with other ingredients. Meats find its way on some parts of the cuisine but for the most part, the Jammu cuisine is largely vegetarian-friendly. And strolling around the streets of Jammu, it's also not unusual to find influences of the Tibetan and the Muslim parts of country in the various street foods of the region.

    The Jammu Cuisine - Must Try Dishes

    Of course, as is with any cuisine, a few dishes stand out, ones that you cannot miss when in the region. Usually, you can find these dishes in the smaller restaurants in Jammu. But to truly enjoy the authentic taste of these dishes, it's best to find a local family that can prepare them for you. That may not always be easy to do though but they're the only ones that can give you that experience of the true taste of local Jammu cuisine.

    1. Rajma Chawal - They say that some of the best-tasting red kidney beans, or rajma, can only be found in some parts of Jammu. This is why the Rajma Chawal of Jammu, a dish consisting red kidney beans cooked in gravy, topped over rice, is believed to be one of the region's specialties. The red kidney beans grown here are slightly smaller, but has this sweet kick to it, a unique feature of such ingredient grown elsewhere in the world. The delicious taste and aroma might also have to do with the preparation style of the Jammus. Usually, the red kidney beans are boiled with cardamom over slow heat, with addition of salts in between. Spices such as gram masala, ginger, coriander, chilli powder and many more are also added into the dish. The result is a flavourful dish that goes best with steaming hot rice. This is also one of the staple dishes of Jammu locals.

    2. Madhra - This dish also utilises the famed rajma or red kidney beans of the region. However, the addition of yogurt adds to the creamy texture of the dish. The rajmas are soaked in water overnight before being boiled. Then, a mixture of yogurt, turmeric, chilli powder and salt are simmered into a pot until they become curdled. All the ingredients are then mixed together, resulting in the dish called Madhra. This can also be savoured with rice or topped with dry fruits.

    3. Auria - Another succulent dish of the region is Auria. Made by fermenting mustard and rye, along with curd (mixture of yogurt and turmeric), which is set to stand for about 10 hours, before combining into the the spiced potatoes, this dish is not only flavourful, it also has digestive benefits. It can be eaten with white rice or even breads, such as parathas.

    4. Kalari Kulcha - Scour the streets of Jammu and you would find this delectable street food, that has its roots from the Dogras as well. Kalari is a cheese made from cow's milk or goat's milk, only found in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. It has a taste and texture similar to that of cottage cheese, which is slightly heated in a pan, seasoned with salt, before being combined into two buns. Some street food stalls also serve it with chutney. Once heated, the seemingly hard cheese melts into a yummy goodness which is hard to describe into words. Definitely a must try when in Jammu!

    Kalari Kulcha (Image from Food, Travel, Fun and Me)

    5. Kachalu Chaat - This is a type of snack prevalent in Jammu. It is made from taro, also known as kachalu, mixed with spices, tamarind, lemon and chilli. The resulting taste of spiciness, tanginess and savouriness is out of this world. Many street food stalls in Jammu serve this delightful snack although it's also fairly simple to prepare at home.

    The Kashmiri Cuisine

    Now on the northern part of the region, the Kashmiri cuisine is prevalent. In contrast to the former cuisine, this one is predominantly non-vegetarian, with staples such as chicken, lamb and fish. The diet is mainly meat because vegetation is not easy to grow around the barren lands of Kashmir. The colder temperatures make it unsuitable for growing vegetables so the locals had to rely on poultry and other animals for their meals. The region is also mostly inhabited by Muslims, though there are some Hindus as well, which largely influences the cuisine of Kashmir too.

    We can divide the cuisine of Kashmir into two categories, the Waza cuisine and the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine. The Wazas are descendants of cooks from the Samarkand region of Uzbekistan. They are well known for their lavish meal preparations known as the Wazwan. The Wazwan is a 36-course meal, sometimes prepared for auspicious events such as weddings, festivals and other Muslim celebrations. What sets this course meal apart is that it is largely based upon meat dishes such as muttons, lambs and chickens. It usually takes weeks to prepare a Wazwan so you can just imagine the extreme dedication each Waza has. You won't get tired of the dishes despite them being largely meat based as the variations in the cooking styles are extensive.

    The Kashmiri Pandits are native Hindu Brahmins of the region of Kashmir. While their population in the region has dwindled, the influence of this natives can still be traced in some of the dishes of Kashmir. They are also one of the few Hindu communities that consume meat. Unlike the Waza cuisine though, the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine isn't as well known in and out of the region. The cuisine bears some resemblance to the former but major distinctions such as the use of asafoetida, saffron, cardamom and fennel seed powder sets it apart. The Kashmiri Pandits also don't use garlic nor onions in their dishes. The process of cooking is mostly slow, which helps to enhance the flavours of the dishes even more. When contrasted to the former, Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is lighter, has a nice variety of vegetarian dishes and doesn't rely much on too many ingredients.

    As a whole, the Kashmiri cuisine can be considered as the non-vegetarian part of the cuisine of the state. The influences of the nearby regions of Muslim-dominated countries are evident in the cuisine too. Though lesser known, the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is an important part of the Kashmiri cuisine too, as it gives a nice balance to the heavy meals of the Waza cuisine.

    The Kashmiri Cuisine - Must Try Dishes

    It's hard to really experience the traditional Waza cuisine as the cooks are mostly booked only through special Muslim occasions. Even outside of Kashmir, finding authentic Wazas can be quite difficult. On the other hand, the Kashmiri Pandits are scattered all throughout India, and in some parts of Kashmir, but even finding them can be very difficult too. If you can find a guest house with an authentic Kashmiri Pandit family, you can sample their unique dishes and foods.

    The Waza Cuisine - What to Try

    1. Rogan Josh - This dish is one of the most important meals in the Wazwan course. When prepared correctly, the lamb seemingly falls off the bone, with that melt in your mouth effect. The addition of spices such as red chilli powder, cardamoms, fennel seeds, cumin, masala powder and many more enhance the taste of the meal. Of course, yogurt adds to the creaminess of the Rogan Josh. This dish is best relished with a heaping cup of white rice.

    2. Yakhni - This is one of the simplest but most delicious meals of the Waza cuisine. It is simply lamb in curry, but the simplicity makes it a favourite comfort food of the locals. The curry is made from curd and ghee, while the lamb is flavoured with certain spices and dried mint. The combination of savouriness and tanginess is enough to swoon you over. Paired with steaming hot rice and the cold weather in Kashmir, this can turn chilly nights into warmer ones.

    Yakhni (Image from Bethicad)

    3. Tabak Maaz - This dish utilises the ribs part of the lamb only. The lamb is cooked in a pressure cooker along with myriad of other ingredients such as curds, cumin, coriander, red chilli powder, cinnamon, cardamom and many more. The lamb would then be fried to give it more flavour, usually in a dollop of mustard oil and chillies. It can be eaten on its own but goes well with white rice too.

    4. Rista - This is yet another delectable dish in the Wazwan course. Simply put, these are meatballs cooked in a red gravy, although they are softer than regular meatballs. This is because the mutton pieces are mashed using a special kind of wooden hammer. This makes them finer and softer, and with the addition of the green chilli, garlic and ginger, flavourful and aromatic. After frying them into balls, the gravy made of cardamom, cumin, garlic and nutmeg is added into it. Rista is best served with white rice too, a staple of the Kashmiri cuisine.

    5. Gushtaba - A Wazwan meal wouldn't be complete without the Gushtaba. These are also mutton balls, but served with a yogurt-based curry instead. It has the same preparation as the Rista, but the gravy makes use of curd, cumin and mustard oil instead. The Gushtaba is usually the last meal of the course and also served with hot rice too.

    The Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine - What to Try

    1. Naine Rogan Josh - This is simply put, Kashmiri Pandit Rogan Josh, wherein the Pandits had put their own twist in the popular Kashmiri dish. In contrast to the Rogan Josh of the Waza cuisine, the Naine Rogan Josh has a thinner consistency. Its favours are distinct too, especially with the use of asafoetida, red chillies and ginger in the dish. Because the Kashmiri Pandits are experts in slow cooking, the mutton seemingly falls off the bones too.

    2. Dum Aloo - What the former cuisine lacks is a variety of vegetarian dishes, which in turn, can be provided for by the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine. A cult favourite here is the Dum Aloo, which is prevalent in the Punjabi region but has certain distinctions when prepared in the Kashmiri region. No onions or garlics are used in preparing this dish, which are important ingredients in the Punjabi version of the Dum Aloo. The dish is flavoured by ginger powder, red chillies and fennel powder instead, giving it its aromatic smell. The baby potatoes are poked too or cut in halves at times, this is to let them absorb all the spices in the mixture.

    Dum Aloo (Image from Miansari)

    3. Haakh - This is yet another vegetarian dish, made from a special type of spinach that grows in the Kashmir region. Haakh is a very simple dish yet is a favourite amongst Kashmiris. The greens are just simmered with ingredients such as mustard oil, red chillies, asafoetida and salt, then it's all done. When the weather of the Kashmir region starts to get low, just sip the soup of this delicious dish to warm your senses. It can also be paired with hot rice, which enhances that flavour of the dish.

    4. Kabargah - This is a cream-based fried lamb dish that originates from the Kashmir region as well. Before frying the lamb ribs, it is slow cooked with milk, fennel powder and asafoetida. Once it is soft enough, the lamb ribs would be dipped in a curd-preparation before being fried in oil. This dish makes for a nice meal on its own or you can pair it with rice if you like.

    5. Shufta - Last is a delectable dessert from the region, a mixture of dried fruits, nuts, honey and saffron. Some of the nuts that this dessert have are cashew, almond, pistachio and walnut. Dried fruits such as raisins, dried dates and dried coconuts are also included. The nuts and fruits are usually soaked in water for a few minutes before being mixed with the honey and other spices. This simple dessert can complete your Kashmiri Pandit cuisine experience, making you love the simplicity of the cuisine even more.


    Much like its exquisite landscapes, the cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir has this meticulous vibe to it too. The Jammu cuisine draws mainly the vegetarians with its wide array of vegetarian dishes. Because the region is mostly dominated by Hindus, the meals are vegetarian-based although you can still find a few places serving non-vegetarian dishes. The Kashmiri cuisine can be divided into two, one by the Wazas and the other by the Pandits. Both cuisines use meats though, mostly that of mutton and chicken. The latter, the Pandits, has a good variety of vegetarian dishes, simple but cooked with heart.

    I hope this helps you!:)