Some time back when filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri wrote a presumptuous tweet proposing the concept of a vegetarian ‘wazwan’ — the classic Kashmiri meat-based meal — social media erupted in spontaneous protests. What an oxymoron, people explained. The Twitter tempest petered out in a day, but the notion that prompted the tweet is an previous and enduring just one, and deeply rooted in the country’s food stuff politics.

The notion that the delicacies of Muslim Kashmiris — the best embodiment of “the other” — is a meaty monolith has been shaped mostly by cultural conditioning on both of those sides of the socio-religious-culinary border. This is not to indicate that Kashmiri meals is predominantly vegetarian or that wazwan is but the figment of a carnivore’s creativity. The culinary grandeur of wazwan ought to without a doubt be expert to be believed, but this multi-study course food isn’t all there is to the Valley’s culinary heritage.

Amid the fantastic surprises in the region’s variegated gastronomic canvas is the street foods which, barring the craft barbeque meats, is mostly vegetarian, bordering on vegan. These dishes have managed to keep their own inspite of the ubiquity of momos, golgappa and egg roll, and like native street eats the world above, converse to the region’s one of a kind foodstuff heritage.

From masala tsot, the greatest Kashmiri seize ’n’ go food that is composed of a lavasa bread stuffed with mashed chickpeas generously slathered with a spicy chutney, to nadur monje (lotus stem fritters) or gaer monje (deep-fried drinking water chestnuts), and the jhal muri-reminiscent masala wari muth (wide variety of indigenous beans and wheat berries boiled with salt and spices and topped with fried onions) that is served in paper cones, there is a myriad of snacks to pick from. And just like anyplace else in the globe, these road foods stalls are uncovered in a lot in the vicinity of colleges, schools, workplaces and community shrines.

Nadur monje (lotus stem fritters).

  • Nadur Monje
  • Components
  • 1/2 kg lotus stems
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 250 gm rice flour
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds (optional)
  • 350 ml mustard oil for frying
  • Salt to taste
  • Method
  • 1. Peel and clean the lotus stems. Chop the stems, slicing every into 4 vertical parts.
  • 2. In a mixing bowl, increase the salt, Kashmiri purple chili powder, cumin seeds, and rice flour to the sliced lotus stems.
  • 3. Incorporate h2o and mix until all the stems are perfectly coated with the rice flour batter.
  • 4. Heat the mustard oil in a deep-frying pan.
  • 5. Add the batter-coated lotus stems and fry using a skimmer ladle.
  • 6. Acquire the fritters out once they obtain a deep brownish-pink colour.
  • 7. Provide warm with radish chutney.

For all those with a sweet tooth, there is indulgence in the kind of the chewy basrak, a type of deep-fried hollow pastry coated with sugar syrup and shangram, deep-fried nuggets of maida, semolina, milk, sugar and ghee. When the latter is marginally lesser recognized and commonly savored as a teatime snack in residences, basrak is the sweetmeat of selection for particular events and, in modern situations, has located iteration in plush bakeries, with the addition of premium elements this sort of as khoya and nuts.

Right now, several of these outdated-time favourites evoke fond nostalgia in the normal Kashmiri. “Every working day, though returning from faculty, we would just about every purchase a excess fat masala tsot for ₹5 and saunter alongside, taking bites off the wrap. Even now, I locate no snack really as tasty, balanced and uncomplicated to consume as masala tsot,” states Bilal Ahmed Dar, a resident of downtown Srinagar. “Dishes like masala tsot and basrak evoke nostalgia as perfectly as a sense of pleasure in our Kashmiri identification,” suggests the 35-yr-aged businessman.

Irrespective of the huge vary of regional snacks and their attractiveness between the Valley’s residents, these food items are nonetheless to grow to be mainstream à la bhelpuri or aloo tikki. Kashmiris seldom wax eloquent about their indigenous delicacies help you save for the mutton-dominated wazwan feast.

“We are a culture pushed by classism and nowhere is this a lot more obvious than in our attitude in direction of our road foods,” suggests Owais Ashraf, a 27-12 months-aged law scholar and resident of Budgam. “Despite their reputation, these road eats remain far more or a lot less confined to bazaars following to shrines or hectic marketplaces. Eating these ‘cheap’ merchandise is looked down upon. It is this deep collective reluctance to very own our food heritage that has led to quite a few avenue meals languishing in anonymity,” he suggests.

Sugar-coated basrak.

Recognition essential

Although the government has in recent situations tried to endorse Kashmiri street foods as part of its tourism initiatives, residents say more proactive techniques are required. “To commence with, street foods can be incorporated in the menu of governing administration-operate dining places, and meals kiosks can be established up at cultural festivals. The government could also invite foodstuff bloggers and influencers to sample and market Kashmir’s street meals. Foodstuff writers and critics have to develop literature on the Valley’s meals scene to assistance with awareness,” claims Mohd. Azhar Abbas, 29, a Srinagar-primarily based entrepreneur linked with the hospitality and tourism sector.

Interestingly, huge figures of domestic travelers who take a look at Kashmir count completely on ‘Vaishno Dhabas’, the Valley’s generic non-A/C eating places that provide all-vegetarian North Indian fare. In executing so, they skip out on local gastronomic encounters that are an integral element of travel. According to Abbas, personal tour operators and vacation businesses can make a difference by incorporating street food items tours in tourist itineraries.

“Wazwan isn’t all we try to eat, and it undoubtedly isn’t all we have to be happy of,” claims Dar with 50 % a smile and a glint of pleasure in his eyes.

The writer is a comprehensive-time ruminator and section-time freelancer.

By Taba