Celebrating Kashmir’s Cuisine

Celebrating Food from the Valley

Chef Umesh Mattoo and Saloni Rampal Celebrating Kashmir’s Cuisine

Someone famously said,

“Give us lord; a bit of sun’
A bit O’ work,
And a bit O’ fun.
Give us all
In Struggle and sputter
Our daily Bread
And a bit O’ butter.

Bread is one the most important part of food in any culture. Over years bread has transformed into various forms.Indians are not heavy eaters of breads and prefer flat unleavened breads; though the trend is changing, thanks to world becoming a global village.
Personally speaking I am an ardent fan of bread and my taste buds for same continue growing owing to my travel expeditions. Being a Kashmiri Pundit, I feel privileged to savour my taste buds with a wide variety of Kashmiri Breads.

Kandur's Traditional Bakery, Kashmir

Kashmiris are known to enjoy baker’s bread for their breakfast and hence, every Kashmiri colony has one traditional bakery known as ‘Kaandar/ Kandur’. The migration of the community has led to Kandurs spread all across major cities.

Baker’s bread, Kashmir

Kashmiri Bread

In Kashmir, there is a bread for every season. Bread is an integral part of social customs too – engagements, weddings, birth. Long before dawn, hundreds of baker families (Kandurs) in the Valley fire up wood tandoors and start making bread. These breads go well with salty pink tea called Nun chai.
There are many types of traditional breads like Czot/Girda/Roti, Katlam, Kulcha, Lavaas etc.

Nun Chai (Pink Tea) in KashmirNUN CHAI-SALTY PINK TEA

Kahwa is the native hot beverage of Kashmir. This green tea with concoction of cardamom pods, cinnamon barks and saffron and later garnished with crushed almonds is just so perfect for those harsh winters.
It is believed that they originated in the Yarkand valley in Xinjiang Area part of the Kushan Empire during the 1st & 2nd century AD. The beverage is traditionally served in brass vessels called samovars.

Kahwa (Green Tea) in KashmirKAHWA

Winter Food in the Valley- Foreword by Chef Umesh Mattoo

As the winter sets in Kashmir in the month of October, green leafy vegetables are difficult to find. In olden days when the valley would practically be cut off from the rest of the world. The only vegetables that one could spot in the market were potatoes, radish and turnips which could be stored after harvesting.

The first lot of turnips that came into the market in the month of October would have a slight bitter taste. As the weather starts to get cooler and mornings see frosted dew that turns white( in local language was called sur dag paen which means ground has been covered with ash) this helps in turning the turnips sweet and delicious.

Kashmiri Wazwaan offers wide range of dishes with turnips but my personal favourite is Shabdegh, the first dish on the menu. It is prepared in an earthen ware pot over the simmering heat of charcoal with cuts of meat which are high in fat. This delicate dish has the richness of lamb, the flavours of fennel, dry ginger and a sweet mellowed taste of turnips. Tastes best with warm steamed rice.

Winters in Kashmir are severe and with no supplies of green vegetables while in summers vegetables are available in abundance.

Native ladies would dry the vegetables available in summers and store them for winters. Vegetables from Beans to Brinjals, Bottle Gourd to Cauliflower and chilies would be sundried during the summer months and used during winters. With times changing and connectivity improving valley now gets veggies all throughout the year yet Sundried vegetables have now become a delicacy in its own.
The second dish on the menu is sundried vegetables that I love to cook and enjoy them in winter’s eve in New Delhi.

Last but not the least on the platter is Kashmiri Hakh, no meal is complete without Hakh and it is easy and simple to cook. In Kashmir there is a popular saying “ Ae Hakh che kyot zakh n che talun t n che pakhun” (means Oh lovely collard green where were you born; you are so simple to cook no frying and no simmering needed.)

Hakh Bhat (Collardgreen & white steam rice) also signifies the humble nature of Kashmiris who pray to god for the humble morsel of Hakh & Bhat thatis essential for living a modest life.

The last recipe on the menu is Shufta (kind of Phirni) for dessert.

Kashmiri Delights from Kitchen of Chef Umesh Mattoo

Shabdegh (Turnip with lamb)

Recipe 1: Shabdegh (Turnip with lamb)


Lamb from Shoulders
Breast 1 kgs
Neck fatty Inwards 100 gms
Water 2 litres
Cloves 5nos.
Cinnamon sticks 3 Pcs.
Big Cardamom 5nos.
Turmeric Powder 2 Tsp.
Compounded Asafoetida Pinch
Poppy Seeds Paste 30 gms.
Ginger Powder ½ Tsp.
Fennel Seeds Powder 2 Tbsp.
Salt 10gms.
Turnips 1 .5kg.
Mustard Oil 250ml.


• This dish is usually prepared in earthen ware pots; where meat is allowed to simmer overnight with spices and then quartered turnips are added in the morning.
• However we can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker.
• In a pot of 4 litres capacity add lamb and innards.
• Add then add two litres of water, cloves, cinnamon sticks, black cardamom, turmeric powder, salt and asafoetida.
• Bring to boil and let it simmer till the lamb is about 80% cooked.
• Grind poppy seeds to a fine paste.
• Add poppy seeds paste, ginger powder,and fennel seeds powder to the cooking pot with meat and let it simmer for another 15minutes.
• Cut the turnips into quarters and fry in medium hot oil without colouring.
• Add the fried turnips to the cooking meat till the turnips gets soaked with the mutton stock but do not get mashed.
• Temper with mustard oil and serve hot with plain rice.

One can serve in copper bowls and plates, like it’s served in Kashmir.

Hoakh Siun or Sun Dried Vegetables

Recipe 2. Hoakh Siun or Sun Dried Vegetables


Sun Dried Bottle Gourd (Lauki) 100gms.
Sun Dried Eggplant/Brinjals 100gms.
Sun Dried Tomatoes 100gms.
Mustard Oil 100ml.
Compounded Asafoetida 5gms.
(Dissolved in warm water about 50 ml)
Salt 1 tsp.
Red Chili Powder 2 tsp.
Ginger Powder ½ tsp.
Fennel Powder 2 tbsp.
Water ½ litre.


• Soak sundried lauki and brinjals in hot water for about 30minutes.
• Wash the soaked vegetable well to ensure no sand or dirt is attached to it.
• Now boil the vegetable with little salt till the vegetables are soft and tender. Drain and squeeze the water out of the vegetables.
• Wash the sundried tomatoes in running water and soak in about 250 ml. warm water.
• Heat mustard oil in a pot to smoke point to remove the off flavour and froth subsides and cool.
• Add dissolved asafoetida to the medium hot oil and cook till all the water evaporates for about 2 minute.
• Add boiled dried lauki and brinjals.
• Then fry till light brown in colour for about 5 minutes.
• Add soaked tomatoes and cook till oil separates out. Add salt and rest of the spices cook for 30 seconds.
• Add water and simmer for 3o minutes. Serve hot

Hakh (Collard Greens)

Recipe 3. Hakh (Collard Greens)


Hakh (Collard Greens) 1 kg.
Mustard oil ½ cup
Asafoetida a pinch
Cloves 4 nos.
Dry or Fresh
Green chilies 4nos.
Water 2 cups.
Salt 1tsp.
Var Masala 20gms


• Pick leaves of Hakh, discard thick stem. (However some hakh varieties called katch hakh the thick stems are used and are relished.)
• Wash Hakh in plenty of water and let the water drain out on a strainer basket.
• Heat mustard oil to the smoke point, till all the froth subsides and is odorless and let it cool to medium hot.
• Add Asafoetida and stir fry.
• Add cloves and cook till crackle.
• Add slit green chilies or green chilies which have been dried.
• Add water and bring it to boil.
• Add salt.
• Add the washed Hakh (collard greens) to boiling and turn with the lid till all the hakh is immersed in water and has become limp. Cook on high heat for about 30 minutes.
• Finish with var masala and serve hot

Recipe Inputs: Chef Umesh Mattoo
Editor: Saloni Kilam Rampal


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