Each cuisine has a history, context, cultural manifestation and of course, a wealth of memories attached to it. The aroma, taste, feel, texture of a dish can take you back in time, to the kitchens of your grandmothers and mothers and no matter where you are, food takes you back home. For Kashmiris settled here in Chandigarh, especially students, the city offers a taste of Kashmir, with many restaurants offering choicest, authentic and traditional dishes from the state.
Wazwan of Kashmir
‘Kashmir For You’ at Aroma Complex in Sector 22, opened its doors in 2005 and offers authentic Kashmiri Wazwan. The effort of Riyaz Khan from Tang Mar, Kashmir, the restaurant also offers catering services, with an extensive menu of specialties from Kashmir, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Apart from kebabs, which are a big hit with people, the other bestselling item here is Nadru Yakhni (lotus stem Yakhni), a total vegetarian’s delight. “Every two weeks we order nadru from Kashmir, including other ingredients used in Kashmiri cooking,” says Khan, who says the recipe includes boiling the cut lotus stem with cinnamon, aesofetida, cloves, salt, turmeric et al. The yakhni (curry) is made with curd and spices, and the boiled lotus stem is cooked in the curry and served with boiled rice.
Grand Mughal Darbar
Grand Mughal Darbar in Kharar is known for its Kashmiri wazwan and attracts a large number of students studying in nearby colleges and also food lovers from Chandigarh. Set up in 2017 by Tawseef from Kashmir, the place was received warmly by Kashmiri students who longed for home food. “I have tasted almost every dish here, and it takes me back home. Most of the times, food available outside Kashmir lacks real taste and one of my favourites here is Methi Maaz, a lamb specialty which is flavoured dried fenugreek, spices and cooked in fried garlic till a little curry is left and served with rice or chapatti,” shares Junaid Bhat, a Kashmiri photo journalist. Apart from a line-up of special non-vegetarian food, Grand Mughal also serves vegetarian fare like dal makhni, matar paneer vegetarian fried rice and also all-time favourites like kahwa and phirni.
Ali Mohammad decided to start Daawat to offer people not just great food, but also a peaceful and relaxing environment, one that many Kasmiri students miss back home. “We began in September last year, as for many years I would think of all the young people who have to leave home because of the violence there and come to Chandigarh to study. I wanted to do something for them and I opened this restaurant to make them feel at home,” shares Mohammad, who was deeply disturbed by the turmoil in Kashmir last year after August 5. Mohammad serves authentic and healthy food, with many visiting Daawat for Chatt Ras, a wholesome soup.
Unlike other Kashmiri dishes Chatt Ras may not be that popular, but it is considered to be a hearty and healthy offering, especially for those with bone problems. The soup is prepared by cooking chicken along with water, salt, aniseed, a little amount of oil and practically no spices. Mohammad also does his bit to promote Kashmiri handicrafts and art and he recommends the kebabs here.
Chandigarh over the last couple of years has seen many places serve Kasmiri food, with Shama Dhaba setting up outlets across Chandigarh and now also opening in Kharar and Mohali. Al Arabian, set up last year in Kharar, is run by Chef Feroz Malik from UP, with the bestsellers here being Kabab and Rista. “I learnt cooking from a Kashmiri chef and now I am happy to share my skills with others,” smiles Malik. Gareeb Nawaz, a Kashmiri dhaba in Mani Majra is run by Bhat Aziz, a Professor from Kashmir, who promises a special variety of food, one that will take you closer to the kitchens of Kashmir.