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Aug 10, 2002 12:03 PM

kashmiri vegetarian food??

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i'm not a strict vegetarian and do eat fish sometimes. but i'm always on the lookout for delicious all-vegetarian food. since kashmir is known for its lush terrain and variety of produce (lots of mushrooms i think), i would love to try some kashmiri vegetarian specialties. someone even posted on one of the new york boards a couple of months ago about a wonderful home-cooked vegetarian kashmiri feast. still, a cookbook i once looked through at kalustayan, an international foods store in manhattan, said that most kashmiri dishes have meat in them and that meat is an extremely important component -- usually included in every meal???

so i have some questions steming from my vegetarian concerns: first or all, what are the regional kashmiri vegetarian dishes? do any restaurants in the northeast US prepare them? are there two styles of kashmiri cooking, the hindu vegetarian and the moslem hallal/omnivorous?

thanks in advance.

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  1. I'm the guy who posted on the kashmiri dinner (by my veggie mom)

    that being said kashmiris, both hindu and moslem are a meat-eating, rice as staple lot. this is somewhat unusual in india as hindus in most of the continent are as a rule vegetarian oriented.

    most of the most famous kashmiri dishes are meat based (usually lamb or goat) however there are a few that are not - among these are dam alu (twiced cook potatos in a chili based "curry", gutschi (morel mushrooms), various lotus root dishes (nadr), apples and eggplants (suunt vangaan), and various uses of greens.

    a couple days ago someone posted on the tri-state board of a kashmiri restaurant is NJ (there are very few specifically kashmiri restuarants). if you can find that post, In my response, I included a link to an online cookbook of kashmiri dishes including some vegetarian ones (I am however not a big fan of some of those recipes--if you see a specific dish there and would like to try it out, send me an e-mail, and i'll try to add some thoughts or corrections to the online version)

    regarding the difference between muslim and hindu cooking, it is mainly one of which spices are used -hindus tend to shy away from much garlic and onion usage and use asoefetida, while muslims shun the stinky resin, and go for the aromatic roots. Both muslims and hindus in kashmir use more ground fennel than most of the other regions of india, as well a dried, fresh, and ground version of kashmiri chilis somewhat similar to arbols, which are well known in india for their bright flavor and the color they impart to dishes

    7 Replies
    1. re: zim

      Madhur Jaffrey is quite fond of the unusual cuisine of Kashmir and has included a significant number of recipes from the region in her vegetarian cookbook, "Madhur Jaffrey's World-Of-The-East Vegetarian Cookbook." I recommend it highly.

      1. re: zim

        what are the GREAT kashmiri chicken dishes? Could you send me their receipes
        or a site wher i can get the receipes

        1. re: parveen brar
          ravana jacobs

          please send me the receipe of lamb roganjosh curry

        2. re: zim
          Shalini Bhalla

          To add to Zim's post of Kashmiri cuisine....

          Kashmiri Muslim food is well known as the "wazwaan" style and the cuisine of the Kashmiri Pundits is called Butta. They are both very fond of meat and the wedding feasts are legendary. People start fasting a couple of days in advance of the big feast. But this was in the good old days. I havent been that up north in a few years. I've even had a dessert course in meat:-)

          Kashmiri cuisine uses some very distinctive ingredients not used in any other regional cuisine in India.
          This includes things like an extract of a flower called "mawal" in the local language. It is a variety of Cockscomb and has a very narrow window for blooming in the US. I usually buy about $ 50 worth in that period, air dry them carefully ( they shouldnt lose their color) and use them the rest of the year. They are quite expensive, about $ 15 for 4 stems. It imparts a bright red color to the dishes, both vegetarian and non vegetarian. In the valley we really didnt worry about where the flower came from, but in the US you must make sure that no pesticides have been used on the flower if you intend to use it for any food preparation.

          Because of the cold, snowy winters, they also have some unique methods of preservation of foods and spices. My favorite is a masala paste called "Ver", again used in vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. It is like a concentrated, air dried pattie of garlic, shallots (the Indian onion) and whole spices.

          The spinach used in some of their dishes is also unique to their region. It is locally called "Haakh" and is not the spinach that we are all famaliar with. The leaves are round, deep green, and have a different flavor. They also use a lot more of Shahijeera rather than regular cumin.

          And to Parveen Brar who posted below....I agree with Zim; dont go by online recipes. Unless you know very well what you are looking for and are famaliar with a dish, most online Indian recipes are quite disappointing. I have seen short cut recipes with items like sour cream, cream cheese,etc. which are ingredients not found in India. Short cut they may be....but the end result definitely doesnt taste the same.

          If you can however invest in a good cookbook, I highly recommend a couple of books written by the Waza brothers. These are 3 brothers, sons of a Wazwaan,and they currently have a fabulous catering business in Delhi. They cater to some of the very rich and famous, but considering that a Wazwaan feast could have upto 30 to 35 courses, I guess that isnt surprising. I dont have the names of the books with me, but you could do a Google serach with "Kashmiri food" and "Waza brothers". Let me know if this helps.

          1. re: Shalini Bhalla

            What a great post. I was wondering whether it was possible to get the cockscomb in the US - other than by growing the celosia (the crested kind, not the curly kind)

            The book Wazwaan by the Waza brothers is published in India, but available by online vendors in the US, including Indiaclub. Its a very interesting cookbook with what appear to be the classic dishes like gushtaba, including the instructions on how to pound the meat with a mallet on a stone until smooth. A ver paste recipe is also included. See link below, hope it works.


            1. re: jen kalb

              cool to see an answer to a post I wrote about kashmiri food so long ago as I'm actually at the moment in india waiting for a bus to chennai.

              anyway, dry cocksomb is very rarely found in the US, it's used much more by kashmiri muslims.

              a few more distinctive food items:

              praan - a sort of cross between shallot and garlic

              gordoul - a sort of olivish fruit used as a souring agent with a green known as liisa, a sour spinach.

              haakh in kashmiri can mean any greens but it is most often kohlrabi greens and is part of the dish I most assosciate with kashmir veg. food - munge (kolhrabi)haak (greens)made with asoefetida.

              other dishes I associate with kash veg. are dum aloo, tsun tvangan (green apples and eggplant), morels (gutchi) which I've only seen in India in kashmir, razmaa gozhi (a daal of red kidney beans and turnips, sometimes dried turnips) . There is also a type of dry paste known as kashmiri wada mainly consisting of dry kashmiri chili ( closes in flavor to a very good quality paprika), fennel and ginger.

              I'm not that familiar with the waza brother book, but I'll see if I can look it up while I'm here.

              anyway, off to some nice spicy fried fish.

              1. re: jen kalb

                where u able to get the information about where u can buy dry cockscomb flower in the us? if u did, can u let me know?

          2. I had to laugh when I read your subject line, here's why. I visited Kashmir in the early 1980's, and stayed at a houseboat on the lake in Srinigar. The host asked us if we would prefer meat or vegetarian meals and we requested vegetarian. What followed for the week we stayed there was a variety of dishes, each based on either potatoes or cauliflower. It was tasty , but very limited.
            The most amazing almonds , and dried fruits , were sold by vendors who paddled up to the houseboat. We also traveled a bit into the countryside, and I remember beautiful fields of saffron crocus, orchards, and cedar forests. a beautiful country.

            1. It is a complete misconception that most Hindus are vegetarians. Actually, vegetarianism for Hindus is influenced a lot by regionality and the regional cuisine has a lot of meat dishes in some places. Kashmiri Hindus, as well as Punjabi, Bengali, Maharashrian Hindus, for example, generally speaking DO eat chicken, fish, and lamb/goat and it is not a religious taboo. Certain regions are more generally veg, such as Gujarat and some parts of South India (but there are ethnic communities that regularly eat meat these states, like Chettinaad, in T.N. for example)

              In order to achieve a Kashmiri Hindu flavor, regardless of whether you want meat or not, there are some ingredients that will be hard for you to find, as mentioned above. Kashmiri Hindus use this spice cake that you could google and try to replicate at home, and look online for some recipes. "Kashmiri spice cake" for the google.

              I have a Kashmiri cookbook and it focuses on Hindu cuisine, but the bulk of the recipes are for meat dishes, go figure.

              4 Replies
              1. re: luckyfatima

                Your comments on Maharashrian Hindus as meat eaters are very interesting. There was a long article in our local newspaper a few months back about a “meat free” movement in Mumbai. According to the article, there is a major push to make many restaurants and apartments in the city “meat free”. They claimed that many apartments have already converted and that most new construction is going that way.

                Sounds like our tobacco free movement here.

                1. re: OnkleWillie

                  That's funny because I was thinking about the meat free movement as I typed this! Yes, Mumbai is filled with people from all over India. The local Marathis have to some extrent been marginalized in their own city. You can see the backlash of this in the fact that some pro-Marathi fundamentalist groups have gone on rampages to destroy shops that didn't have signs in Marathi as well as Hindi and English!

                  A tangible example of this marginalization is these "meat free" complexes, because it would mean that Marathis who cooked their traditional non-veg cuisine with fish and prawns and so forth would be discriminated against when it comes to housing in their own state and city!

                  1. re: luckyfatima

                    I didn't realize that Maharashtra had a large population of meat eaters. I was under the opinion that they were more like Gujarat.

                    It is sad that a culture that has been so tolerant and receptive of many intruding cultures over the past 3000+ years is now turning on itself in several areas. However, that is not a subject for this forum

                    1. re: OnkleWillie

                      Well in all of these places Brahmins are generally veg., unless they are secular or non-religious by personal choice. But the rest of the people are not vegetarians in a lot of places with meat is part of the traditional local cuisine, Maharashtra being one of these places.