One of my fondest memories of growing up in Kashmir was of the wedding feasts. Colourful tents, large cauldrons of food being cooked, the aroma of meats — it was exciting,” reminisces chef Parminder Singh Bali, who was in town to kick-start the Kashmiri food festival at The Oberoi.
Even after moving out of Kashmir, he would go back every now and then, and with each trip he would discover a hidden side of Kashmir. “By then I was already studying hotel management, and had come to know a lot of ingredients. It was only then I realised how Kashmir was a rich source. Take asparagus for example, or even rhubarb for that matter. It all grew in our backyard, but none of us ever knew what to do with it,” adds the chef.
At this festival, which focuses on the wazwan food, with touches of Pandit food, and some home recipes as well, diners can experience some of the truest flavours of Kashmir. With wazas Mohammad Assad Dar, Ghulam Mustafa Shagoo, and Mohammad Iqbal Latoo in tow, Bali has curated a menu that features almost 80 dishes (40 vegetarian, and 40 non-vegetarian).“We are of course not serving all of them at the same time. It’s a cyclic menu which will feature five to six specialties on each day,” says Bali.
“If I were to describe Kashmiri food in a few words, I would call it simple, because we don’t use too many ingredients, and nutritious, especially in that weather, because most of our dishes are either braised or stewed, with very few spices going in,” says the chef.
Some of the dishes you can try are the tabak naat (lamb ribs simmered in yoghurt, and fried), nadur kebab (lotus stem cooked in mint, Kashmiri chilli, and black cumin), gushtaba (lamb meat balls in yoghurt gravy), gucchi pulao (a preparation of rice and morel), zafran yakhni pulao (rice cooked with lamb and saffron), Kashmiri chok wangun (brinjal cooked in tamarind flavoured gravy), and the famous shufta (cottage cheese and dry fruit pudding). Along with don’t miss the noon chai, the salted tea, or the famous kahwa (black tea with saffron and almonds).
`1,600 ++ (per person). Till March 20. At Le Jardin, The Oberoi Hotel. For lunch and dinner. Details: 25585858
— Priyadarshini Nandy