Kashmir is known for its rich heritage, culture and most importantly, its grand cuisine. Talking about food, the first thing that comes to mind is the Kashmiri Wazwan – a grand feast which is cherished by non vegetarians all across the globe. However, the vegetarians need not despair! The valley of Rich Cuisines has a little something for every foodie out there. The Kashmiri Hokh Syun, which literally translates to Dried Foods are no lesser in taste or flavor. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. The Valley of Kashmir is known for its harsh and gelid winters and it often happens that the valley is cut off from the rest of the world when it snows. In order to sustain the difficulties associated with this beautiful, yet tough season, the people of Kashmir sun-dry their vegetables during peak summers and store them for use during times when the valley stands completely aloof! In the modern times, when there is no such thing as being cut off, the people of Kashmir still hold on to this dried cuisine as part of their tradition and culture!
Here are some of the most popular and cherished dried foods which you must try atleast once your lifetime!
Locally known as Bamchoont Hache, dried quince apple is one of the most loved and cherished of the Kashmiri Hokh Syun. Special care is taken in selecting the best quality quince apples which are then sun dried under hygienic conditions to perfection. Drying out the water content increases the intensity of texture & flavor. With some yogurt poured over cooked dried quince, it makes a mouth watering Kashmiri delicacy you surely don’t want to miss out!
Locally known as Hokhe Gad or Hoggard, the dried fish is a savory winter delicacy of Kashmir, fried in mustard oil and cooked in a variety of condiments. As suggested by old grandmothers from the Valley, even the worst colds and flu can be cured with a hot dish of “Hokhe Gad”. The fish are dried to perfection under hygienic conditions during summers by placing them first in a light cotton cloth (to protect them from predators) and then placing them directly under the heat of the sun. The fish is stocked for use in the bitter cold of the winter when heavy snowfall cuts out the valley from the rest of the world.
Of the Kashmiri Hokh Syun, sun dried turnips make a drool-worthy dish which is a delight to any vegetarian’s taste buds! Traditionally, fresh turnips were cut into round pieces, hollowed at their centre and hung into necklaces in attics or balconies where the heat of the sun would dry them to perfection. Dried turnips help boost the immune system and regulate blood pressure. Often cooked with tomatoes, meat or cottage cheese, the Gogji Aare’ is a mouth watering Kashmiri delicacy which is loved by all Kashmiris and Non Kashmiris alike!
Come September and the natively Kashmiri tomatoes make their way into the local markets. As soon as they do, people rush to bring them home, cut them into pieces and dry them over their rooftops, a dedicated person turning them upside down from time to time and keeping away predators. Once ready, these can be stored for months at a stretch and a magical dish conjured out of them.
Kashmiris have mastered the art of drying out your favorite veggies, spinach being one among them! Fresh spinach is spread out on large sheets known as Dastarkhuans and sun dried till it is devoid of all moisture. Once dried, it can be used round the year! Dried spinach is as good and delicious as the fresh one!
The sun dried eggplant, locally known as “Wangun” is fried and cooked with tamarind to conjure an appetizing dish which is favorited by one and all! When cooked properly, the seemingly ugly looking veggie turns into the most beautiful swan you could ever eye.
The most loved and cherished of all Kashmiri Dried Foods is the distinctly flavored delicacy called Al Hach. You could never really imagine how flavorsome a bottle gourd could turn out to be when dried and cooked properly! This magical dish can be cooked with meat or with chickpeas, depending upon one’s taste!