The Valley of Rich Cuisines as it is called, people of Kashmir have always taken pride in their ability to conjure royal feasts out of simple ingredients. From royal fete of Wazwan to routine dishes cooked in every home, the Kashmiris have mastered and maintained the knack of adding a distinct flavor to their food, which cannot be matched by any other cuisine in the world. When we hear of Kashmiri kitchen ingredients or spices, the popular saffron flashes our mind. But there is much more to it than just Saffron. Spices which are simple, yet unheard of blend together in perfect harmony to impart that uniquely Kashmiri flavor which just cannot be put into words!
Here are some savory and aromatic Kashmiri spices used by the womenfolk of the vale to cook up magical feasts effortlessly!
Also known as rattan jyot or Mawal, the Cockscomb flower is a beautiful red and looks like the head on a rooster. Hence the name! The plant is used for ornamentation and makes a spectacular sight while in your garden. This beautiful looking flower possesses the ability to make your dish look equally delectable and been used as a traditional ingredient In Kashmiri cuisine to impart a deep red color to the signature Wazwan dish – The RoganJosh. This unique spice in its whole or powdered form is easy to use and adds a fiery flavor to any delicacy. It is boiled in hot water which is then poured over the dish as a last and final ingredient.
Popularly known as Ver, the Kashmiri Masala Tikki is a combination of aromatic and fresh Kashmiri spices, put together in the form of a cake with a hole in the middle. The spice cakes are put into a garland and sun-dried, their aroma being one to kill for! When devoid of moisture, these can be stored for future use. These concoctions of Kashmiri spices have a unique flavor about them which cannot be achieved by the individual use of ground or whole spice. Chunks of the Ver are added by Kashmiri women to enhance the flavor of their curries. The classic Ver is more than a spice – it is an aromatic extension to your culinary skills!
Nurtured in the very bosom of Mother Nature comes the purest of salts available on planet earth. Also known as ‘White Gold’, the rock salt is prettily pink and is composed of 84 vital minerals essential to the human body. It takes a total of 250 million years for Mother Nature to conjure this precious salt from its lap far away from the world of impurities and adulterations. Mined and washed by hand, this salt has a taste as unforgettable as its health benefits.
Exotic, premium and elite, Saffron is a spice to be reckoned with! Known mostly for its culinary use, this stranded spice is grown in the fields of Pampore. The pinch of Kashmiri Saffron imparts a subtle yellowish golden hue, a distinct flavor and an appetizing aroma to any dish it is added to. Hence it is used in a whole range of Kashmiri dishes ranging from the royal Wazwan to the sweet Ras Malai or Kehwa as a gesture of grandiose in cooking!
Locally known as “Marchwaagun”, the Kashmiri Red Chili is the best ingredient to flavor your routine dishes. It has a rich vine color, a hot and spicy flavor and an ability to redden any dish it is added to. Walk into any Kashmiri home in peak summers and you would be fascinated to see hundreds of Red Chilis spread over a large sheet known as Dastarkhuan left under the sun to dry. Once dried, these are either used as they are or powdered. Zesty and exotic, these chillis are a must have for your kitchen!
Known to grow wild in Gurez, the Kashmiri Shahi Zeera also grows well in the Srinagar Airport (a surprising location to cultivate a spice), from where locals collect it and sell it in the markets. The spice has a nutty and peppery taste about it which enhances your culinary skills like the normal average zeera cannot!
Locally known as Praan, the Kashmiri Shallots are an excellent (tastier and healthier) substitute to routine onions! They offer an interesting culinary flavor to foods, besides boosting your immune system, heart and diabetic health! Add as a condiment to your party dishes and relish its exotic flavors.