Tourism deptt brings Kashmiri traditional recipe to tourists’ doorsteps at Nehru Park

by Faisul Yaseen

Srinagar, Dec 09: Ali Muhammad, a Kashmiri chef, Saturday went back to preparing a recipe he used to prepare two-decades back and left the connoisseurs licking their fingers.

Ali, a resident of Aishmuqam, who works as a chef for the Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), had prepared the popular Kashmiri winter delicacy, harissa.

His exercise was part of the Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) Harisa Festival, which was inaugurated Saturdaymorning at Nehru Park inside the Dal Lake.

“I used to prepare harisa for our customers two-decades ago but then we stopped,” an apprehensive Ali said fearing that he might have lost the touch of preparing the recipe well.

However, he was overjoyed on seeing the look on the faces of those who turned up to taste the recipe and was blushing when someone pointed out how the food lovers were licking their fingers.

“Consuming harissa helps keep the body warm and is a preferred brunch for winters but no advisable to have in the summers,” Ali said.

A large number of connoisseurs had turned up to taste the harissa inside Dal Lake and they got to do it in traditional Kashmiri style.

Sitting on Kashmiri rags on raised flooring inside the Nehru Park restaurant, the connoisseurs got to taste the delicacy while overlooking the scenic Dal Lake.

As Ali served them hot harissa with traditional Kashmiri bread, another JKTDC chef, Muhammad Altaf served them hot Kashmiri pink salt tea from a Samovar.

Kashmiri harissa along with multi-course Kashmiri wazwan are most popular among the Kashmiri cuisine.

Preparing Kashmiri harissa is labourious as it takes around 12 hours to cook and one has to wait a further 12 hours overnight kept before consuming it in the brunch.

The Kashmiri Chefs serving Herisa and Nun Chai at a Restaurant at Nehru Park

However, the result is totally worth the wait.

For the food and book lovers, the festival was a double treat.

After tasting the delicacy, they got an opportunity to browse through the books and buy their favourite one at Gulshan Book Shop.

Speaking at the inauguration of the harissa festival, Director Tourism, Mahmood Ahmad Shah said, “Harisa is our traditional and age-old recipe, which is liked by locals mostly during the winters.”

He said Nehru Park restaurant provides an opportunity for locals and tourists staying in houseboats and hotels to taste the local recipe.

“This will not only promote tourism but also local food and culture,” Shah said.

He said for promoting Kashmir as a winter tourism destination, the Tourism department was organising weekly festivals and the harissa festival was fourth such festival.

Kashmiri chef serving Nun Chai in Samavar in a Restaurant at Nehru Park

“The aim was to promote Kashmiri traditional cuisine in the tourism hub and there is too much negativity in the media about Kashmir,” Shah said. “One can usually have harissa in downtown but we tried to bring it to the tourists staying in the houseboats and hotels here in this ambience inside the Dal Lake.”

As Shah was busy talking to a bunch of television channels, Ali was busy serving harissa.

He had prepared harissa for at least 400 people and after the hecticSaturday with food lovers coming in droves, Ali is ready for another hecticSunday.