Muzaffarabad takes Kashmir’s culinary ride on shikara

As people enjoyed tea and other items, they also feasted their ears with Kashmiri sufi music which Hassan said would be regularly played, except for the Nimaz timings.

Tariq Naqash
Muzaffarabad, Publish Date: Oct 7 2017 12:22AM | Updated Date: Oct 7 2017 11:27AM
Muzaffarabad takes Kashmir’s culinary ride on shikaraGK Photo

With a penchant for promoting the culture of Kashmir Valley in its separated geographical cousin Muzaffarabad, two engineers have set up an eatery on a portable replica of a shikara at the Upper Adda, the undeclared food street of the Pakistan administered Kashmir capital.

The idea to develop a mini eatery on a dummy of shikara struck architect Kamran Hassan some two months ago, after repeatedly hearing his friends from outside question about the specialty of Muzaffarabad that connected it with the Kashmir Valley. The eatery has been named as Koshar.

“They would ask me that when we visit Muzaffarabad the food we eat and the structures we see are just like the ones we have here in Pakistani cities. So what’s the difference?” says the 39-year old, who has served in Pakistan and abroad after graduating from the prestigious National College of Arts, Lahore.

After making its drawings, Hassan brought material from Lahore and engaged local workers to develop the mini-shikara. In implementation of his novel idea, his peer Khawaja Jamil, an electrical engineer, teamed up with him.

Muzaffarabad’s Upper Adda, once a popular spot for political gatherings, is now home to a number of eateries, specialising in barbecue and other local dishes, apart from a pizza shop and an ice cream parlour. Every evening, their staff places chairs and tables on the road in front of their shops to provide open air dining facility to their customers.

On its inaugural day, Hassan’s shikara offered pink Kashmiri salty tea, goshtaba yakhni and chicken pulao. While tea was offered for free, there was a 40 per cent discount on the remaining two items with already an affordable price.

As people enjoyed tea and other items, they also feasted their ears with Kashmiri sufi music which Hassan said would be regularly played, except for the Nimaz timings.

The price of a cup of Kashmiri tea, prepared with desi milk and served with a topping of crushed almonds and coconuts, is just Rs 30. A big goshtaba in a bowl of Kashmiri yakhni priced Rs 100 and a large plate of chicken pulao with raita and green salad is Rs 110.

Hassan said the shikara would be brought to its base from a nearby parking lot at 5pm daily to remain there till midnight. Chairs and a large centre table would also be placed alongside it for the same duration.

Both engineers plan to develop another shikara of comparatively bigger size, which Hassan said would be permanently placed across the main entrance of City Campus of PaK University, hardly 200 yards away from this site.

“But that will open in the small hours and close at 5pm,” he said.

“And there, we will also offer Harissa at the weekends soon after the onset of winter,” he added.

Harissa is another wintery delight of Kashmir, which so far is offered in the town by one eatery - Lalazar Café – alone at the weekends during winter season.

“God willing we will not stop here. Within a short span of time whole Kashmiri wazwan will be available for the avid customers at reasonable prices,” claimed Hassan.

He expressed the hope that civic bodies and tourism department would encourage them.

“Our purpose is not to mint money by charging exorbitant rates. We just want to give great aesthetic pleasure to the visitors and thus promote our rich Kashmiri culture and traditions,” he said.

Saghir Lone, who was eating Kashmiri pulao with a goshtaba yakhni, praised the taste of both items.

“I am happy they have offered good quality food at a very reasonable price.”

He urged the civic bodies to stop entry of vehicles at the food street to provide a dust free environment to food lovers.