With the closure of highway from past three days and heavy snowfall across Kashmir restricting supply of fresh vegetables and rising prices of eatables, the sale of dried fish and dried vegetables have picked up in the Srinagar city.
Traditionally, Kashmiris mostly had access to these dried commodities, locally known as hugaad and hukhsun, in winters, when snow would envelope whole of Kashmir and there would be no supply of vegetables and other food items from outside.
But, now as the local fresh vegetables as well as abundant supply from outside remains available in the winters, the dried fish and vegetables have become an occasional delicacy cherished in snowbound winters.
Abdul Salam, a dried veggie seller at Maharaji Bazar said that since it snowed and highway got blocked the demand for dried vegetables and fish picked up.
"Consumers are looking for these veggies these days. I have also ordered sufficient stock to meet the demand of customers for next few days. We mostly get its supply from rural areas," he said.
Selling points for these dried veggies and fish also remain the two traditional hotspots of Srinagar city, which are Shahr-e-Khass and at Hari Singh High Street.
A shopkeeper at Nowhatta said that huge demand of dried vegetables these days are making him good earnings.
"The demand has recently gone up. It is because people love to use these dried veggies with meat. The mixture of dried veggies with meat makes the dish tastier," he said.
He added that people prefer to stay indoors during heavy snowfall. "A good number of people stock these dried veggies at home to avoid visiting markets for buying vegetables during snowfall," he said.
The temporary blockade on the Srinagar-Jammu highway due to snowfall is also one of the reasons for consumers reliving a centuries-old tradition in Kashmiri.
"From times immemorial, Kashmiris have been storing dried tomatoes, brinjals, pumpkins, turnips and even fish to be used during the harsh winter months. However, with the availability of fresh vegetables round the year because of transport connectivity with the northern plains through the Jammu-Srinagar highway, locals had almost forgotten this tradition turning it into a occasional winter delicacy," said Ghulam Muhammad of Khayam.
Seconding him, Muhammad Ramzan said that the vegetables in kitchen gardens used to remain under snow. "It is difficult to pluck fresh vegetables from kitchen gardens post snowfall as they remain under accumulated snow. The best way to avoid any shortage of veggies during and post snowfall was to prepare dried vegetables during summers in advance," he said.
Dried fish was also used in abundance during harsh winters. "Elders here say the use of dried fish during winter would prevent colds. Dried fish fried with lots of hot chillies prevent colds during winter," said Abdur Rashid, a smoked fish seller at Lal Chwok.
He informed that sale has been picking from past several weeks as Kashmir witnessed fresh spell of snowfall.
He added that sellers of dried fish are doing brisk business in the city these days.