In the winter of 2018, Tasiya Hameed, a young woman from Srinagar’s Batamaloo area, wanted to relish Kashmiri pulao (fried basmati garnished with dry fruits)-a signature dish cooked by indigenous Kashmiri Wazwan chefs usually on weddings- to warm up the ambience.
The excitement, on the contrary, somewhat froze in the winter chill, and the young girl’s taste buds felt bland as soon as she came across the recipes by the so-called experts on the Internet.
A typical Kashmiri wazwan specialty, the pulao recipe was being dictated by non-Kashmiri chefs that didn’t make any sense to Tasiya as they say the best pizza is only found in Italy. Kashmir cuisine, too, tastes the best when cooked by the indigenous chefs.
“There were a plethora of videos and articles on the recipe of Kashmiri pulao but none of them taught the ethnic and authentic dish. I was disheartened to see the preparation of Kashmiri dishes being taught by people, who didn’t have any knowhow of our food,” Tasiya recalled while talking to Greater Kashmir.
The young girl, who had just tied the knot at the time to embark on the new journey in her life, at once, set out on a mission altogether-to preserve Kashmir’s indigenous food culture- by creating the culinary YouTube channel ‘Kashmir Food Fusion’.
“I discussed the idea of starting a food YouTube channel with my husband and luckily he gave his nod without a second thought,” she said.
Ever since, ‘Kashmir Food Fusion’ has evolved as the favourite destination for food buffs when it comes to Kashmiri Wazwan. The culinary channel has garnered nearly 1.5 lakh subscribers within such a relatively short period of time.
The channel is particularly emerging as a hot favourite among the newlywed brides, novices in cooking, but eager to impress their in-laws.
Be it the inaugural ‘methi maaz’ or the protagonist ‘Gushtaba’, neo-brides of Kashmir can now hold their heads high thanks to Kashmir Food Fusion.
“I keep receiving the gratitude messages from the newly-wed brides and their stories of how my channel assisted them in creating their ‘first impression’ before the very eyes of their in-laws,” 28-year-old Tasiya said.
Before creating the food channel, Tasiya made sure that the recipes of the Kashmir specialties that go on the platform are authentic.
For that, she approached her family chef, Mohammad Ayub to learn the old school method of cooking typical Kashmir cuisine.
“Before I could start my channel, I needed to learn the original methods myself, so I decided to try the pulao’ recipe first because that’s where it all began. I learned the whole method from Ayub and was amazed at the result. I had never thought that I would be able to cook pulao just like the Waza does,” Tasiya said.
To further hone her culinary skills Tasiya took further guidance from Ayub for almost every Wazwan course.
“I wanted to make sure that the cuisines I prepare are indistinguishable from those cooked by the wazas, because I wanted to preserve the food culture and identity of Kashmir,” she said.
Tasiya said the recipes shared by outsiders “lack the ‘Kashmiri touch’ and I didn’t want people to taste our food without the essence of Kashmir in it.”
Though she had started the channel with the sole aim to preserve the local food culture, Tasiya said the amazing response from young and old both within and outside Kashmir motivated her even more in her endeavor.
Her family equally supported her in her endeavour. “In this case, I have been very lucky. My mother-in-law has always been very supportive. If I get a call while I am cooking, she has my back and makes sure that the cooking isn’t spoiled,” Tasiya said.
Not to talk of her family, Kashmiris especially youth living outside, too have turned into the young YouTuber’s extended family thanks to the social media platform and the food connection.
“I receive feedback through text and pictures from young and old people, thanking me for helping them to taste the food of their homeland while being away from the valley,” a confident Tasiya said.
For Tasiya, food is something that is related to humans very deeply and connects us with each other and this is what inspires her even more to serve indigenous Kashmir cuisine, albeit virtually.
“I felt it, when an elderly man, who had visited Kashmir in 1947, texted me to show his gratitude.
“I have had Rista (meatballs cooked in spicy gravy) on my visit to Kashmir in 1947 and now I am having it again through your channel. It made me happy,” the visitor wrote.
Tasiya has started a winter special series on her channel teaching the winter culinary of Kashmir predominantly Kashmiri Harissa, Pharri (smoked fish) and various dried vegetables even as more specialties are in the offing.