Kashmir's unexplored Veg Food!

It needs some value addition, a little promotion
Kashmir's unexplored Veg Food!
Pic: Author

Bam Tchoonth (Quince Apple) is a kind of wild apple that is used as a vegetable in Kashmir. This fruit is mostly cooked with mutton or paneer (cheese) across Kashmir. Even the sun-dried quince looks amazing and one can prepare jams, jellies, puddings from it. Recently I got a chance to take sun-dried quince to Bhuj Kutch in Gujarat. I not only made jam (murraba) from this fruit during a food festival but I prepared halwa (dessert) from it using desi ghee and dry fruits. It tasted amazing when I served it with the milk cream.

Making quince-apple jam also called Murrab e Behee is a common practice in Kashmir which is prescribed by Hakeems to people suffering from chronic bronchitis and cough, but to make halwa or dessert was explored by me during the event. When people gave positive comments about the dish, I realized that we are missing value addition, promotion and publicity of our rich Kashmiri fruits and vegetables. In fact the Pran & Nadru fried rice we prepared at the event was also amazing and people relished eating it with Rumah Dal (Ware Muth), Akhroot Chetni and Red chilly & Onion Chetni with curd.

Majority of people living across India have a wrong notion about the food habits of Kashmiri people. They perceive that Kashmiri people only eat meat like other Indian Muslims. The reason for this is massive promotion and publicity given to our non vegetarian food, especially Kashmiri Wazwan. The non availability of traditional Kashmiri vegetarian food in our restaurants is also one of the reasons for this misconception. A large number of tourists from Indian states visiting Kashmir eat vegetarian food, but unfortunately they don’t get authentic Kashmiri vegetarian food. Kashmiri restaurant owners have only relied on Punjabi veg food like Aaloo Paratha, Mix Veg, Dal Makhani and this has destroyed our own Kashmiri culture. On the other hand we Kashmiris eat lot of vegetables and pulses in our homes but we never have promoted them in our restaurants.

Among Kashmiri vegetarian food we have only been able to provide Rajma , Dum Aaloo or Nader Yakhi ( Lotus Stem cooked in yogurt) to tourists that too in some selected restaurants.

Promoting Kashmiri food in Kutch

For almost 8 years I have been trying my best to explore Kashmiri veg food in view of its great market across the country. As a food enthusiast and cook, I have been trying to explore this food by collaborating with experts, and organizations so that our food is explored properly. In fact I have written about this in the past as well.

Recently I got an opportunity to present our vegetarian food to a larger audience in Bhuj Kutch, Gujarat, between Jan 19th to 23rd. I was invited there by a local NGO Sahjeevan who works with Pastoralist communities. Through this host organization I was told that a grant cultural event is also being held in the same campus for 5 days where food stalls from various states would be set up. I agreed to set up a stall with my team of 4 people. I asked my friend Mehrajudin Andrabi and three more guys Mushtaq , Rayees and Raashed to accompany me. Mehraj alias Major is a good cook and trekking guide from Khanshaib Budgam, who, along with his colleague Irshad Rasool, runs a small adventure tour organization namely Kashmir Hikes and Treks. Major accompanies trekking groups to Pir Panjaal mountains in summers and he along with other members of the team have been associated with our organization RTI Movement for more than a decade now.

A grand cultural event was organized by the Living and Learning Design Center (LLDC) which is located on 9 acres of land in the outskirts of Bhuj city at Ajrakhpur village. This center is a pioneering effort of Shrujan trust to preserve , promote and revitalize the glorious craft heritage of Kutch Gujarat. We were given a space by the organizers who provided us with all the logistical support on the ground. There were around 10 more food stalls set up by people from various states. I am indebted to their employees especially Kuntal Bhai, Nikita Behan and Deepali for their great support.

Forest Food Festival

The idea of making traditional food from forest herbs and vegetables struck my mind in summer of 2015 when I accompanied Mr O P Sharma the then Additional Principal Chief Conservator Forests (APCCF) to Basant Wodder forests near Doodh Pathri in Budgam. We visited the area in connection with commemorating the World Environment Day on June 5th 2015. A group of students from a local private school and their teachers were also accompanying us. When Mr Sharma spoke about various forest herbs and edible green leafy vegetables like Hand, Krech, Obej, Pamb Haakh, Lissa , mushrooms , I suggested organising a small food festival wherein we can cook and serve the same leafy forest vegetables and mushrooms to people. The great thing about Mr O P Sharma is that he is very much familiar with the forest flora and fauna. In August 2015 O P Sharma was posted as Director Environment, Ecology & Remote Sensing J&K Govt and then decided to organise a forest food festival. Initially we decided to hold the event at Yusmarg to see if the programme could be held there, but due to some logistical issues. Finally we decided to organise this event in Srinagar at Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) Rajbagh. On Oct 4th 2015 my dream came true and the first ever Forest Food Festival was organised at Srinagar by Department of Environment Ecology and Remote Sensing in association with Centre for Conservation of Culture and Heritage (CCCH) Kashmir and Institute of Hotel Management -IHM Srinagar. Faculty of IHM Srinagar especially Chef Yaseen prepared lots of dishes from forest herbs and mushrooms including other Kashmiri vegetables like Makai Halwa, Hand Paratha, Maval Cookies, Soi Soup etc. Before these dishes were prepared we had several brainstorming sessions at IHM about the food items , soups , desserts that could be prepared. OP Sharma , Nusrat Jahanara Chairperson Centre for Conservation of Culture and Heritage (CCCH) a small NGO working on promotion of forest and Kashmiri veg food , late Ramzan Khan Sahib from Gurez, Chef Yaseen including this author shared many ideas for a week or so. Ramzan sahib had brought lots of herbs from Gurez and he played a great role in holding that event. The then Forest Minister Bali Baghat inaugurated the festival. From 2015 to 2019 I kept writing on the subject and in July 2019 we again organised an event at Yusmarg with Mr O P Sharma. After that an event was held in Gurez also.

Dishes served in Kutch

Before leaving for Gujarat on January 18th 2023, we did a lot of shopping in Bohri Kadal area of old city and purchased some exotic dry vegetables , spices and lentils (daals) like Rajma, Rumah , Pran (Shallots) , Ale-Hachhe (sun dried bottle gourd) , Wangan Hachhe (sun dried Brinjal), Ruwangan Hachee, Bam Tchoonth sundried, almonds, walnuts etc. During the food festival at Kutch we served around one dozen Kashmiri vegetarian dishes like Rumah Dal, Rajma Dal, Moong Dal Wangen Hcahe, Rumah Masala, Rajma Salad/ Chat, Bam Tchhonth Halwa, Gogee Haakh, Nader Pakoda, Nader & Pran Fried Rice, Makai Halwa with desi ghee and walnuts, almonds, Ferni, Akhrot Chetni, Red Chilli Chetni, Saffron Kahwa,


When I was invited for the food festival in Kutch around December end, I couldn’t imagine it would be adored and appreciated by people. The way people would assemble around our food stall during lunch and dinner time made me believe that our vegetarian food is also so rich, tasty and appetizing. The only thing we miss is its value addition , promotion and publicity. It is the duty of the Govt, hoteliers and cultural organisations to address these issues.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is a Srinagar based writer and activist. He is an Acumen fellow and Managing Trustee of Centre for Conservation of Culture and Heritage (CCCH)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK. 

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