Kashmir: Paradise on this Earth (Day 1)


5 days…15 unknown people…Times Passion Kashmir Culinary Trail…with Marryam Reshii

Travelling alone with unknown people was something which I always wanted to explore and thanks to Times Group for providing me this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Agar firdaus bar ru-ye zamin ast, hamin ast o hamin ast o hamin ast” This verse was uttered by Amir Khusrau, the legendary mystic and Persian poet while referring to Kashmir which means “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here” ❤

I insisted for a window seat in the flight on my way to Srinagar to see the beautiful high snow-capped mountains under the crystal blue skies.  Before landing in Srinagar, I observed that the houses there have dark green, orange and red roof tops.

Mountains

On reaching Wagnoo Houseboat on the Dal Lake, a group of beautiful Kashmiri ladies welcomed us by singing folk songs which are usually sung at the time of wedding ceremonies in Kashmir. The welcome ceremony was not yet over, there was small stage set-up in restaurant at Houseboat where Sufi Qawwali (a style of Muslim devotional music) was sung by the Qawwals (singers).

Qawwalli

The sip of Kahwah (traditional drink) and Qawwali blended well to de-stress us. Kahwah is made by boiling green tea leaves with saffron strands, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods and occasionally Kashmiri roses to add a great aroma. Generally, it is served with crushed almonds.  Traditionally, Kahwah is prepared in a brass kettle known as a “Samovar”.

The homemade lunch at Houseboat was enticing which included Haak (leafy vegetable similar to Spinach).  Well I avoid Spinach but I could not stop eating Haak which was just too good. Kashmiri Haak (collard greens) is a daily dish in Kashmir.

Houseboat

Dal Lake in Srinagar is called the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir”.   While we set out in the Shikara (type of wooden boat) on Dal Lake, Marryam Ma’am shared her knowledge about Saffron with us.  Saffron is an expensive spice which costs around INR 250,000 per kg.  It was an amazing experience to see the floating shops on the Dal Lake and the vendors were selling shawls, bangles, souvenirs, etc.

Dal Lake

Shikara ride (Amulya Madhvi)

Saffron

We returned to Houseboat after the Shikara ride and it was our tea time.  It was interesting to see fish tikka and sheep kebab served with masala tea. What a combination!

We went to the market in the evening and I managed to add a lot of weight to my luggage.  Amin-Bin-Khalik is a dry fruit shop which has enormous reputation for its quality products such as saffron, walnuts, honey, almonds, etc.  The shop has a sweet smell of deodar wood which scents the air.

ABK

The Dinner was at Ahdoos which is a 97 year old restaurant.  And by any standards it was a feast! We treated ourselves to Chicken soup prepared in mutton stock, crispy Shaami Kebab (patty of minced meat) Nadroo Yakhni (Lotus root in Yoghurt sauce), Methi Korma (gravy of fenugreek), Mutton Mirchi Korma (spicy gravy), Waza Chicken, Tabak Maaz (Kashmiri-style fried lamb ribs), Mutton Biryani, Haak and Halwa (sweet dish).  I have lost count of calories but I must say that it was worth every bite 🙂

Shaami kebab

Lotus stem

Kashmiris are emotional and really friendly people who want their guests to enjoy food and stay 🙂

Ahdoos also has a confectionery and bakery shop underneath the restaurant which has mouth melting walnut brownies, walnut tarts, cookies, Bakarkhani (puffs), cakes, etc.

Ahdoos Bakery

Bakarkhani

Day 2 started at 5:00 am and I witnessed the Life on the Dal Lake……to be continued….

Cheers – Lubna

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