Kashmir is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever visited in my life and I am pretty sure that this statement is not going to change in my life ahead too. The Kashmir valley is a nature’s basket of life, full of vibrant colours, diversity, fresh air, beautiful mountain ranges and fresh water lakes. The words can’t do justice to describe the beauty of the valley.
The Kashmiri cuisine is also a very special and integral part of the valley’s culture and is a specialised skill and requires a careful preparation. Kashmiri traditional cooks are called “wazwaans”. People perceive that Kashmiri cuisine mainly revolves around meat dishes and is predominantly non vegetarian but there is a vegetarian aspect of this cuisine too.
Some of the popular vegetarian dishes include Dum Aloo (baby potato in fragrant sauce), Modur Pulao (Aromatic rice preparation), Kadam ka Saag (kashmiri sauteed kohlrabi), Rajma goagzi (kidney beans stew with turnip), Khoya Paneer (green peas and fenugreek in rich cream gravy), Khatte Baingan (kashmiri spice tempered bringal) to name a few. Kashmiris use very fragrant and hot spices to flavour their food.
The best and most popular vegetarian dish is “Dum Aloo” or “Dum Olav”. Authentic Kashmiri dum aloo is often served with the creamy and light sweet gravy in most of the restaurants is not authentic recipe. Kashmiri dum aloo is cooked with yoghurt, fennel, ginger powder, tomato paste and while dum cooking it, the gravy is almost absorbed in the potato and the potatoes are coated with spices and little fat and gravy.
The most part to remember while making this delicacy is to prick potato after frying them so that the gravy or the sauce gets absorbed in the potato, makes them spongy and enhances the flavour profile of the potato multiple-folds.
One more small but important aspect about Kashmiri cuisine is the use of ginger powder in almost all the recipes. Due to its geographic location it was difficult in earlier days to transport fresh ginger, so they incorporated dry ginger as an integral part and continued with the recipes till date. In order to colour and spice up the dishes- Kashmiri’s use deggi mirch which is primary used to flavour and make the dishes more vibrant with its beautiful red colour. Kashmiri chili powder is not so high in Scoville unit and is thus not so hot.
Yesterday I made a different variation of this dish and used the prepared dum aloo to make a biryani. The dish came out very good and is a good variation from traditional dishes. To make dum aloo biryani, separately prepare fragrant basmati rice and dum aloo. Then layer combine them in a shallow pan and enhance the aroma by adding mint leaves, cardamom powder, melted butter, garam masala and rose water. Seal the lid with dough and leave it on very slow flame for 10 minutes and allow to stand for another 10 minutes. Then serve hot along with raita.
Kashmiri Dum Aloo
Baby Potato 500 gm
Yoghurt 3/4 cup
Kashmiri chili powder 3 tsp
Fennel seeds 4 tsp
Asafoetida 1/4 tsp
Dried ginger 2 tsp
Coriander powder 1/2 tbsp
Shahi jeera 1/2 tsp
Mawa (khoya) 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Sugar 1 tsp
Cooking oil to deep fry
Cloves 3-6 nos.
Green cardamom 4 nos.
Cinnamon 1/2 nos.
Bay leaves 2-3 nos.
Clarified butter 2 tbsp
Cooking oil 2 tbsp
Wash and scrub baby potato with hands in cold running water.
Boil baby potato in water with some salt until they are half cooked.
Allow the potato to cool down and prick them well with a toothpick to allow the sauce to seep into the potato and absorb the flavours and masala.
Heat oil in a heavy boom pan and deep fry the potato and deep fry them until golden in colour.
When the potatoes are cooked they will float on the surface.
Strain the potato on a tissue paper to absorb excess oil and keep aside.
In a separate bowl combine Kashmiri red chili, dry ginger powder and asafoetida powder in 1/4 cup water to make a chili paste.
Heat ghee in a separate heavy bottom pan and add shahi jeera, cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, fennel seeds, coriander powder and Kashmiri chili paste.
Sauté to splutter the spices and add whisked yoghurt, and sauce till yoghurt starts to boil.
Add 3 cups of water, sugar and salt and stir well to combine and bring to boil.
Add the fried potato and reduce the flame.
Add grated khoya, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, keep stirring to avoid burning the dish.
When the potato absorb the gravy there will be little sauce left in the pan.
Sprinkle some garam masala and serve hot with choice of naan bread or rice.
Note: When the potatoes are simmering in the sauce they become brittle, so take care while stirring it otherwise it will break. Also use medium sized baby potato as they will taste better as compared to very small ones.
Also do not fry the potato on high heat as it will make the potato crispy from outside while the core won’t be cooked properly.
You can add few drops of lemon juice in the end to give a slightly sour taste to the dish. Also adding khoya in the dish is optional.
*Chef Tarun Kapoor,
Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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