Pahalgam was our first destination and from Gulmarg, the next settlement for us, was Srinagar. Being a street food enthusiast, I was waiting to experience the kashmiri street food. Now, if not anything else, I am blessed with friends like Anindya S Basu and Tanya Rigzin (from Srinagar), who did told me about the street food scenario. And, Tanya and chef Raina actually were after my life to go to a certain khao gully. It was worth the visit, but, before that, let me talk about few other lovely items I’ve experienced …
Biryani in Kashmir ????? Really ?
We were roaming around in Mughal Garden, the majestic and meticulously maintained garden beside the Dal Lake. Now, while coming out, I could find something interesting. It was a kart selling Kashmiri Chicken Biryani. Though I was ecstatic, I held my calmness and asked the person to open the lid of his deg. Yes, indeed it was. The rice was orange colored and chicken was kinda dry, but it was biryani. It was 70/- for half portion and though no potato (obviously), two types of accompaniments were served along with it. It was served with Dahi ke chutney and spicy Mooli achhar. The rice was nicely fragrant with saffron and the overall experience was pretty good. I again had the biryani in Khayam Chowk, but the product was different. And, somehow, I loved this humble roadside Zafar Bhai more.
Malai Ice cream for the sweet tooth
Just beside this biryani seller, sat this gentleman selling the malai icecream. And, I always tend to get astonished by the sampling power of these street-side sellers. He completely ignored me and spoke to my wife. The next thing I know is, he’s preparing a serving for her at 30/-. Now, it was by, no means, a small serving. 2 scoops of ice cream topped with malai, strawberry syrup and harchey’s chocolate syrup. Junior was ecstatic with it and so was my wife. And, who am I lesser mortal to not abide by them and the kashmiri street food variety …
Masala-lavasa and halwa poori near Hazratbal Darga Sharif
We had been to Hazrat Bal on our day city tour in Srinagar. But sadly, the place was getting a makeover. So, the only place interesting for me was two street vendors outside. One of them was selling the famed Halwa-Poori and the other was the Masala lavasa vendor. The poori is more like a large, big sized, flaky parantha and it’s supposed to be had with the sweet halwa. They sell it as a package and I took the minimum package at 10/-.
Lavasa is one of the popular household breads in Kashmir. It’s basically a thin, flatbread, made with maida. And this Masala Lavasa vendor wrapped some chickpea around it with chutney and served it to us. The package came at 10/- a piece. Taste-wise, it was a bit bland, but good for an one-time experience.
And the shikara time
For any self-respectable tourist, in the afternoon, it had to be the leisurely shikara ride. Now, while floating, we heard somebody calling us- “Saab, kebab khayenge ? ” and we were stunned. Md Ashraf sells various types of meat (chicken, mutton, trout and paneer) to the tourists inside the Dal Lake. He rows his own shikara and the griddle is conveniently placed there. Assortments are dahi ke chutney, mooli ke achaar and spicy mayo. I won’t say, the taste was something heavenly and even I doubt the fish to be Malli and not Trout. But, fresh fish char-grilled and served to you while you’re floating on a river, is something extraordinary and should be enjoyed. This amount in the pic, was sold at 100/- a plate.
Finally the khao gully
I was almost getting scolded by Tanya as to why I had not visited the Khayam chowk, supposedly the khao gully of Srinagar and on the last evening, I was hell bound to go there. Ask any auto driver and he’ll take you. From our hotel (Jetty no 14, Dal Lake), it took 70/- to reach the place.
Now, it’s a not-so-narrow lane having kebab shops on both sides of the street. First things first. I only found mutton and chicken in Kashmir and no beef kebab. So, when I found the beef kebab shop, secluded in one corner, that was my first spot. It was 30/- a sheekh and a piece of lavasa and chutney and achaar came as accompaniments. He sold beef meat sheekh and beef magaz. I went for the meat. The meat was pretty well done and in the chilled weather, the smell was intoxicating. “Ek sheekh dena bhaiya…” my evening started.
My next stop was this place called Muneer Cafeteria. again, the criteria was to follow the locals. And, thus came this place. I’ve checked the menu card carefully and ordered only Sheekh Kebab. But what came, slightly starred me. The sheekh kebab was around 12″ long and pretty think, paired with 4 types of chutneys and 2 pcs of lavasa. the place was full of locals and Kashmiri was the only language to be heard. People were enjoying their kebabs and there I was measuring my sheekh (pun intended). However, with experience, comes responsibility and I finished the whole stuff and paying 160/-, moved towards my next prey.
Now, while I was getting confused, I again smelled a biryani. And like some drug-addict, I was forced into this shop called New Delhi Darbar. And, all I ordered was 1/2 plate chicken biryani. It was 70/-. Now, let me confess, I’m a biryani addict. But, never I’ve tasted a biryani cooked with green mango pickle. Somehow, it added an amazing zing in the dish and behold, fried chicken pieces were getting added to the pre-cooked rice. I’m not sure, whether we can call it a biryani or pulao, but what I can confirm that it tasted great. And, probably, is all that matters.
I had come alone and junior threatened me that if I don’t get kebab for him, he’ll kill me. And, like any son fearing papa, I went to Shahi Durbar. Supposedly, that was the second oldest kebab shop in that vicinity, as per the owner. And at around 930 PM, it was bursting with customers. Apart from kebabs, they served fried chickens (which we call as chicken Changhezi here in Kolkata) and chicken Changhezi (which we call as chicken kali mirch in Kolkata).
Kebabs were getting roasted, chicken pcs getting double fried and the chicken changhezi releasing its spicy, hot gravy on the tawa. It was THE perfect street food shop in that lane. 3 pcs of tangri came at 200/- and they took extra care of preparing the drumsticks in tandoor and finishing on a charcoal griddle. And, after tasting them at home, I can safely vouch, somebody visiting that place, shouldn’t miss this shop.
Word of caution … Khayam Chowk wakes up in the afternoon and goes back to sleep by 10- 1030 PM. Hence, reach there early. I was super full and couldn’t shove another single item. so, bakery had to be another expedition. And, as they say, getting some freshly baked bakarkhani from a kashmiri bakery needs another post.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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