Kashmir is known for its conflicts: this is a region administered by no fewer than three different nations! The Republic of India controls the state of Jammu and Kashmir; the territories known as Northern Areas and Azad Jammu and Kashmir are administered by Pakistan; and the region of Aksai Chin is controlled by China. There are also all sorts of disputed bits too.
A big part of the reason for all this international kerfuffle is water – a precious resource in this part of the world. Turns out that the Kashmiri region is the start of many a watercourse; rivers which begin in one country flow through another. And in that Kashmir relies heavily on agriculture, water is crucial to everyone’s economy.
The region’s staple crop is rice, and it’s this which forms the chief food of its residents. The region’s signature dish is roghan ghosht (rogan josh) – an aromatic lamb curry which has put Kashmir on the culinary map. Roghan translates to ‘clarified butter’ in Persian and Urdu, while juš means to ‘stew’ or ‘braise’, and that’s just what you get in this delicious dish: a fusion of braised lamb, delectable spices (including ginger, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, and Kashmiri chillies), yoghurt and onions – all served with a side of rice and naan bread.
Another popular rice dish is modur pulao, a sweet concoction made from a base of basmati rice and sugar. Handfuls of spices (chiefly the local saffron, for which Kashmir is famous the world over), nuts and dry fruits fried in ghee are added to the pot, and the whole is usually cooked either in cream or milk, and then garnished with almonds and cashews to create a sweet, sustaining meal that’s incredibly rich and filling.
There’s quite a bit of wheat on the menu up here: thenthuk is a soup which mixes noodles and what flour dough with chunks of mutton; sheermal is a saffron-flavoured flatbread that’s crispy, sweet and melt-in-the-mouth; and khambir is a local pan bread that’s a favourite breakfast snack, and often served with the local butter tea.