It is always a delight to try authentic flavours and the Chef’s cultural experiences adds to the gastronomic experience. Chef Kaul is a gem who has been cooking Kashmiri Pandit food all her life. She began her culinary journey by submitting recipes to various publications and cooking at parties hosted for friend. Chef Kaul has been exclusively associated with ITC group since 2010 and has hosted innumerable Pandit Cuisine pop-ups at ITC properties across the country.
Chef Kaul has spent over two decades in Hyderabad, and calls it her second home. She’s back here and hosting ‘Koshur Saal’ until July 29th. It’s a Kashmiri Pandit cuisine pop-up at Deccan Pavilion. More than hundred different recipes will be served during the festival. The menu is decided only a day prior, depending on the produce she manages to procure. While Chef Kaul has brought along many key spices and condiments, ITC is ensuring locally sourced ingredients and fresh produce flown in each day. I was invited for a preview dinner, a day prior. Chef Kaul had curated a small menu to give us a glimpse of what patrons can expect.
Kashmiri food has traditionally been dominated by meat. And predictably both of my favourites were the lamb preparations. Kabargah, is the Pandit version of Tabak Maaz. Mutton ribs are simmered in saffron and milk for hours and then seared on a hot pan. Kabargah is simmered on low heat for a longer duration and then fried very quickly, just long enough to allow a slender, crisp outer layer to form while keeping the meat soft. Whereas, the slightly elastic texture of Tabak Maaz is its distinguishing factor. The second lamb dish a meaty minced-meat kofta served in a rich gravy that’s supremely enjoyable with steamed rice was part of the mains served.
Fish, especially Trout is a regular feature in a Kashmiri meal. I had Gaader Pakorey – fish fillet dipped in a light batter, mildly spiced with a salt and chilly rub. Besides the strikingly red yet mild Kashmiri Chilli, dried fennel powder, walnut, almond, and apricot are the commonly used flavouring ingredients.
Chicken has made a recent appearance in Pandit meals. Kokur Kanti is a popular appetiser where herb marinated boneless chicken cubes is pan-fried. Unlike the Muslim version, Pandit version abstains from onions & garlic and that’s a major differentiator. Pandit food also steer clear of other signature ingredients of Wazwan like pran (shallot) and mawal (cockscomb flower). On the other hand, asafoetida is one ingredient that you’d find only in Pandit households. “Food in Muslim households has a higher spice quotient while the Pandit cuisine is more subtle and allows the meat or the key ingredient to truly shine”, explained Chef Kaul. The only dish that made an exception and included onions was the Zameduodh Kokur featuring a Yakhni-like curd gravy.
Most Wazwan dishes are non-vegetarian; Pandits serve an equally distributed vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. Chef Kaul tries best to keep it that way as well .Paneer, which is referred to as Chaman in Kashmir, is a common ingredient used, it stands out due to its tender texture. This was evident in both the Chaman Pakorey and Tamatar Chaman.
Kashmir is blessed with a wide range of produce and turnip, lotus stem, and haak are some of the most used ingredients. Earlier in the meal, she surprised us with Green Apple fritters, distinctive ingredients and beautiful sweet and sour notes.
Kashmiri recipes often demand tremendous patience and are laborious to execute. Fake the majestic Kashmiri Dum Aloo for instance.The potatoes are pricked painstakingly to ensure that the masala is able to permeate well They’re simmered with a myriad of whole spices at a low heat and cooked till they’re almost falling apart. Chef Kaul’s husband, Mr. S J Kaul, explained that a perfect Kashmiri Aloo Dum is the one where a potato you should be able to observe the same colour on the inside as on the outside.
Chef Kaul insisted the preview was just a fraction of what the cuisine has to offer. But it rightly justifies the regard for the cuisine by almost everyone who has been fortunate enough to taste it. Chef Kaul is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts and proponents of Pandit cuisine and ‘Koshur Saal’ is both enjoyable and enlightening.