“Kitchen is considered the heart of a home”, if this statement is in any case not of significance in the 'fast-food' era prevailing over the world, the Koshur kitchen proves to be true to the quote. The kitchen is truly the heart of a Kashmiri home and how can it not be? It has food (the ultimate love of a Kashmiri), warmth, family, and the pleasing aroma of the delicious food cooked in them. This bonding of ours with the kitchen of our home exponentially increases as the temperature dips.
Along with its love for food, Kashmir is also very well-known for its harsh cold winters. Back in the time when the NH1A did not possibly exist and the zig-zag roads curving along the mountains were hard to travel by and were covered under feet of snow, Kashmiris had to suffer as the availability of vegetables was scanty.
This led to the development of sun-drying vegetables and other winter foods. Sun-drying vegetables or hokh syun proved to be a boon from ancient times to the present. As we’re well aware of the fact that most of the Kashmiris possess a luxury at their homes – “The Kitchen Garden”. The produce of these home gardens is carefully dried. The drying technique depends on the vegetable. Even fish are dried and that has its very own method, too! The process of drying isn’t as simple as it sounds.
A varied variety of hokh-syun & winter foods are available and made in Kashmir and some of them are described below:
Dried long and slightly thick strands of bottle gourd whose drying method is similar to that of Wangan Hachi. The bottle gourds are peeled, sliced and then dried in the sun. Al Hachi is mostly cooked with light spices or with mutton.
It is actually dried brinjals/aubergines. The brinjals are split into 4, though the 4 sections are not separated. The sectioned brinjals are hung on a rope which is set up just like a clothesline and dried in the sun. Wangan-Hachi is mostly cooked with Moong Dal or Green Gram. Choki Wangan Hachi (Tamarind flavoured dried brinjals) is also a favourite dish of ours.
Handh or Dandelion greens (Asteraceae) is wild leafy green that is dried in the sun so that this leafy vegetable can be cooked in winters as well. These are cooked with chicken, famously in the house of a new mother, because it is believed to cause heat in the body and thus benefit both mother and newborn.
The feast is called handhbaata. Handh is also known to possess medicinal values such as treating back pain, common cold and chest infections. It’s also known to build the immunity of a person.
Hokhegad (Dry Fish)
Hokhegad is dried fish that is sun-dried in the open air. The fish include Bolinao and other locally available varieties of fish. Just like other dried foods, Hokhegad has a shelf life of several years. This method is cheap and effective. These dried fishes can be found in the market during winter and stay till the month of March-April. It is a source of protein and acts as a source of medicine for patients suffering from asthma. 100gms of dried fish contains about 80% protein with 300 calories
Try this traditional Kashmiri food and let us know in the comment section below!