Chef Rahul Wali On Traditional Flavours Of Kashmiri Food

Apart from snow-capped mountains, green valleys, and vibrant culture, Kashmiri is also known for its flavourful cuisine and aromatic spices. Chef Rahul Wali, who grew up in Srinagar, Pune, and Mumbai crafted a special menu for guests attending a food festival in Delhi so that they enjoy the melange of Kashmiri spices and flavours. “Kashmiri cuisine has a unique blend of complex spices that contribute to the distinct flavours and vibrant colours of dishes,” added Chef Wali.

Kheer at Roseate House is where the Kashmiri Cuisine Food Festival is celebrating the dishes from the valley. Chef Gagandeep Singh Bedi, director of culinary at the luxury hospitality chain in India, said that masses connect Kashmiri cuisine with wazwan. “There is a prominent presence of Kashmiri Pandits who have a cuisine of their own. No one is better at promoting that cuisine than the master of it,” he said while referring to Chef Wali.

He said that people are not yet aware of the delectables from Kashmiri cuisine. It needs to be explored more. He added, "The food is not complex at all, cooked with a few spices and curd as the base. It makes it stand out as one can taste the flavours of star ingredients.

Special Menu With Kashmiri Dishes

Chef Wali curated a special menu for guests that featured Kashmiri dishes you have never heard of along with some popular options. Each course of meal had sufficient options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians featuring dishes from the valleys that are often described as ‘Heaven on Earth’. 

The appetiser section had nadur kebabs (made of lotus stems and potatoes), buzith chaaman (cottage cheese marinated in Kashmiri spices, and warimuth keba (smoked black turtle beans). In the non-vegetarian section, you could taste kabargah (stewed mutton ribs), buzith gaad (grilled fish marinated in Kashmiri spices), and kokur kanti (chicken pieces cooked in aromatic spices).

For the main course, one could savour rogan josh, palak nadur, dum aloo, and kokur yakhni. They could also taste haakh (cooked collard greens), chaaman qaliya (paneer curry), mujj gaad (white radish and fish cooked in aromatic spices), and shyeem (minced mutton cooked in yoghurt-based gravy). 

Chef Wali ensures that people feel at home because of this he added hawan dal, rajma, subz pulao, and saffron rice to the menu. For desserts, the guests had apple kheer, saffron phirni, and kahwa, a special flavoured tea from Kashmir. 

Speaking about the special menu, the chef said, “Every dish is home-cooked. We eat these dishes daily, that’s the beauty of it.” Hawan dal from the menu was closest to Chef Wali’s heart as it stirred up nostalgia. “We used to have hawan dal for every festival, especially during puja and family gatherings.”i

Appealing Colours And Flavours Of Kashmiri Cuisine

If you have ever seen Kashmiri dishes closely, you must have observed that most dishes boast hues of yellow and red. Speaking about the vibrancy of Kashmiri cuisine, Chef Wali said, “What makes these colours particularly captivating is that they are derived entirely from natural ingredients, without the addition of food colour.” 

He shared that the yellow colour comes from turmeric, while the red hue is added by mixing Kashmiri red chilli powder. Another important aspect of Kashmiri cuisine is the use of yoghurt as the base to add creamy texture and white colour to the dish. “This not only balances out the spiciness but also adds a cooling element to the palate,” said Chef Wali.

Since the chef is a believer in ‘food is science, medicine, art, and history,’ he believes that Kashmiri spices are adaptable in winter. Many people think that every dish from the valley will have saffron and dry fruits, but the chef disagrees. He said that Kashmiri cuisine has five spices that form its backbone. Apart from them, mustard oil, meat, vegetables, yoghurt, and walnuts add flavour to any dish.