Although morels are thought to be the forgotten ingredient in cooking, the fact remains that Indian kitchens have always been great laboratories where some of the most delicious culinary inventions were made with exotic and local ingredients we’ve seldom heard of. Most of us are still oblivious to the names of these ingredients, but sometimes we find out something interesting along the way. 

Morels As Royal Gifts

In Kashmir, there are some local ingredients such as morels that are considered more precious than any exotic produce. They have been around for centuries. The Maharajahs of Kashmir often took morels with them to the palaces of other Mughal kings and gave them as gifts. Today, these morels are exported to other countries such as Japan and Thailand. One very special wild variety of mushroom is called Gucchi. It is not very easily available in the market in the plains or down south. But in Kashmir, gucchi can be sourced from some places. Gucchi mushroom grows during the rainy season. It is essentially a dried morel mushroom. 

While there are so many amazing ingredients that are native to Kashmir such as kalari cheese, turtuk apples, buckthorn — morels are definitely a favourite of chefs who love to explore the hidden secrets of Kashmiri cuisine.

Nowadays, chefs who have travelled across the world have picked up practices such as ‘foraging’ which involves picking up ingredients themselves that they can use in their restaurant kitchen. In India too, these chefs are interested in understanding and creating the rich and decadent flavours which are inspired by morels. They have experimented with seafood, meat and vegetarian food.

As morels are so expensive, they don’t really make an appearance in everyday cooking in Kashmir. It is still considered to be an instrumental ingredient in royal cooking, and as such, morels may be eaten on special occasions such as weddings. Morels are added to gravies such as yakhni to make it richer. Another special dish is called zafrani gucchi matar which is basically morels cooked in a piquant saffron, cashews and tomatoes gravy and combined with peas. Gucchi pulao and gucchi kebabs are also very famous. Gucchi ka shorba is another delicacy one should try. Most of these dishes do make an appearance in high-end restaurants which want to bring a taste of these old recipes to the world.

Photo: Rahul Banik

Most of these decadent dishes are inspired from the Mughal period. In royal Kashmiri cuisine, dishes such as pulao, rogan josh, yakhni, aab gosh and goshtaba are some of the iconic delicacies loved by foodies across the country. While we have heard about the use of aromatic spices such as saffron, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and even dry fruits for that royal touch, we don’t hear very much about the other side of the Mughlai cuisine: the very rare and long-forgotten recipes. However, it is true that these recipes are now making a comeback, thanks to the hard work of chefs in India.