The Kashmir Valley is home to the age-old practice of eating smoked fish. Unfortunately though, this tradition is fast disappearing.
Apart from the breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains and crystal clear waters of Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir is also home to a diverse culinary landscape that has often evaded the view of food enthusiasts. While yakhnis, biryanis and rogan josh are a part of culinary cultures in other parts of the country too, just as they are in Kashmir, there are certain dishes that are exclusive to the Valley, but are now fading away. One of them is the smoked fish delicacy, called Faer’ie. This dry fish is usually prepared and eaten during the chilly cold weather and has been a practice since centuries.
Preparations for this dish begin long before the winter season commences. Kashmiris start stacking narre gasse i.e. wild grass outside their homes to let them dry. This is the first step of the smoked fish recipe. After the fresh fish is caught from the river, brought home and cleaned, it is sun-dried on the stack of grass for several hours before the grass is set on fire. The smoked fish is then cleaned again and cooked along with vegetables like haakh (collard greens) and tomatoes. A spice mixture is prepared which is rubbed off onto the smoked fish and this delicacy is then savoured by the locals with steamed rice.
It is believed that the fish should be consumed fresh, as and when it is prepared because reheating can cause the flavours to be ruined. However, this traditional practice is fading away from the culinary scene, as the demand and availability of packaged food takes over the valley. The younger generation is getting less involved in this process, raising concerns that it might go completely extinct from Kashmiri kitchens in near future.
What the future holds in store for this Kashmiri smoked Faer’ie is something only time will tell, but you can always relish the other Kashmiri specialties right? Here are some fish dishes from the Valley that you ought to try:
1. Gaad’T Tamatar
This is a special Kashmiri fish curry made with tonnes of tomatoes. Gaad refers to fish in Kashmiri and Tamatar is of course tomatoes that give this fiery curry its name. The thick curry is seasoned with garlic powder, fennel powder and asafoetida and is best eaten with steamed rice. The fish is cooked in mustard oil before being dunked into this luscious red curry and is often a part of festive preparations.
2. Muj Gaad
Another delicious Kashmiri fish preparation is this Muj Gaad. Made with rohu fish, it is fried along with diced radish in mustard oil before being dunked into a thin and spicy gravy. The tangy and flavourful curry is relished with a bowl of steamed rice and is a popular dish in Kashmiri Pandit households.
3. Gaadh Haak
Haak or Haakh is a special type of vegetable produced in Kashmir that is often paired with several dishes or eaten by itself. These are collard greens with bright green leaves that are often used in the preparation of a rich and nutritious fish curry.