Trying out different cuisines is an exciting part of travelling. Almost every state or city has its trademark or staple food.
Srinagar is predominantly a Muslim city. So when you land up there be sure that you’ll be greeted with good non-vegetarian food like kebabs. But I was surprised to find genuinely good bakeries at almost every street. Regal Chowk had some good bakeries and restaurants. Some more popular restaurants near Regal Chowk are Coffee Arabica and Mughal Darbar. Lal chowk also had many places to eat out. There are many restaurants along Boulevard Lane. It is where most tourists dine. But people looking for more ethnic food can venture to the old city (also called downtown).
Kashmir’s fruits are known all over India. Its succulent apples are even exported. Though you get many fresh fruits, they are not inexpensive. Kashmir’s cherries are sweet and looked very fresh.
Kashmiris are heavy tea drinkers. They drink tea 2-3 times a day. Tea has altogether a new meaning and interpretation here. The famed Kashmiri tea is known as noon chai or sheer chai. Noon in their language means salt and they used salt instead of sugar. Kashmiri usually drink this type of tea for breakfast along with Kashmiri bread, smeared with butter or jam. It is prepared from a special tea leaf, milk, salt and little bit of bicarbonate soda. The tea is pinkish in color and some of them attribute this to the tea leaf but I presume it is the mixture of everything that gives it that color. In the afternoon, they drink normal tea and call it Lipton chai (from the Lipton brand of tea).
Another popular tea served mostly in functions and weddings goes back to the 14th century and is known as kawa. It is a concoction of green tea, saffron, spices, almonds and walnuts. It has a refreshing taste and believed to have medicinal value. It can be taken anytime, even after a heavy meal.
Jammu and Kashmir is known for dry fruits like walnuts and almonds. You’ll find lots of such stores everywhere in Srinagar. Good walnuts or almonds starts from Rs.300 per kg and have a varying range. Akhrot, as walnut is called, grows extensively in Kashmir. Another priced product is kesar, grown mostly at Pampore near Srinagar. It is sold in small packages and is quite expensive.
Many writers have noted the meat-eating culture of Kashmiris. If you tend to explore street food and are adventurous, you’ll end up eating a lot of mutton. Indians tend to stick to their accustomed food even while travelling. But a different attitude to food can make your travel even more enriching.