Ramadan – the holiest month for Muslims — beside bounties — brings different kind of joy and pleasure for the people of world around. In Kashmir the fervour is similar to other parts of the world. The Ramadan preparations here begin days before it commences.
During this month the culinary habits of Kashmiris go through a major shift. Routine and common dishes are bid an adieu and spicy and karha’i cooking is preferred mostly.
“The taste undergoes a change in this month you cannot eat normal less spicy food,” says Sameena, a homemaker.
There is hardly any household in Kashmir that does not go for non-vegetarian food.
“Vegetables, pulses etc are mostly being cooked in Kashmir during this month, says Ifaat Ali,” a government employee.
Among the most common dishes which become part of the platter includes Keema or minced mutton , Koftas or mutton dumplings, karhai meat or spicy meat cooked instantly in a pan, chicken kebabs, chicken tikka’s etc.
“In my house you won’t find me cooking traditional food in this month. My kids come up with a new demand every day. Veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, spinach etc are a strict no in this month for me,” Sameena adds.
People don’t cook in large quantity like in other months but a dish remains short, crisp and spicy, as Iffat puts it.
Iftaar – fast breaking time remains filled with hustle and bustle. Dastar Khawan – a sheet spread for placing meals – is the most eye catching thing.
Dastar Khawan’s in Ramdhan is the best place for kids, Sameena says.
“You would see kids taking round around Dastar Khawan to check what new has been cooked,” says Jasiya, another homemaker.
Traditionally the Dastar Khawan consists of bowls of dates, glasses of milk, fruits, a dessert plus snacks.
One of the best drinks which make a part of Kashmiri Dastar Khawan is the combination of milk and basil seed or tukmaria, soaked over in water till they swell up – commonly known as Babri’boul traish – it is considered to be very nutritious and good for stomach.
Milk is normally taken with a traditional bread or tczot. In Ramadhan the bread also undergo a change in size, taste and texture.
There are some who love poppy seed sprinkled roti and there are some who love to get their roti’s prepared with an amount of ghee – which is known as ghaw’dar tczot.
Snacks consist of pakoras, cutlets are other things – which are bit novel to our culture.
“We learn recipes from cookery shows and try to prepare them for Iftari,” says Bushra, a girl in her teens.
Once the fast is broke then comes the turn of having a meal – which is followed by prayers and then having tea.
Like every course here also it is concluded by a desert – which includes pherni, a milk pudding prepared by semolina or Halwa.
Sehri – the predawn meal comprises of rice and ends up with taking salty tea with bread.
Apart from home cooking – the markets also offer a great deal of stuff.
Markets after Iftar and prayers are buzzing with people. Special stalls are being erected by shopkeepers and vendors. Different types of delicacies fill the air with mesmerizing aroma – which in turn turns the whole environment vibrant.
Among other delicacies what is being offered lists biryani, momo’s, traditional Kashmir snacks like aloo pakoras etc.
Pherni and kufli stalls and shops are also frequented by people.
There are traditional kulfi makers in Kashmir in the Bohri Kadal area of old city and they do a brisk business in this month.
For people this month is like a reward from God which they say they rejoice to the fullest.