Combing through The Hindu earlier this month, I came across a piece on the origin of street food. The article advocated ,Street food to have originated in the ancient Greek times, when trade flourished between countries and merchant trade ships used to care huge loads of wheat and other staples. The author claimed that street food was a luxury then, enjoyed only by the rich.
Sitting with some friends the next day a casual conversation led to the whole group thinking, whether the street food was something that could actually be relished in a place like Kashmir?
The next day a bunch of us took a trip round the university campus to find out the truth.
For us except the barbeques popularly known as ‘TUJJE’ in and around boulevard road and the Khayyam area nothing counted as authentic street food. And since Hazratbal shrine is a constant attraction to disciples and grocery shoppers alike, what better place to start!
Those of us who constantly keep visiting the area, it might be a pretty normal sight to see all the hustle. But if one stops for a while and looks around there is almost everything on offer.
Food, clothing, artifacts, furniture, religious books, water chestnuts, fried street food of all kinds , pickles and other indigenous forms of some varieties of bread etc.
So we started looking. And here is what we found!
Long before French fries we had our own crispier and colorful fries. This oil dripping delicacy can put any cholesterol rich fast food to shame.
The side variant for people who do not prefer potatoes or naduru (nelumbo) to the fries is the same thing but with peas at the core. Its ‘Tyil karre’ for less adventurous people.
TOBRUK HALWE PORATH
MASALE TZHOT & KRUHUN MASALE
This cheeto look alike is actually sweet and gooey.It kinda melts in your mouth if complemented with kehwa or tea.
If you like fish. Eat it!
LASSI AND TZCHOCWOAR
Step aside diet coke, Lassi is here with the side kick Tczhochwoar.
Pie whats that, in your face. WEST.
KHAND E GAZIR & CHAN CAHBEEL
No “Khand e Gazir” is not just a slang it’s a real thing.
This grenade looking think is actually gonna leave a blast of taste in your mouth.
HOME MADE BUTTER/ KASHUR THAEN
Yeah! That’s butter.
The color and the water in your mouth says it all.
Because barbeque is too mainstream.
KULFI/MATKE ICE CREAM
And when you are done with all the above , end it with this!
The people selling these food items mostly hail from the adjoining areas of in and around Dachigam area. We talked to a lot of people associated with the business who said they were not regulars .They just sold their food items on Fridays and otherwise were casual laborers. It was not the only source of income for them, they explained.
One such vendor Ali Mohammad Bhat explained that he makes more money than what he does ,during a normal day at work as a casual labourer by selling pickles.
But the business is stiff on week days and that on Fridays and a good day when a religious festival is underway he might make up to a 1000 bucks on profit. But he adds selling pickle for a living won’t support his 5 daughters and a son when most of the land he owns is damaged by rains and recent cloud bursts.
Similarly a Shangram seller who takes pride in calling himself Abdul Ahad Chacha and has been in the business for more than 40 years told us that on Fridays he sells his delicacy of a homemade corn flour balls dipped in sugar sauce and sun dried in and around Hazratbal shrine while on weekdays he sells the same in Batamaloo area.
While some of the indigenous street foods have completely vanished from the streets .Thanks, to the new fast food culture of McDonalds and Pizza huts , but on conversations’ with elders one can easily get information If not a taste of the vanished street foods.
Having said that, while the street food is still a lot cheaper in Kashmir but the standard and quality gap most importantly hygiene is an important drawback that puts a shade on the industry.
Comparing prices might not be an accurate measure to differentiate the indigenous street food industry and fast food giants because of the sheer scale of production and marketing strategies, but since its affordable and accessible the street food industry will always have an edge over the fast food sharks .All it needs is a little makeover and it’s set to go.
And next time in the area go visit and make an addition to the menus that you all taste in fast food joints nowadays.
PHOTOS BY : TAYZEEM RASOOL.