Rahul Verma finds out that travelling to the Valley for Kashmiri cuisine is totally worth it

When it comes to food, I can travel any distance. So last week I went all the way to Kashmir for some genuine Kashmiri food. Friends of ours were going there for business and pleasure, and we decided to tag along.

Anyway I love Kashmir — and the last time I was there (some 10 years ago) was a veritable feast. This time, too, I was convinced that the trip would soothe my sore urban eyes while exciting my salivary glands.

And, of course, once again the trip turned out to be a gourmet’s delight. We ate in three places — at Ahdoo’s restaurant in downtown Srinagar, at the Royal Springs Golf Course and in the Gurkha houseboat, where we were staying. And every place had something worth writing home about.

Let me first start with Ahdoo’s. When the Valley had downed its shutters, Ahdoo’s for a while was the only place where journalists found a room. I had heard about its famed kitchen those days, but had never been there. This time, we went to Ahdoo’s for dinner on our first day in Srinagar. We ate a whole host of stuff, from rogan josh and dhania korma to mirchi korma and haak. They had run out of tabak maaz, which was a source of disappointment to us.

I think they had run out of dhania korma, too — and had mixed what was left in the kitchen with the yoghurt-based gravy of gushtaba. But the mirchi korma was indeed excellent. The gravy had the right colour, consistency and aroma. It had the flavours of chillies without being hot, and I savoured the gravy and the soft meat pieces with steamed rice. There were five of us, and the bill came to around Rs.2,000.

A young Srinagar resident had urged us to go to a small restaurant called Broadview for a meal. He assured us that the food there was divine, though it had no ambience to speak of. Our problem was that we were almost always busy in the afternoons, and couldn’t find the time to visit Broadview. But the world moves in mysterious ways; we ended up eating the food of Broadview — but in the beautiful environs of the Royal Springs Golf Course. We went to the golf course — a sprawling green expanse in the heart of Srinagar by the boulevard — to meet another common friend. Lunch was ordered in the café, and it turned out that the kitchen had been taken over by Broadview!

They served us a huge meal, consisting of goshtaba, chicken curry, lahabi kabab curry, dal, mixed vegetables, chaman (paneer) curry, rice and rotis. The kabab curry — beaten meat kababs like pasandas in gravy — and the goshtaba were particularly good. The meal came to Rs.750 per head. I suppose the rates are cheaper in the restaurant — but you can’t beat the view from the golf course. Sitting in the glass-cased hall, I could see beautiful rolling meadows, lined with trees.

But I suppose the best meals we had were in the Gurkha houseboat. Every day there was something that warmed my heart — from dhania korma (cooked the right way, with the right ratio of coriander and curd, unlike at Ahdoo’s), kofta curry and fried fish and chips to a simply delicious dish of Kashmiri haak leaves, sautéed with chillies, and another dish of spinach and peas.

My Kashmir trip, as you can tell, was soul-satisfying. I saw the mountains, the lakes, the rivers and the deodar trees. And I ate to my heart’s content.

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