An enduring rista


UNITED IN TASTE Roganjosh   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Rajni’s Kitchen brings authentic flavours of Kashmiri cuisine to Delhi

A wonderful aroma that wafts in from a floor above our flat every now and then stops me in my tracks. I can smell mustard oil and asafoetida, and know that some delicious Kashmiri dish is being cooked by our Kashmiri neighbours.

It’s a cuisine that’s always been close to my heart. I like both Kashmiri Muslim and Hindu food, but I think I enjoy the latter even more than the former. The two kinds of regional food are similar — but also vastly different.

I remember how thrilled I was when Chor Bizarre first opened up in Delhi in Asaf Ali Road eons ago. Since then, of course, several Kashmiri outlets — many of them catering units — have sprung up in the city. And Dilliwallahs are getting to know their gushtaba from their rista, and their nadru from their knol-knol.

And, increasingly, we are discovering the differences between Pandit and Muslim food, too. What gives Kashmiri food its distinctive taste is the tempering in mustard oil of asafoetida and dried ginger, and the use of yoghurt and turmeric. Unlike the Muslim food, there is no garlic in the dishes.

I had a great Kashmir Pandit meal some evenings ago at The Holiday Inn in Mayur Vihar. The coffee shop there — called Café on 3 — had a special Kashmiri food festival, organised by Rajni Jinsi, who I discovered is a great cook. The festival is over, but Jinsi runs her own outfit called Rajni’s Kitchen (Ph Nos: 9899008238 and 9911469649).


Haak   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It was a stupendous meal — and I tried out many of the special dishes of the region, from kabargah (double-cooked lamb rack), fried fish, fried lotus stem patties to roganjosh, gosht yakhni and veth chaman, which is a dish of cottage cheese cooked with Kashmiri red chillies.

What I really loved about the food was that they were all mildly spiced, yet each dish had its own characteristic taste.

Contrary to popular belief, Kashmir food is not always rich. The moong dal that I had, for instance, was delightfully light and delicious. The dal had been cooked in some milk with pieces of radish, which added their own sharp taste to it.

The yakhni, in yoghurt gravy, was smooth, and the Kashmiri chilli-red roganjosh was as pleasing to the eye, as to the palate. I use a lot of Kashmiri red chillies, for they add colour and a certain taste to a dish, but are not red hot. The KP roganjosh relies heavily on hing and does not use garlic, onions or tomatoes. Jinsi’s roganjosh was cooked with some yoghurt, dried ginger powder, fennel powder and some garam masala.

I had thought I would stay away from the vegetables, but my young friend, Chef Suprabhath Roy Chowdhury (F&B director of the hotel), urged me to try out the schochal wangan — eggplant and Kashmiri haak — and I am happy he did. Tempered with dried ginger, some cloves and with the taste of tamarind in it, it was simply out of this world. What was equally delicious was the sweet rice — modur polav — which surprisingly really went well with the meat dishes.

Another great aspect of Kashmiri food is the array of chutneys that come with it. There is a sharp radish chutney, a crunchy walnut one and fragrant one prepared with mint leaves.

Rajni’s Kitchen can cater for 15 people or so. I think she is one of the best cooks I have met in a while, and I hope the Kitchen does roaring business. Let the fires keep burning!

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 11:43:30 AM |

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