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  India   All India  08 Jan 2018  Kashmir’s winter speciality ‘harrisa’ breaches boundaries

Kashmir’s winter speciality ‘harrisa’ breaches boundaries

THE ASIAN AGE. | YUSUF JAMEEL
Published : Jan 8, 2018, 6:40 am IST
Updated : Jan 8, 2018, 6:40 am IST

People in the Valley relish their favourite winter breakfast, cooked overnight, that keeps their bodies warm throughout the day.

A professional cook serves the traditional Kashmiri harrisa breakfast in Srinagar.
 A professional cook serves the traditional Kashmiri harrisa breakfast in Srinagar.

Srinagar: The Kashmir Valley is reeling under freezing temperatures for the past few weeks — a usual December-February phenomenon — prompting people to make compatible changes in  the food menus .When the temperatures plummet, extra calories are required to humidify the air one that one breathes and check any involuntary shivering.

Some of the dishes that people consume during these months include Rowangan ha’tchi (dried tomatoes.), Wangan ha’tchi (dried brinjals), Alla ha’tchi (peeled, sliced and dried bottle gourd) and Gogji Aara (dried turnips), among others. Similar dishes made of meat, spices, dried fish called Hokhegada and Farri (smoked fish) too become an integral part of the Kashmiri diet. Harrisa is one of the favourite breakfasts of winter of any Kashmiri.

The J&K Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), which is organising “Harrisa Festival” to give an experience of Kashmiri traditional cuisine to people of Jammu and tourists, is planning to take it to other states. "We are planning to take harissa to other states by organising similar fests," its MD Anjum Gupta said.

Beginning from December 22, the first 40 days are called the chilla kalan, the next 20 days the chilla khurd and the last 10 days the chilla bachi. During this period, the chilly wind causes the moisture in the vapour to water to freeze pointing to intense cold that is Kath Kosh. It is when every drop of water freezes and, if there has already been a snowfall, icicles looking like aquamarine rods embellish the caves of the roofs and even, though occasionally, the water vapour in the breath freezes on the moustache.

Generally, the first snowfall during Christmas tide when one sees low skies and mountains shrouded in clouds. But this year, while the upper reaches received the season's first snowfall a couple of weeks ago, the plains were lashed only by rains.

The weatherman has forecast another spell of snowfall and rains at this weekend.

The first snowfall is an occasion of merriment in the Valley. When one sends his neighbour or friend or relative a sample of the first snow, the other person is bound by custom to throw a sumptuous feast,  which could nothing but be harrisa.

During this time, fathers send delicious dishes of the Kashmiri cuisine wazwaan to their newly-married daughters.

Harrisa, a traditionally prepared delicacy, keeps body warm whole day. It is made of mutton, water,   salt, cardamom, garlic, fennel and cinnamon are added to the meat, which is cooked, deboned and then slowly stir cooked till it acquires a smooth paste form. It is removed from heat and the bones are taken out from the meat.

Then a heavy bottomed utensil is filled halfway with water and the rice added to it, while stirring continues to prevent any lumps from being formed. In fact, the slow stirring is the essence of the dish and is done manually till date.

Before being served hot with traditional tandoori flat bread or tender kandar tsoat, the harrisa is tempered with onion rings or shallots called praan and hot ghee, butter or simply vegetable oil.

At harrisa outlets called Harrisa Waan in local jargon and which are opened shortly before the start of winter across the Valley particularly summer capital Srinagar, kebabs are also served with the cuisine.

At these outlets, harrisa is cooked in huge ovens and kept overnight to let the flavours develop and served to customers early next morning.

 The scene is very beautiful and attractive — enhanced by the crackling sound of hot oil, simmering over the scrupulously prepared harissa.

Before placing the plateful of harrisa in front of a customer, a tender seekh kebab is put on the top of it and also a kandar tsoat is offered to him. The quantity of the dish is determined by one’s appetite or/and affordability. Eating the dish is in itself a charming experience. (see photographs).

 However, harrisa is eaten occasionally and not daily. Traditionally, the dish would be prepared mostly by professional cooks Harrisa Gear (Goar for singular) and served at their outlets. For past couple of decades, the trend of cooking it at home has increased.

“But that has not affected our business at all. Being great eaters, more and more people are becoming fond of harrisa,” said Aazad Ahmed Butt, a Harrisa Goar of Shahar-e-Khas (downtown Srinagar).

He added, “Since cooking demands a lot of patience and is time-consuming, many people still prefer to get it from harrisa outlets instead of preparing the delicacy at home.”

With rise in its demand, many outlets have come up across Srinagar and in some towns of the state.

Tags: kashmir valley