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Celebrating Kashmir’s Cuisine



Celebrating Food from the Valley

Chef Umesh Mattoo and Saloni Rampal Celebrating Kashmir’s Cuisine

Someone famously said,

“Give us lord; a bit of sun’
A bit O’ work,
And a bit O’ fun.
Give us all
In Struggle and sputter
Our daily Bread
And a bit O’ butter.

Bread is one the most important part of food in any culture. Over years bread has transformed into various forms.Indians are not heavy eaters of breads and prefer flat unleavened breads; though the trend is changing, thanks to world becoming a global village.
Personally speaking I am an ardent fan of bread and my taste buds for same continue growing owing to my travel expeditions. Being a Kashmiri Pundit, I feel privileged to savour my taste buds with a wide variety of Kashmiri Breads.

Kandur's Traditional Bakery, Kashmir

Kashmiris are known to enjoy baker’s bread for their breakfast and hence, every Kashmiri colony has one traditional bakery known as ‘Kaandar/ Kandur’. The migration of the community has led to Kandurs spread all across major cities.

Baker’s bread, Kashmir

Kashmiri Bread

In Kashmir, there is a bread for every season. Bread is an integral part of social customs too – engagements, weddings, birth. Long before dawn, hundreds of baker families (Kandurs) in the Valley fire up wood tandoors and start making bread. These breads go well with salty pink tea called Nun chai.
There are many types of traditional breads like Czot/Girda/Roti, Katlam, Kulcha, Lavaas etc.

Nun Chai (Pink Tea) in KashmirNUN CHAI-SALTY PINK TEA

Kahwa is the native hot beverage of Kashmir. This green tea with concoction of cardamom pods, cinnamon barks and saffron and later garnished with crushed almonds is just so perfect for those harsh winters.
It is believed that they originated in the Yarkand valley in Xinjiang Area part of the Kushan Empire during the 1st & 2nd century AD. The beverage is traditionally served in brass vessels called samovars.

Kahwa (Green Tea) in KashmirKAHWA

Winter Food in the Valley- Foreword by Chef Umesh Mattoo

As the winter sets in Kashmir in the month of October, green leafy vegetables are difficult to find. In olden days when the valley would practically be cut off from the rest of the world. The only vegetables that one could spot in the market were potatoes, radish and turnips which could be stored after harvesting.

The first lot of turnips that came into the market in the month of October would have a slight bitter taste. As the weather starts to get cooler and mornings see frosted dew that turns white( in local language was called sur dag paen which means ground has been covered with ash) this helps in turning the turnips sweet and delicious.

Kashmiri Wazwaan offers wide range of dishes with turnips but my personal favourite is Shabdegh, the first dish on the menu. It is prepared in an earthen ware pot over the simmering heat of charcoal with cuts of meat which are high in fat. This delicate dish has the richness of lamb, the flavours of fennel, dry ginger and a sweet mellowed taste of turnips. Tastes best with warm steamed rice.

Winters in Kashmir are severe and with no supplies of green vegetables while in summers vegetables are available in abundance.

Native ladies would dry the vegetables available in summers and store them for winters. Vegetables from Beans to Brinjals, Bottle Gourd to Cauliflower and chilies would be sundried during the summer months and used during winters. With times changing and connectivity improving valley now gets veggies all throughout the year yet Sundried vegetables have now become a delicacy in its own.
The second dish on the menu is sundried vegetables that I love to cook and enjoy them in winter’s eve in New Delhi.

Last but not the least on the platter is Kashmiri Hakh, no meal is complete without Hakh and it is easy and simple to cook. In Kashmir there is a popular saying “ Ae Hakh che kyot zakh n che talun t n che pakhun” (means Oh lovely collard green where were you born; you are so simple to cook no frying and no simmering needed.)

Hakh Bhat (Collardgreen & white steam rice) also signifies the humble nature of Kashmiris who pray to god for the humble morsel of Hakh & Bhat thatis essential for living a modest life.

The last recipe on the menu is Shufta (kind of Phirni) for dessert.

Kashmiri Delights from Kitchen of Chef Umesh Mattoo

Shabdegh (Turnip with lamb)

Recipe 1: Shabdegh (Turnip with lamb)


Lamb from Shoulders
Breast 1 kgs
Neck fatty Inwards 100 gms
Water 2 litres
Cloves 5nos.
Cinnamon sticks 3 Pcs.
Big Cardamom 5nos.
Turmeric Powder 2 Tsp.
Compounded Asafoetida Pinch
Poppy Seeds Paste 30 gms.
Ginger Powder ½ Tsp.
Fennel Seeds Powder 2 Tbsp.
Salt 10gms.
Turnips 1 .5kg.
Mustard Oil 250ml.


• This dish is usually prepared in earthen ware pots; where meat is allowed to simmer overnight with spices and then quartered turnips are added in the morning.
• However we can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker.
• In a pot of 4 litres capacity add lamb and innards.
• Add then add two litres of water, cloves, cinnamon sticks, black cardamom, turmeric powder, salt and asafoetida.
• Bring to boil and let it simmer till the lamb is about 80% cooked.
• Grind poppy seeds to a fine paste.
• Add poppy seeds paste, ginger powder,and fennel seeds powder to the cooking pot with meat and let it simmer for another 15minutes.
• Cut the turnips into quarters and fry in medium hot oil without colouring.
• Add the fried turnips to the cooking meat till the turnips gets soaked with the mutton stock but do not get mashed.
• Temper with mustard oil and serve hot with plain rice.

One can serve in copper bowls and plates, like it’s served in Kashmir.

Hoakh Siun or Sun Dried Vegetables

Recipe 2. Hoakh Siun or Sun Dried Vegetables


Sun Dried Bottle Gourd (Lauki) 100gms.
Sun Dried Eggplant/Brinjals 100gms.
Sun Dried Tomatoes 100gms.
Mustard Oil 100ml.
Compounded Asafoetida 5gms.
(Dissolved in warm water about 50 ml)
Salt 1 tsp.
Red Chili Powder 2 tsp.
Ginger Powder ½ tsp.
Fennel Powder 2 tbsp.
Water ½ litre.


• Soak sundried lauki and brinjals in hot water for about 30minutes.
• Wash the soaked vegetable well to ensure no sand or dirt is attached to it.
• Now boil the vegetable with little salt till the vegetables are soft and tender. Drain and squeeze the water out of the vegetables.
• Wash the sundried tomatoes in running water and soak in about 250 ml. warm water.
• Heat mustard oil in a pot to smoke point to remove the off flavour and froth subsides and cool.
• Add dissolved asafoetida to the medium hot oil and cook till all the water evaporates for about 2 minute.
• Add boiled dried lauki and brinjals.
• Then fry till light brown in colour for about 5 minutes.
• Add soaked tomatoes and cook till oil separates out. Add salt and rest of the spices cook for 30 seconds.
• Add water and simmer for 3o minutes. Serve hot

Hakh (Collard Greens)

Recipe 3. Hakh (Collard Greens)


Hakh (Collard Greens) 1 kg.
Mustard oil ½ cup
Asafoetida a pinch
Cloves 4 nos.
Dry or Fresh
Green chilies 4nos.
Water 2 cups.
Salt 1tsp.
Var Masala 20gms


• Pick leaves of Hakh, discard thick stem. (However some hakh varieties called katch hakh the thick stems are used and are relished.)
• Wash Hakh in plenty of water and let the water drain out on a strainer basket.
• Heat mustard oil to the smoke point, till all the froth subsides and is odorless and let it cool to medium hot.
• Add Asafoetida and stir fry.
• Add cloves and cook till crackle.
• Add slit green chilies or green chilies which have been dried.
• Add water and bring it to boil.
• Add salt.
• Add the washed Hakh (collard greens) to boiling and turn with the lid till all the hakh is immersed in water and has become limp. Cook on high heat for about 30 minutes.
• Finish with var masala and serve hot

Recipe Inputs: Chef Umesh Mattoo
Editor: Saloni Kilam Rampal

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Culture on your Palate.




Food is lens to one’s country’s culture. It is said very often that to know a place better, one must try its cuisine.

Phuket, one of the popular islands of Thailand was once primarily known to be a commercial hub that eventually led to invasion of multiple cultures and hence richness in its cuisine.

I was invited for yet another culinary extravaganza at Old Town Phuket  by A Chef Tours. Though I am pro at reviewing food but then I do have some dietary limitations. What impressed me the most was the design planning of the tour that takes care of your dietary requests and limitations.

Pema Juanjenkit was our group’s Culinary Guide. Just like Cook brings soul to a recipe, she brings in soul to the tours she conducts. She is a complete walking human library with so much information to offer about food and culture both. I have reviewed so many food tours but what’s really amazing is to feel her passion, energy and knowledge about history of place, culture and the food. The tour indeed is worth every penny spent as not only do you get to experience the dishes but those small details about ingredients, origin, history itself makes it worth indulging in.

Our Group had these two lovely ladies from Sydney, mom daughter duo and they were such good sport throughout the tour. This one tour taught me so much about people and culture that I am glad I did take this invitation.

Coming to the Food what makes this foodie experience interesting is the choice of places and the people behind the show. We had some interactive sessions with Restaurateur’s and chefs. Stories not just about food but about culture too.

The tour is said to be for about 4 hours but Pema tends to evaluate the interest levels of her group and is generous enough in letting the group enjoy each session. Our Tour turned out to be 6 hours session. Not that I am complaining.

What Does A Chef Tour Phuket Old Town Tour Offers.

The Phuketian food tour starts from Wet market in old town, one can see varied variety of fruits and vegetables, meat and local delicacies. Great food and contentment on people’s face’s selling their produce is humbling.

Next on the card was Backstreet Burmese Tea House serving some rich Burmese Beef Curry, Wood Fired nans, samosas and tea. Oh! that reminds me of our Desi Nan, samosa back home.

Learning about Zee Kwet (Owl Pairs) in Myanmar culture was so enriching.

Knom Jee nam Ya Ba – Bowl with herbal Kanom Jeen Noodles with vegetable Jungle curry was another interesting meal. Flavours of mild herbs and greens so well blended that it indeed is a relaxing and an energising bowl.

Phuketian Sticky Rice- This is not just the local speciality but has a great history behind it. Rice is so well marinated with meat and nuts that each bite lets you relish the flavours so well.

Hokkein Noodles –These silky noodles are so different than the regular noodles. Such gastronomy tours are indeed a must they open you up to so many unknown facts about food.

3rd Generation Sweets

After long day of spice around it was time to treat our sweet tooth with Thai Sweets prepared by 3rd generation family. It was a delight to watch this 3rd generation lady speak such profoundly about her passion of preparing these sweets. Variety on her table for us to taste. And what made this tasting session memorable was the dollop of her generosity showered on us when she handed us our favourite picks as giveaways. Such heart-warming hospitality is often hard to find.

Fresh Exotic Juices

These are juice’s being sold right in middle of the Old town green market. Fresh fruits around to choose from and the lady quickly churns them to offer you thirst quenchers.

Handmade Spring Rolls & Satay Chicken

Unlike Spring Rolls that we are accustomed too. It was a sight to see them live preparing the roll sheets and then the fillings.  The inside filling is of Thai greens and meat can be pork, chicken to one’s preference with dab of sauces to add flavours.

Satay Chicken; Popular dish of Thailand usually served with peanut sauce. The Chicken is tender and soft with well mix of spices.

Iced Dessert: Quite similar to Indian Ice Gola, the only difference is this iced dessert has pieces of traditional sweets at bottom. Simple and Sweet looking Lady busy making icy dessert from her small cart in one of the by lanes in Phuket Old Town is definitely a must try.

Crispy Roti & Southern Coffee

The last meal for tasting and the most interesting of the all  was a giant mug of frothy Southern Coffee & Crispy Roti at Arun, a local Muslim Restaurant.  The action is in watching the way coffee is made don’t forget to go to the kitchen and watch how it is made.

Coffees at this place are mind blowing. Must Try.

The place is also known for some amazing Crispy Roti served with beef curry.

This food tour was not just about the dishes that you will savour walking down the alleys of Old Town but witnessing history on roads, wall murals , and a  short visit to Blue Elephant Cooking School which was the surprise element for our over enthusiastic group.

I would rate 4/5 stars for this tour and 0.5 for Pema Extra Efforts  to make this tour an eye popping experience. Oops! Apologies… Effort Nah! Passion Yeah. Pema really loves doing what she does and she is awesome at that.

Must Do A Chef Tours- Phuket Old Town Food Tour. Book Now.

Review also available on  TripAdvisor. Follow  Lady Gypsy Sal @Tripadvisor

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Mumbai Secret Street Food; A Gastronomic Orgasm




Foodie TravelerSometimes I think, it’s a boon to be a foodie traveller. I mean one gets to taste and relish a platter full of gastronomic delights from around the world. One such foodie tour by A Chefs Tour took me into by lanes of Mumbai gastronomy.

Mumbai popularly known for Indian Cinema is also famous for its street food gluttony. This city offers a concoction of various cuisines and their renditions are simply mouth-watering.

I am no different to city’s food delights but let me tell you what amazes me about Mumbai Street food is the culinary talent and illusion that they create with  food.  Mumbai’s Food is nothing but a sheer food orgasm.

I was invited by A Chef Tours, a company that believes essentially in “Taste to recommend” for a culinary Mumbai Street Food Tour. And I have to say this on records that I am glad I did this tour.  They offer various Food Tours to foodies, tourists and people who love to experience the world gastronomy at places they travel to.

What’s best about A chef Tours is that their team not only researches on the choice of food that would cut across all communities but also work on small details like weather during the tour- how to keep their clients hydrated if required; mode of transport and most important the selection of places to eat.

One of my observations about Food of any city is that there are plenty of places promoting regional tastes and flavours  but there are very less places where one gets to relish the authenticity and the heritage of food both. And A Chef tours has got their hands on just the right cords. So a big thumbs up for that.

This experience with A chef Tours in Mumbai leaves me super excited for my upcoming tours in Thailand with them.   

So here’s my review on “Mumbai Secret Street Eats”

As reviewed on Trip Advisor

Shri Saraswathi Samaj Thank you God for the Food we Eat.

Mumbai is definitely a food lover’s paradise. With a platter of local flavours from the diverse cultures that dwells in this city. Mumbai street food is indeed a gastronomical orgasm one must indulge in. 

The Mumbai CityI am a Mumbai resident for over 6 years now and as a food blogger have tried no. of joints, street food offerings in Mumbai but I take this opportunity to confess that the Mumbai City Food Tour by “A Chef’s Tour” was simply outstanding.

Shailesh - Food Tour GuideLady Gypsy Sal with Shailesh –Food Tour Guide – A Chefs Tour

Shailesh the food tour guide is warm, knows the nuances of the city and food as well.

Sancha Ice cream at Bhendi BazaarAt Taj Mahal HandMade Sancha Icecream outlet at Bhendi Bazaar

The selection of Food was amazing and so well laid. A total of about 12-13 delicacies. Though all were simply amazing. But here are my best picks; Sticky tamarind, Sweet Paan (betel leaf); Tawakkal Kebabs, Surmai Fry Fish, & Taj Mahal Handmade Sancha Icecream.

Mumbai's Secret Street FoodTo taste about 12 dishes in 3 hours across south Mumbai is an incredible planning; especially for the traffic that we survive 365 days a year.

Shailesh ensures one is not tired and dehydrated but enjoys food and the city stories as well. His knowledge about the right mix of dishes and the choice of places offering the same is excellent.

Shailesh comes out as one of those human library that keeps you engaged and engrossed with climax that is yet to come. Must Try #MumbaiStreetEats by #achefstours

You can book your tours on

Mumbai Secret Street Eats Tour

  • 4-hour guided walk through 3 distinct areas of Mumbai
  • A ton of tastings at some of Mumbai’s oldest eateries
  • Learn about the history and culture of Indian cuisine
  • Great photo opportunities
  • Refreshing Indian drinks and bottled water
  • Fully licensed English speaking (foodie) guide
  • Limited to just 8 exclusive guests each day

Group Size: 1-8 People

Duration: 16h- 20h 30

Menu- 12-13 Tasting

Price: USD $55 per person


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Eat Your Greens – National Spinach Day




I’m Strong to the finich, cause I eats my spinach. I am Popeye the Sailor Man!
(From theme song of Popeye the Sailor Man).

Age old cartoon Popeye sailor man  gained huge popularity for munching Spinach way back in 1929 to amass bulging muscles.

Research and facts of Spinach state that spinach has nitrates that are energy puffers and help muscles stay active.

Spinach is inbred plant of Persia (Modern day Iran) was cultivated some 2000 years. It got introduced in China in the 7th century and till date it’s popularly known as “the Persian Green” in China, brought to Europe in 12th century and then was promoted in North America in 1806.

West & Northeast part of the world are high on consumption of Spinach. Spinach also has found its way into Asian kitchens.

On eve of National Spinach Day 26th March, Dr. Sarika Nair, well known Nutritionist & Dietitian from Mumbai, tells us why Spinach should be a part of our dietary intake.

High Powered Nutritional & health facts about spinach

Popeye loves spinach and we love what it does to Popeye! Right?

Everyone knows that green leafy vegetables are healthy and spinach is one of the most popular leafy vegetables. It is available most of the time throughout the year and it has a taste that blends well with anything, be it rice, roti, pizza, eggs, and salads anything.

Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse. It is high in niacin and zinc, pigments like beta carotene, fibre, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamine, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. It is also rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. This humble leafy vegetable helps you in many ways.

  • It improves blood glucose levels.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Improves bone health.
  • Keeps the digestive tract healthy.
  • Improves iron levels.
  • Promotes weight loss.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer.
  • Promotes healthy cardiovascular health.
  • Healthy skin and hair.

Dt. Sarika Nair
Dt. Sarika Nair

Founder of Slim & Happy is an awardee of “The Most Promising Dietician in Mumbai” at International Healthcare awards 2017.

Pack more leafy goodness into your daily diets. For tailor-made diet plans and information on nutrition.


Chef Umesh Mattoo
Celebrating Greens on National Spinach Day, we bring you healthy recipes from the Kitchen of Celebrity Chef Umesh Mattoo.

Venue & Kitchen Partners: Mirasol Resorts, Nani Daman, UT of Daman & Diu

1. Recipe –Apple Spinach Lime & Honey Health Drink


Chef Umesh Mattoo's Recipe: Apple Spinach Lime & Honey Health Drink

2. Recipe – Spinach, Paneer & Corn Bhujia


Spinach, Paneer & Corn Bhujia

3. Pratish Tandel, MD, Mirasol Resort tasting Healthy “Apple Spinach lime & Honey Drink                 by Chef Umesh Mattoo


How to Celebrate National Spinach Day.

One can celebrate National Spinach day in many ways. Simply include lots of spinach in your daily diet today. And not just today ensure that Spinach should be ideally included in your diet daily in some or the other form, if not daily then minimum thrice a week. One can eat it with salads, in soups, omelettes or even shakes & smoothies. Spinach based beverages have become drinking fodder for lot of health conscious people. Its mild flavour, low in calories, high on protein makes it ideal healthy alternative against sugar based drinks. A lesser known fact about spinach is that it is a mild laxative. So say bye to constipation with this super food!

Do make children aware about benefits of Spinach, an interesting way to do that is watch Popeye cartoon with them and encourage them to eat Spinach in their daily diets.

Hope you enjoyed forgotten facts about Spinach. Thanks for reading the post. Do share your Spinach day stories with us on social media #Spinachday

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