Delhi’s Most Authentic Kashmiri Kitchens

Delhi’s Most Authentic Kashmiri Kitchens

Before you embark on your Kashmiri food journey, it’s important we set something straight right away. There are two very distinct cuisines in the Kashmir Valley: Muslim and Pandit. The Wazwan, a type of food offered at banquets, is typical of the Muslims of Kashmir. It’s a carnivore’s dream, but vegetarians may find it limiting with the one usual option, tomato paneer. The Pandits typically call cooks from the Kishtwar region of Jammu to create dishes that are much milder. The cuisine includes no beef or pork, but does offer chicken, mutton, lamb and vegetarian options. Kashmiri restaurants in Delhi share one thread in common, nostalgia.

They carve spaces out for young patrons seeking a connection with their homeland, and encourage the old to revel in fond memories. Almost every restaurant we shared below takes its ambience very seriously, encouraging a warm energy that’s reminiscent of eating at a loved one’s home. Dining at a Kashmiri restaurant is an experience more significant than just shoving food down your bellies, it’s a chance to see Kashmir outside its grim politics.

As under-appreciated as Wazwaan food remains in the culinary scheme of things both in India and across the world, Ahad Sons Foods is the kind of place that has managed to make the crossover into well-loved with seeming ease. Still, this isn’t a story of overnight success. The establishment can be traced back to its forefather, Abdul Aziz Khan from many generations before who came all the way from Samarkand Afghanistan to exhibit his culinary skills in Kashmir. And his flavours have been convincing enough to ensure that generations of his lineage after him continued to share this magic with hungry patrons.

Fast forward to three decades later and Khan’s determination to promote Wazwaan delicacies is still going strong. Their menu now includes around ten perfected Wazwaan preparations in single servings, which you can get at their commisary in Masjid Moth. Bear in mind that there’s no seating in here, but in all their years of service they’ve found a way around that loophole. They now supply their rich recipes to other restaurants and deliver to parties, not to mention their famed canned wazwan food, which is also available online at One can only wonder what their forefather might think of that?

What you’re getting: Marchwagan Korma and Seekh Kebabs. We know they sound familiar, but they certainly don’t taste it. In fact, we’re willing to bet both these dishes will obliterate any other memories of Korma and Seekh Kebabs you might have.

Cost: Heaven for two at Rs. 750

Comfortably snug between New and Old Delhi, Chor Bizarre has found balance even while being something of an anomaly in the world of Kashmiri fare. As one of the only places that serves food from both the Kashmiri Muslims and Pundits’ heritage, it only becomes unsurprising when you walk into a place that looks part-attic, part-gallery and ‘quite mad.’ Clearly an unusual, almost kitschy setting for the kind of food they serve, things only continue to fall into place after this.

The establishment has been around since 1990, and has always been revered for consistently serving up truly authentic flavours since its inception. It led to their being the first restaurant to win an ISO 9002 recognition in the country. Many agree that the quality of food has declined over the years, however, it’s still iconic enough in its décor and ambience to keep people coming back.

What you’re getting: Patrons recommend the Goshtaba, a meatball so juicy it sets off a pavlovian response the moment you cut into it. We also believe the Tabak Maaz, Rista and Mutton Roganjosh are worthy of a mention.

Cost: Two can tango at Rs. 1200, singletons can stuff their faces at Rs. 699+ tax at the buffet.

Khyen Chyen is a home away from home for many of Delhi’s Kashmiri Muslims, with their delectable waza offerings. Between its warm, friendly service, and the distinctly familial feel it wraps you up in from the moment you enter, it isn’t hard to see why either. The traditional copper samavars (vessels) lined up on their tables meets the aroma of Izband, a traditional Kashmiri incense with wild rue seeds to seal the deal for those share their culture, and for those who don’t, it’s as authentic an introduction to the stories behind the cuisine as you could have hoped for. They insist that you wash your hands just like a Kashmiri wedding and only then will the food be served; while the owner pampers his guests like they are his own blood and ensures that you receive everything you could ever want from a meal. The food itself is not oily, offering the right balance that allows you to be filled but not bloated.

What you’re getting: Khyen Chyen offers a mean mutton seekh kebab, served with a dip and marinated in spices, which melts in your mouth immediately upon contact. You can wash those down with some Zafraan Qahwa, a delicious Kashmiri tea served in a samavar with cinnamon and mild flavour of saffron. Patrons also recommend the lahabdaar kebabs, described as being ‘blissful’ union between a rishta and mastch (kashmiri meat balls). Sweet tooths are recommended to try the firni, a thick, mildly sweet concoction made with almonds.

Cost for two: @ Rs.800, you’d wish you had a second stomach

When the founder of this establishment, Nalini Sadhu, was married into a new family, her mother-in-law, Jigri, greeted her as a new bride with a succulent mutton dish called Mach, thus setting the tone of what her life would shape up to be. The greeting inspired her to start Matamaal, literally translating to ‘Nani’s House’, a pandit food joint venture with her mother and mother-in-law. She wanted to create a place where the traditional flavours of the food remained undiluted, and she more than succeeded in her mission. Nalini’s culinary journey even led her to write for the Khaleej times, as well as host Kashmiri cookery classes in the Middle East.

The eatery itself focuses on personal attention to each of its patrons, consisting of an immaculate, live kitchen and space that can accomodate only12 at a time. But despite the modesty of the space, Matamaal feels far from cramped, and is mostly enjoyed by hordes of families and friends gathering around to try authentic pandit dishes. The menu is not extensive, but each dish is crafted with a home-style flair and accompanied by music from the Kashmir Valley. Quite possibly the best way to enjoy it.

What You’re Getting: Mutton Kanti, a simple mutton dish in small pieces with onions, spices, dhaniya and salt. Simplicity at its best really. The dum aloo, a kashmiri vegetarian delicacy, also gets multiple thumbs ups while the shufta, a rare sweet dish made of mixed dry fruits and sugar syrup is also famous here.

Cost: Take a friend along and stuff yourselves at Rs 1,200 a meal.

Gulfam Kashmiri Wazwan has been a staple for visiting tourists for years, its proximity to the Humayun Tomb being one of its many allures. The wazwan is simple, cheap and fast; perfect for your packed schedule. Carnivores in particular benefit from the numerous non-vegetarian options, prepared with surgeon-like precision by masters of the cuisine, who use old and authentic recipes that refuse to skimp on quality. The dining area is a modest space, but with their options and prices, you really couldn’t ask for more.

What You’re Getting: The Chicken Tikka is raved about for being super fresh & dripping with juicy goodness. You have to try all things Rista, we’re talking meatballs by themselves, meatballs with curry and Goshtaba

Cost for two: Rs. 300-600 for the penny wise, pound wiser.

Run by a mother-daughter power duo who label themselves as ‘a paradoxical pair, both in taste and personalities’. Kashmiri Kitchen is an expression of their shared love with their homeland. The mother, Qamar Khan, is described as a Saira Banu doppelganger, whose warmth invites you in like you’re visiting your favourite aunt’s place. The experience of eating here is way beyond your traditional ‘white gloved’ service, and is set in an intimate location, more reminiscent of a drawing room than a commercial eatery. On your table rests a Kashmiri tea kettle and a tarami, a traditional vessel for serving food. The kitchen is manned by Srinagar’s wazas, while Mrs. Khan monitors the cooking to ensure that everything is just right.

What You’re Getting: Goshtaba that feels home-made. Their Haak, collard greens that are soaked in their juice, is a great option for vegetarians too, and the Roganjosh’s. The gravy is thick and never ending. Word has it the meat melts only to leave you in pure ecstacy.

Cost for two: Just Rs. 700 for a meal and a place that will transport you straight to Kashmir.

Image Source: Yummraj

VII. Samavar

Amidst the fractured politics and the chequered history of the state, Samavar makes it easy for people belonging to its different regions to brush shoulders with one another. It’s a platform for people to discuss Kashmir and revive Kashmiriyat, the social consciousness and cultural values of the people, making it something of a standout in this round-up of restaurants. Located in Delhi’s posh Pamposh Enclave, this small place provides a place for Jammu and Kashmir’s natives to break bread and breathe in a whiff of home. It’s also home to a lavish menu and is the official caterer of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Inside, you’ll find young Pandit souls sharing their memories over soft Kashmiri music, while black and white photographs of the Jhelum river loom behind them, dinning out the street noise. There is also a wazwan option available.

What You’re Getting: The most devoted patrons claim the Malai chicken as their favourite, though the Rista, Kashmiri mutton chops and haakh closely follow.

Cost for two: Nostalgia will cost you Rs. 800.

Research: Tanya Maheshwari

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