Being tucked away in the Kashmir valley, Gulmarg has developed a food culture of its own. Fragrant whole spices like tej patta, hing, kesar, and dairy items form an important part of many recipes here. Further, cooking here is a slow and artful process to blend and heighten the overall flavours. It is worth noting that each flavoursome plate is equally beautiful to look at testimony to this fact is inclusion of some native dishes like Dum Aloo, Falooda and Rogan Josh in wedding menus all over India.
To give you a nudge for an exploration, Gulmarg also features some fantastic eateries, a few with old world charm, acquainting people with the elements of Kashmiri Wazwan at their authentic best.
Following is a list of 20 Famous Foods in Gulmarg brought to you straight from the picturesque town:
20 Famous Foods in Gulmarg
1. Rogan Josh
Brought in by the Mughals, Rogan Josh is one of the best dishes you can have in Gulmarg. It is sure to satiate your taste buds as it gives out a fragrant aroma of locally sourced spices like asafoetida, fennel, coriander etc. The saffron curried dish is light but an ideal choice if you would like to have something delectable yet not heavy. Have it if you want to have a taste of royalty!
2. Dum Aloo
As is known by its name, Dum Aloo is a potato based dish. Whole potatoes are unskinned and boiled as the prep step for it. But sometimes these boiled potatoes are light fried also to add some extra flavour. These are then cooked in a curry prepared with various fragrant spices like bay leaves, elaichi, coriander etc and voila! You get a lip smacking plateful in just 35 minutes!
Curry and rice are a staple in Gulmargi food and these yogurt based curry dishes are one of the most popular in the region. Prepared using the slow cooking method, the spices are allowed to give flavour in an unhurried manner which produces a rich and strongly blended flavour to go. One thing that gives a fresh zing to this curry is mint and once in Gulmarg, we recommend that you try it for sure!
Equivalent for Punjabi saag, Haaq is a leafy course prepared for having with Indian flatbread (roti). It is a highly nutritious stew, rich in vitamins and loaded with health benefits, making it a power dish to have in harsh weather for a household of humble means. As a starting point, a variety of greens can be used to prepare haaq: dandelion, radish, monji, etc and unlike other Kashmiri dishes, haaq does not use a lot of spices, and is very simply prepared in under 30 minutes.
This crimson red meat gravy is an appetizing offering in the cuisine bowl of Gulmarg. It requires 1 hour 45 minutes to cook as elaborate processes are employed at every step including the immersion of minced meat balls in spice boiled water over flame. Then there is preparation of red extract which gives the gravy its characteristic colour. Traditionally, moval flower has been used to prepare the red extract but due to its limited availability saffron can be put to use.
6. Guchhi Pulaao
Not many people know about Guchhi, it's a wild variety of Mushroom growing at high altitudes. It is high in vitamins and is steeply priced because it's difficult to grow commercially. Being smoky and flavourful, these are used for making special spiced rice. For this, guchhi will be first stirred in hot ghee before the addition of spices like laung, choti ilaichi, badi ilaichi, dalchini, tej patta, jeera, water and rice.
7. Kong phirin
Unlike the traditional phirni being prepared with tukda chawal (broken rice), Kong Phirin is prepared using sooji (semolina). The resultant dessert is a thick creamy delight that is had after food to complete a hearty Kashmiri meal! Saffron is used to give its characteristic colour and cardamom is used for brewing sweet aroma in it. Tip: the best Kong Phirin is kept in an earthen pot to make it even thicker than what was initially cooked on flame.
8. Noon Chai
Also called Sheer Chai, this tea is the perfect antidote for biting chill that persists during winter months in Gulmarg. It's salty in taste and pink in colour, and is particularly enjoyed with traditional breads at breakfast or lunch time. Gunpowder tea, baking powder and milk are the main ingredients for preparing this tea.
Another brew for getting much needed warmth is the Kashmiri Kahwah. Made to combine the aromatic flavour of its ingredients like cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and cloves, Kahwah is a benevolent and sense calming drink to have in the morning or evening time. First whole spices are brewed in boiling water and tea leaves are only added once the mixture is off flame. Traditionally, the drink is prepared in samovar (a copper kettle having live burning coals to keep the tea hot).
10. Tabakh Maaz
This Kashmiri snack is a regular on menus of Kashmiri family gatherings and functions, and is had as an appetizer. To prepare for this dish, lamb ribs are left to marinate overnight in a mix of yogurt and spices. Then this mixture and meat is transferred to a pan for cooking with water. Final frying of the meat gives a flavourful and lip smacking non vegetarian dish!
11. Rajma Gogji
Being a kidney bean curry, it is sometimes thought that the recipe is similar to the curry prepared in states of Punjab, Haryana, etc. But it is completely different as not only the spices used are different (including the local Vaer) but the addition of cubed turnips fried in mustard oil gives it a slightly pungent taste. Tip: Have this with rice for a perfect brunch or lunch!
12. Nudur Churma
Found in relative abundance in the state due to the presence of pristine water bodies, Nudur (that is the local name for Lotus stem) is used in many recipes for main course. But it is a crispy and crunchy snack that wins the distinction of being the best gastronomical delight: Nudur Churma. It is a very popular snack/street food item for which lotus stems are immersed in a batter of rice flour and deep fried until golden brown.
An afternoon preparation that is heavy on nuts and fragrant with spices such as cinnamon, black pepper and cardamom, the Shufta is an indispensable sweetmeat for Kashmiris. The nuts—almonds, raisins, cashews and walnuts—are soaked in water for about half an hour. Coconut shavings are roasted in ghee, followed by paneer. The soaked nuts are then added to the toasted coconut, and cooked along with the spices and sugar syrup. A regular feature in feasts and dinners throughout Kashmir, including Gulmarg, the shufta, with its warming properties, is the perfect dessert for the harsh winter.
Traditional kandurs, or bakeries, enjoy an unrivalled status in the Kashmiri lifestyle. And Gulmargis sure do love their 'daily breads', among which the versatile kulcha is a local favourite. This version of the flatbread, as opposed to that in the rest of northern India, is hard, dry and crunchy, and usually comes with a peanut on the top. Traditionally had with noon chai or during weddings and Eid festivities, kulchas can be savoury, sweet, or donut-style, and are often dusted with khashkhash (poppy) seeds. The delightful dal-and-kulcha meal available at Gulmarg's many restaurants is not to be missed.
15. Kashmiri Fish Curry
The next time you are in Gulmarg, give the hackneyed names a miss, and opt for some hot Muj Gaad. This tangy, spicy and aromatic fish preparation, is a regular in Kashmiri Pandit food. It features diced radish along with fish and often had with steaming rice. The ginger, asafoetida and fennel used in the gravy complement the mustard oil beautifully. The Muj Gaad can also be topped with some ground ajwain for that pleasing spice hit. Usually eaten during wedding feasts or other special occasions, the prospect of savouring this unique radish-based fish curry draws gourmands from all over the world.
16. Modur Pulaao
This sweetened pulaao is an unmatched delicacy in Gulmargi food. It is made using long fragrant Basmasti rice. Dry fruits like cashews, almonds and raisins are added to give this dish a regal taste and the soft kesariya colour comes because of saffron strands. Have it with paneer masala gravy for a fulfilling meal!
17. Khatte Baingan
Literally meaning sour aubergine in English, this tangy curry is all you need for a delicious lunch or dinner as an accompaniment with flatbread or rice. To the place which is otherwise known for non vegetarian dishes, this curry requires whole baby aubergines to be cooked in fried onion paste with tamarind to give a mind-blowing vegetarian offering.
Food experts consider it among the best mutton-based preparations and Kashmiris call it the king's food. Gushtaba, in which the grand, 36-course Wazwan banquet culminates, comprises melt-in-the-mouth meat balls cooked in a piquant yogurt-based gravy. And locally, refusing it at a meal is considered insulting to the guest. The natural fragrant quality to Gushtaba comes from the healthy goats feeding on the best grass, that are chosen for it. The mincing and the spices used give it the characteristic tenderness, not to forget the elaborate treating of yogurt for the gravy. It is usually garnished with saffron and savoured with pulao or naan.
19. Muji Chatin
This is one side-dish eaten along with a main course meal. Although it is not in paste form as chutney is, but it is still considered to be in that category (radish is grated and not ground or pureed). This grated radish is sauteed in mustard oil along with Kashmiri chilli and salt giving an elating burst of smoky and pungent flavour in your mouth.
Served with Kulfi in North India, Falooda came with Mughal cuisine and as Mughals influenced Kashmiri culture a lot, hence you'll find the best Falooda in Gulmarg and rest of the valley. To prepare this, milk and vermicelli are sweetened with rose syrup. Sabja seeds, basil seeds, tukmaria give it the indulgent taste and it is very true that this dessert perfectly satiates your sweet cravings royally.
21. Bonus- Waza Paneer
Paneer lovers, rejoice! This is one dish which deserved a special mention as Paneer lovers would like to know how their favourite dish fits in Kashmiri platter. Paneer cubes are fired in oil and then thrown in cooked tomato curry loaded with spices. You can either choose to add garam masala or can add whole spices for getting the right flavour.