If the thought of the valley conjures up images of the Dal Lake and shikaras, then the gastronome in you will be delighted to feast on chef Bashir Ahmad Choncha’s Kashmiri delicacies. The popular chef will be rustling with his pots and pans all this week, whipping up a meat-rich Kashmiri wazwan for the food connoisseurs at Punjab Grill in the city.
Since how long have you been cooking and where did you learn the authentic Kashmiri recipes from?
I’m from a family of chefs and my father, grandfather and great grandfathers have been in this industry from many years. I started watching my dad chef Noor Mohammad cook when I was eight and started cooking with him when I turned 15. It’s been 20 years since I started Choncha foods, a restaurant in Srinagar. I also manufacture food cans that we export across the world.
What is unique about your Kashmiri flavours, spices and dishes?
The spices that we add are from Kashmir and you won’t get them anywhere else, especially Kashmiri Leek or pran, which is a special variety of onion, besides the other unique spices. I prepare lahbi kebabs, rich curd-based nadru yakhni, rista, minced mutton ball in creamy gushtaba, rogan josh, haak saag, dum aloo, Kashmiri rajma, phirni and many other authentic Kashmiri dishes. Gushtaba is usually the grand finale to the main course in the traditional 36-course Kashmiri wazwan.
It is a heavy yogurt-based delicacy, where we pound the meat by hand for a very long time. It’s considered the king of all Kashmiri dishes. Mutton is a preferred choice of meat for most Kashmiri Muslims. I’ve brought all my ingredients from Kashmir. I’m preparing a wazwan, pride of all Kashmiris for a pop-up at Punjab Grill.
What’s your favourite dish that is also popular with the food lovers?
A mutton preparation called Tabak maaz. It is deep fried in ghee and is a very rich dish. It is important to use the chest for the required softness and taste. For Rogan josh neck and shoulders of the meat are preferable.
Who are some of the famous personalities who have dined with you?
A lot of VIPs including chief minister, other ministers and dignitaries come to taste my food in Srinagar and I also cooked for Nawab Asif in Chennai recently.