In early 2018, banking professional Anubhuti Bhan, her husband Mohit Sapru, an IT practitioner and his mother Purnima moved from Delhi to Hyderabad, where they instantly took to the city’s pleasant climate, people and its cuisine.
Thanks to the Bhan-Sapru family, which has made Hyderabad their home, getting authentic Kashmiri cuisine doesn’t seem so expensive and inaccessible anymore.
A former resident of downtown Srinagar who migrated to Delhi during the tumultuous 1990s, Purnima Sapru decided to use her time in her newly adopted hometown wisely, especially as her son and daughter-in-law were engaged with their respective professions.
Opening up their home once a month to host people for authentic Kashmiri cuisine at a nominal charge seemed a good way to keep occupied while staying in touch with their roots. “We agreed to host around eight people at our home on a Saturday every month because I love meeting new people. It also gives my mother-in-law some interactions to look forward to,” says Anubhuti, adding that their first batch of guests about a year ago were mostly locals who relished Kashmiri cuisine for the first time in Hyderabad.
“Usually, those who attend our dinners are locals and young professionals from around the country who work here. While a few have had Kashmiri food at restaurants, they have never eaten authentic or home cooked Kashmiri meals,” she adds.
The idea of hosting and charging people for Kashmiri dinners came about at a chance meeting at a family wedding where she met the founder of a startup that facilitates and publicises specially curated dining experiences. Already acquainted with Bhan’s cousin, the founder asked if Anubhuti would be willing to open her home to locals for Kashmiri cuisine, to which she agreed.
Interestingly, the only restaurant that let Hyderabadis experience a traditional Kashmiri multi-course meal was a short-lived restaurant titled Kashmir Heights, which opened in 2013 and closed shortly thereafter, much to the dismay of die-hard Kashmiri foodies. Omer Farooq, a civil and corporate litigator with the Desai Law Offices, recalls, “When Kashmir Heights closed, we could only get Wazwaan at festivals in five-star hotels that charged Rs 3,000 per head.” Naturally, when he saw a Facebook page dedicated to the ‘Kashmiri Dining Experience’, he simply had to go!
Farooq shares that the Rogan Josh served at many restaurants isn’t as authentic as the one cooked by an actual Kashmiri. However, upon seeing the dish that would be served at Anubhuti’s Kashmiri Pandit household, he and a colleague, Koppal Sharraf immediately decided to register and pay for their spots.
“It is difficult to encompass every single offering that our cuisine entails, especially for the relatively low price charged. The four core dishes of the Kashmiri Pandit feast are Rogan Josh, Yakhni or Kaliya, Mutsch and Kabargah,” says Farooq.
Even as Farooq and his colleague wait for their tastebuds to be tickled, Anubhuti brings out rice, the cornerstone of any Kashmiri meal. There are also two bowls — one which contains a radish chutney called Muj Chutin while the other contains two lotus stems drowned in the curd-based Yakhni gravy. The mutsch consists of mouthwatering minced mutton sautéed in spices. While showering their guests with signature Kashmiri hospitality, the Bhan-Sapru clan enlightens Koppal and Farooq about their rich culture and memories of a pre-conflict-ridden Kashmir. Dinner is followed up with an aromatic type of green tea with cardamom, cinnamon and saffron called Kahwa.