Srigar, January 18: For centuries, locals in the landlocked Kashmir Valley have relished dried vegetables, smoked fish and wild herbs to survive during the extreme winter. The tradition lives on even today. As land links with the outside world would get spped because of heavy snowfall on the mountain passes leading out of Kashmir, locals would painstakingly store carefully washed and dried vegetables to stand them in good stead during the winter, which lasts for almost for five months. Dried brinjal, tomatoes, pumpkins and turnips were stored in homes for use during the winter months in the Valley in the past. Fresh vegetables are now available round the year in the local markets due to better road connectivity and scientific methods of vegetable growing in greenhouses – but for nostalgia, the locals still throng markets to buy dried delicacies.
Special to winter cuisine in the Valley is smoked fish known locally as ‘farrigad’ and dried fish called ‘hokhegad’. Many Kashmiri Pandits who migrated out of the Valley because of the ongoing separatist violence still request their Muslim neighbours and friends to bring them these dried delicacies. “My first request to friends in the Valley is to bring me some hokhegad. My family almost celebrates cooking of the farrigad and hokhegad as this has become part of our tradition and now nostalgia,” banker Ashok Koul, 42, who lives in winter capital Jammu, told IANS on the phone. Bashir Ahmad, 50, has been selling dried vegetables in the Fatah Kadal area of old Srigar for almost 18 years. His father was also engaged in this trade. He visits villages during the summer months to buy vegetables to be dried and stored for his customers during the winter.
“People don’t buy these things now with the same enthusiasm as they used to in the past. Still, by the grace of Allah, I earn enough to live honestly. The sale of these dried vegetables starts from the month of November,” Ahmad, who sells dried pumpkin scalings for Rs.400 a kilogram, told IANS. (IANS)