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My time in Srinagar would have been incomparably poorer without the endless hospitality of my friend Bashir.

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Suresh of GourmetIndia introduced us, and Bashir took me all across the city.  We went to markets, gardens and his upcoming restaurant Noor Darbar in the market near Dal Gate which he is currently renovating.  I’m sorry I will miss his grand opening, and I look forward to hearing about it.  Perhaps some day I will have the good fortune to eat there. 

Let me add that Srinagar rivals Amritsar for the friendliness of the people.  It’s palpable, genuine and ubiquitous.  (I have to confess I suspect there may be a pan-Indian competition in this regard.) 

Maybe one good place to start would simply be with some of the ingredients of the valley.

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My few days here were short, and I can easily think of several goods I wanted to sample but didn’t get the chance…fish…lotus root…various breads…Kashmiri spinach…lamb’s tongues and livers…(I’ll pass on the testes)…*sigh* 

Well, I did get to try a few treats. Bashir bought me some lotus pods when I asked about them.

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(Grown in the famous Dal Lake of course.)  

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This is a redundant photo but I couldn’t resist including the salesman’s smile. 

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Pluck out the seeds… 

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peel and pop in your mouth.  They are mildly sweet and tender. 

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Bashir’s neighborhood is near Hazratbal Mosque.  (Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim state.) We visited his Uncle’s shop.

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The paratha up front is indeed large enough to sit on.

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Marvel at this beautiful tray of halva, a sweet made from sooji (Cream of Wheat).

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A spoonful of the halva on a piece of the bread made my afternoon tea extra delicious.  I also had Bashir’s uncle’s kohlrabi achar (pickle/savory-spicy preserve) with my tea.

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It was made with less oil than I’ve ever seen (from my limited vantage) used with a pickle before.  I ate the pickle like a pig–probably almost a whole cup in one sitting.

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Bashir worked hard to treat me to this cup of kuhhuhvas, Kashmiri tea.  We went all the way to his childhood home where I met his family.  While they observed the holy fast of Ramadan I drank this sweet extravagance, a saffron tisane.  Behold the generous amount of expensive saffron I was served.  (Kashmiri saffron is quite different from Spanish saffron I learned.  It’s sweeter and less metallic.  I’m not sure how good a substitution Spanish saffron would make for this drink.)  Sometimes, kehvas also includes green cardamom, boiled almonds and perhaps (?) green tea.

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These little pears are called nakh.  They’re all over the markets, and I tasted them at the suggestion of my good friend Gautam.  They remind me of the Asian Pears we get in Portland, crunchy and juicy, but they’re sweeter. 

On saying goodbye to Bashir as I head to Mumbai/Bombay I was given a boatload of more treats.  Here’s my affected still life: A special sort of walnut, mawal flowers and the renowned Kashmiri chili (AND saffron AND masalas not pictured).

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The mawal flower is the traditional coloring agent for Rogan Josh, and perhaps the inspiration for today’s garish artificial red colorings.  The flowers grow abundantly.

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These were in the garden of my very nice hotel (The Shahenshah Palace.) And here are a couple of tasty local apples with a plate of (awful) pastries and a little cup of tea. 

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