If you are not lucky enough to experience the genuine flavour at dinner with a local family, any decent restaurant will offer a variety of Kashmiri dishes.
Ahdoos is a safe bet for restaurant-style Kashmiri food.
Wazwan is a multi-course lamb-based meal that forms the core of Kashmiri cuisine. The only authentic Wazwan is served on a Trami at a Kashmiri wedding. Restaurant versions are unauthentic.
Available only in winter. The best hareesa is homemade. The takia opposite the mosque at Aali Kadal serves the best commercially produced hareesa in town. Sultan off the Ashai Kocha near Fateh Kadal (Third Bridge) is also quite popular.
The best way to experience hareesa is to have it fresh from the cooking pit very early on a freezing winter morning.
Kanti is the Kashmiri version of the tikka, served as a dish (with fried onion rings) rather than on a skewer. Available at any decent restaurant.
The best qahwa (Kashmiri Green Tea) is homemade with saffron and chopped almonds.
Noon Chai (Pink Salt Tea) is available at any local tea stall.
The traditional bakery of Kashmir has evolved under a strong Central Asian influence and thus, for a society whose staple food is rice, an amazing range of traditional breads are baked in wood-fired tandoors.
Every locality has its own ‘Kaandur’ or professional baker who bakes different varieties at different times of the day using recipes evolved over centuries.
Tip: The tastiest varieties are available in downtown Srinagar.
Bread for Breakfast
Tsot (girda) is a medium-sized round bread.
Lavasa is a large unleavened flat bread.
Bread for Tea
Tsochvor is a small round bread with a soft upper half sprinkled with til
Tip : Split the bread and feed the filling (goj) to a bulbul (the local nightingale). Butter the upper and lower halves and experience two varieties of bread for the price of one.
Baqerkhani/katlam is a bread cooked in layers.
Kulcha is a small hard dry, crumbly bread.
Tip : Dunk your Baqerkhani or kulcha in Noon-chai and use a spoon to scoop out the creamy mixture.
Sheermal is a dry, crumbly bread with a long shelf life. The best kind of sheermal is available in Pampore.
Khand Kulcha is a sweet variety of kulcha. Try khand kulcha from Behram Sahib in Anantnag.
Gyov Tsot is a slightly larger Tsot cooked with ghee.
Tilvor is another king of bread cooked with ghee.
Roat is a kind of super-size bread gifted with Nabat Not, a bowl made of sugar crystals on traditional occasions.
Surprisingly for a destination replete with lakes and streams, fish joints are few and far between. Gaad (fried fish) is available most evenings at a mobile stall just outside the parking lot of the Aquarium on the Boulevard .
The proprietor will not open his shop if he feels his merchandise is not fresh enough.
At later hours tipplers frequent the stall.
Flaming Grill at Sonwar serves passable fried fish in the evenings.
Lotus stems fried pakoda-style with fiery onion chutney are the Kashmir equivalent of french fries. They are common at roadside stalls along with fried potato slices and mattar.
You can buy a bundle of Nadur from a local grocer, split the stems lengthwise and fry without batter till golden brown and crispy.
Roasted chestnuts/water chestnuts (singhara) are seasonally available at roadside stalls.
Kashmiri Black Dal with proprietary mixtures of salt and spices served in cones made of lavassa bread. Commonly available at roadside stalls.
Frozen ice & milk sticks. Am Buda's kulfi at Bohri Kadal was a regular feature of college summers. These days locals recommend the kulfi made by Gulfishan Bakery at Lal Bazaar.
Lotus seeds with a watery fresh raw-almond texture. Only available seasonally in and around the Dal Lake.
Best rubbed over with lemon & salt.
Senoo Kashmir Pickles at Habba Kadal sell an amazing variety of pickles including chicken, mutton, vegetable, fish, mango, cherry, karela, amla, apple, plum and garlic. Not as savoury as my grandmother's pickles, but quite popular.
Pass the pickled apricot, please!
Kashmiris are traditionally just not into sweets.
Phirni is a sweet dessert like kheer, but based on suji (semolina) rather than rice. The best phirni, topped off with saffron threads and chopped almonds, is homemade. Most restaurant versions are rip-offs.
Best when rolled up in a slice of the giant parantha available at the same shop.
Basrak and Khand Gaazar (literally sweet carrot) are traditional sweets available at roadside stalls.
It is impossible to buy a good paan in Kashmir for love or money.
There is now an excellent Banarasi Paan shop on M A Link Road at Munawarabad opposite Baari Carpets.
The drive down to Srinagar from the nearest rail head at Jammu offers unforgettable mountain scenery plus the chance to experience some unique local flavours.
Pick up kaladi (dried milk cheese) from roadside sellers around Udhampur and relish it golden-fried at your destination.
Look for the original Prem Sweets as a number of copycats have sprung up in the vicinity.
Look for the shacks on the right-hand edge of the road with the Baghliar dam forming the backdrop.
Precariously perched shacks on the cliff edge overlooking the Chenab between Ramban and Banihal serve excellent meetha parathas.
Excellent buffalo-milk Kaladis , makki-di-roti, and unsalted butter can be obtained from nomadic Gujjars in the hills of Kashmir.
One of the most memorable meals you can have in Kashmir is a trout you have hooked, gutted and cooked on-the-go.
This page has a trout recipe fit for a king (quite literally, since the author is the son of the last Maharaja of of Indore.)
Nothing finer, anywhere, indeed ….