This is a family restaurant serving Indian cuisine. The place has calm ambiance with different seating sections. They offer a variety of Indian starters and main course dishes including standard as well as some interesting options. The service is decent and the dishes taste good. They have multiple dessert options also which are worth trying. Visit this place for a wholesome Indian food experience.
Community gathering (clockwise from top left): Rayhanah Natangcop-Guinomla, Hannah Sophia Tamano, Sahron ‘Roy’ Tamano, Mohammer Salic, Shaharullah ‘Wattariq’ Ali Tahir, Image Credit: Gulf News Sharjah: On a balmy May evening, following Iftar prayers at a nearby mosque, some Muslim Filipino families and friends in the UAE gathered in the apartment of Sharon ‘Roy’ Tamano.
The flat, on the first floor of low-rise building off Al Khudari Street in Sharjah’s Nasriya district, came alive with conversations over mouth-watering Maranao fare.
It’s time for iftar (end of fast), following a dawn-till-dusk abstinence from food or drinks observed by all abled-bodied Muslims around the world.
On this Ramadan night, the Moros (Muslim Filipinos) gathered here to share food and stories.
Iftar meal “Piaparan” and “Rendang” — among the many delectable Maranao delights (one of the Filipino Muslim tribes) cuisine — were served. There’s fruit salad, too, made of young coconut strips and dollops of chunked-up fruits doused with condensed milk.
It’s one of the regular iftar gatherings here of “Moros” from Mindanao. Muslims in the Philippine archipelago have been marking Ramadan since about 1380, when Karim ul’ Makhdum, the first Islamic missionary, reached Sulu and brought Islam to the Far East.
During the small community gathering, Ustaz Anwar Pangilamun, a Filipino “hafiz” (he memorised the whole of Quran) also gave a talk on the essence of Ramadan — the how’s and why’s of fasting, and one’s rewards for good deeds.
Many of those gathered left their families back home.
Wishes and dishes The iftar conversations revolved around their hopes, their jobs, their longing for home — and home-cooked food.
Rayhanah Natangcop-Guinomal, 40, a mother of three from Lanao del Sur, raved about “Palapa”. Her family is from Marawi City.
In her home province, Palapa is a popular spicy appetizer and condiment, made of “Sakurab” (scallions), ground and sautéed in coconut, mixed with herbs.
Palapa An essential ingredient in Maranao cuisine. It’s a uniquely Maranao dish that’s both an appetiser and a condiment. It is made of thinly-chopped sakurab (scallion), mixed with bird’s eye chilli, pounded ginger and toasted grated coconut. When used in cooking, palapa is sautéed first and added with the optional spoonful of condensed milk before palapa is used as seasoning to a particular dish. Palapa, a Maranao appetizer and condiment. Image Credit: File
“They say that you haven’t been to Davao without durian. In the same way, you haven’t been to Marawi if you haven’t tasted Palapa,” she works as a manager for a Dubai-based startup.
For Rayhanah, Ramadan is a time for peace, for reconnecting with faith, family and the community.
She remembers Marawi City, a place decimated by war two years ago, following a five-month siege by hundreds of heavily armed Dash-inspired militants.
“I pray for peace and harmony, in the Philippines and around the world,” says Rayhanah.
Peace Her husband Hashim Guinomla, 40, an investment banker in Dubai, expressed the same longing for peace, starting with his own family.
“I think peace in the family is very important because it enables us to live in harmony — with different cultures, different environments, especially we (who) are working abroad.
“For the Philippines, our home country, we also pray for peace. There are lot of issues happening. But hopefully, this holy month of Ramadan, everybody will be working together, in peace and harmony, and in reducing the conflicts,” Guinomla said.
Rendang A delightful South-east Asian dish. The beef is sautéed in “sakurab”, or scallion (similar to spring roll). Maranaos have their own version of the Rendang, a dry curry made with beef, cooked together with a spice paste and coconut milk until fork-tender. It’s then fried together with the remaining braising liquid until the liquid caramelizes around the beef, coating it with an insane amount of flavour. Maranaos have their own version of the Rendang, a dry curry made with beef, cooked together with a spice paste and coconut milk until fork-tender. Image Credit: Gulf News
What does he miss the most from his family kitchen back home? “Pater”, a simple rice-based dish with various toppings, usually meat, wrapped and cooked in banana leaves.
Tamano, a father of two and human resource manager in the UAE, expressed his sadness and longing for the rebuilding of Marawi City.
In May 2017, the city was declared by Daesh as its East Asian “capital”. After five months of intense fighting with the Philippine military, hundreds of the group’s members — including at least 100 foreign fighters — were killed.
“Marawi City saw total destruction,” said Tamano. “It’s sad to think we cannot bring back the past. Marawi City is very rich in cultural heritage… the centre of the Islamic community in the Philippines.”
Tamano added that Philippine President Duterte’s promise to rebuild Marawi remains “doubtful.”
Iftar gathering What keeps him hopeful and happy is family? Tamano said: Seeing relatives and friends gather for iftar.
Shaharullah Ali Tahir, 40, head of the Maranao of community in the UAE, also pined for “pater”, a staple for Ramadan iftar. “Pater is the food of the masses, and it’s really tasty.”
Piaparan A chicken curry-like dish cooked in “papar”, unpressed grated coconut meat, and onions. Popularised by the Maranao people of Lanao del Sur, it is also known as “pipaparan” or “piarun”. This Filipino dish consists of meat (usually chicken) or seafood cooked in a coconut milk-based broth with garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, white scallions (sakurab), chili, shredded coconut, and various vegetables and spiced with “palapa”. Piaparan means “shredded coconut” in Maranao. For Tahir, Ramadan is a time for reflection, coupled with self-discipline and doing good deeds.
Tahir, who works for a Dubai utility, also longs for peace. “One thing on my wish list is peace…. Peace in my inner self, in the Philippines, all over the world.”
Muslim Filipino families in the UAE gather for iftar, to end their fast together, during Ramadan. Image Credit: Gulf News
WHO ARE THE MARANAOS? Maranaos are a proud “Moro” (Filipino Muslims) tribe who dwell in the verdant Lanao province, known as the “Baguio of the South”, in the Philippines’ mineral-rich Mindanao island. Known for their graceful, and dynamic folk dances and colorful garb, Maranaos have a rich cultural heritage, which also extends to their feasts, called “piging”.
More From UAE Key to creativity is change, Dr Lotto says Who pays damages if malpractice is proven? Advisory for foreigners travelling to India E-visa holders can travel to any port, irrespective of port mentioned in application
Ramadan photo exhibit begins Never-before-seen images of Shaikh Zayed during key moments in the development of UAE
Trending Exclusive Indian woman dies during hip surgery in Dubai Fire breaks out near Dubai metro station GCC slams sabotage operation on cargo ships in UAE GCC Secretary General denounces sabotage act near UAE Up to 75% off in Sharjah sale Egypt stands with UAE after act of sabotage Latest In 1 minute ago 92% of UAE residents plan to save money in 2019 2 hours ago 3 dead as floatplanes collide in Alaska 4 4
Iftar at Kurry Accent
Mehnaz Tabassum Khaleel
Kurry Accent, with its iftar bazaar and iftar-and-dinner buffet, is featuring flavours of Old Delhi this Ramadan.
To satiate your iftar cravings, the restaurant has organised an iftar bazaar, offering a plethora of items that depict the gastronomic culture of Old Delhi. To enhance your iftar palette with mouth-watering Indian dishes such as Sikandaari Raan and Mutton Kebabs, make sure to drop by the stalls of iftar bazaar of Kurry Accent, which is located in Gulshan 2. The items will be prepared at a live station so that you can witness the dynamics of how they are made.
This eatery also has an iftar dinner buffet spread priced at Tk 2,400 (all inclusive) per person. The spread will comprise of a plethora of delicacies, ranging from a variety of kebabs to curries such as Punjabi Dal Tarka and paneer butter masala to name a few. Standard Chartered card holders will be able to avail the buy one get one free facility for this buffet.
For appetisers, I was served some melt-in-the-mouth chicken Malai kebab and Norwegian fish kebab, which, because of their extremely succulent and tender insides, would leave one’s taste buds wanting for more. The accompanying mint chutney only elevated the taste of these cooked-to-perfection dishes.
These were followed by briyani and mutton Roganjosh. For desserts, shahi tukra and jilapis of the intricately thin variety were served, which, due to its subtle sweetness, complemented the strong flavours exuded from the shahi tukra very well.
Avishek Sinha of Kurry Accent says, “Our objective is to bring the cuisine reflecting the food heritage of Old Delhi. We have even arranged chefs from there so that people here can experience the essence of these signature delicacies.”
Through Shohoz Foods, they will be providing home delivery of especially curated iftar boxes. There will also be special packages for corporate gatherings as well as space to host 500 at their Gardenia Banquets.
For reservations or more info, please contact +8801713434075.
Chef Q&A: Bernard Fiemeyer, Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Additional Features , Chefs & Artisans
For Bernard Fiemeyer, Executive Chef of Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek , it’s all about authenticity. Chef Bernard is always true to his French roots, and loves to use “the best ingredients, fresh and local whenever possible. Truly, the best cooking execution comes from these ingredients.”
What’s your favorite local restaurant other than your own? Depending on the cuisine I am in the mood for, it goes from Flame Kebab for Arabic cuisine, Gyu-Kaku for Japanese barbecue and Saffron for Indian.
What’s your go-to meal at home? I love roasting a free-range chicken seasoned with lemon and thyme. I pair it with grilled fresh vegetables tossed in some olive oil. But of course, cheese is great anytime. My favorite is Comté with a baguette and a nice glass of red wine.
Where do you shop locally for interesting ingredients? I frequently shop the Winter Park farmers’ market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Which kitchen gadget could you not live without? I have a Japanese mandolin I use for everything, it’s very sharp and cuts very well!
What was your favorite bagged lunch as a kid? I never had a bag lunch as a kid, it was very important to sit down with my family. My favorite was hachis parmentier, which is a layered dish of beef stew and mashed potato and Swiss cheese gratin.
What’s your most guilty junk-food pleasure? My guilty pleasure is a toasted baguette with some Nutella and vanilla ice cream.
What 3 things are in your fridge at all times? Cheese, ice cream in the freezer (my guilty pleasure, how could I leave this out) and beer. Is there anything else about yourself you’d like to share? For me, food is about connecting with people, sharing some of my travel food stories and creating memories.
Wonder family holiday
We are a family of four, with a teenage son and daughter of 20 and we travelled to meet family at the resort nnArrivalnWe arrived at the resort after an hour or so transfer from the airport via minibus, and noted that all vehicles entering the resort needed to report to security before entry. nnOur first impressions where of a very beautifully presented courtyard with trees and flowers and upon alighting from the minibus received a warm welcome and were invited to take a seat for a fruit cocktail and a cooling towelette to refresh us from the journey. nnCheck is was very straight forward and we were soon on our way to our room. nnThe Room nBeing a smaller resort there are two main blocks of rooms and had rooms located on the top of the 3 storeys at tree top level and one on the second level. The stair access is for two suites on each level, so there is no traffic other than your neighbour or staff. Much better than a corridor.nnThe rooms are a good size, well-appointed, clean and nicely presented. You’ll have comfortable king size bed or perhaps two singles, a TV, desk, minibar fridge, lounge area with sofa and table. The balcony open looking over the grounds toward the sea with two chairs and a small table. nnThe bathroom was a very good size, with large wardrobe area, enclosed toilet, twin basins, shower and a bath. Here you have a safe with a power supply inside and hairdryer.nnThe power sockets in the room were international 2 pin (EU style) and 3-pin (UK style) and there were also USB power points too. nnGrounds & LocationnThe hotel grounds are stunning with palm trees, shrubs and flowers all managed and maintained beautifully. nnOne of the nice things about the hotel’s location is that the beach is very quiet. There are a number of hotels along the Flic en Flac coast, but with the Sands Suite Resort being the last, it’s really only the guests on the beach which is nice.nnThe infinity pool overlooks the beach and and alongside is a smaller jacuzzi style pool too. nnWe didn’t have any issues in getting sunbeds, there are enough to go around. That said it’s wise to get your spot early, especially on the beach. nnFacilitiesnOn arrival you are given towel vouchers that you exchange for towels at the water sports centre on the beach. You simple exchange for fresh ones as needed and upon leaving you return your vouchers when checking out, otherwise there’s a charge. nnWiFi is free and accessible throughout the resort, even on the beach much to the delight of my son and daughter.nnWater sports facilities are excellent, with free access to both non-motorised and motorised activities. You can kayak, paddleboard, windsurf, pedal-boat, water-ski or wakeboard. Additionally there is a twice daily glass bottom boat and snorkelling (kit provided if needed) trips out to the reef.nnYou can also book paid trips on catamarans or fast boats to go dolphin watching.nnI love to snorkel and there is plenty to see around the rocks just off the beach, but while I was there the water wasn’t very clear, even out on the reef. Here I think being close to the estuary of the Black River, you get the sediment being washed down the river, especially after rain making the water a little murky. nnRestaurants and BarsnWe were on a half-board basis and found this was sufficient, we weren’t really needing to eat at lunch, although we did get a taxi into Flic en Flac (500 rupees return) to get drinks and snacks for during the day. nnBreakfast is a buffet affair, with more than enough to choose from. Fresh fruit, cereals, meats, cheeses, Danish pastries, pancakes, croissants and toast. Or you could get freshly cooked eggs of your choice to go with bacon and hot accompaniments for a cooked breakfast. There’s juices, coffee and tea etc of course. nnThe evening meals were again a buffet, with different themes during the week. Locally cuisine is creole, also with and Indian theme. There wasn’t a night were we struggled to fulfil the needs of the family for starters, mains or desserts. nnThe food was excellent and the restaurant staff very friendly. nnIn the evenings we met in the bar for a drink before our meals and there is selection of wine, cocktails and spirits, of which we tried a few. If selecting a beer we opted for the local Phoenix brew and it was very nice and refreshing. From a cost perspective, I’d say it was not dissimilar to UK bar prices.nnLater in the evening there was entertainment in the form of easy listening bands, or traditional dance. All usually finished around 10pm and wasn’t intrusive if you wanted to retire to your room early. nnRecommended ExcursionsnWe had pre-arranged a day trip on a catamaran heading out to see dolphins and we weren’t disappointed. We had an amazing experience when coming across a pod of around 18 dolphins that we stayed with for about 25 minutes. The only negative is that so many boats came in and I found this was too invasive for the dolphins. nnWe then headed to within the reef for lunch( freshly caught fish, oh yes), snorkelling and a small boat trip to the crystal rock and small island before setting sail back to the marina. Excellent day out, highly recommended. nnWe hired a driver with a vehicle for the day on two occasions. The first trip took us around the south of the island, taking in the temples, rum distillery and coloured earth. A great day out recommended to see the south of the island. nnThe second time we headed north towards St Louis where we visited a tea factory, before heading onto the Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousses and up towards Grand Baie where we visited an aquarium. Another good day out. nnYou essentially pick what you want to see, so plan ahead. That said the drivers have the local knowledge to take you places you’d not necessarily think of. nnOverallnWe had a wonderful 7 days at Sands and would highly recommend it if you’re planning a trip to Mauritius. It’s in a great location where you can base yourself to explore this beautiful island.nnThe staff across the resort were friendly and attentive and when we had a problem, we were able to engage the right managers. I won’t go into the details of the problem we had, I will simply say it was resolved quickly and professionally by the management. Thank you.nnIf asked would I return, I would certainly say yes.
How Did Chickpea Flour, A Staple Of Indian Cuisine, Become A Health Food Sensation?
Scotland’s 15 best Indian restaurants
The two countries might be almost 5,000 miles apart but Scotland has adopted a cultural affinity for Indian food, with the famous chicken tikka masala dish allegedly being invented in Glasgow . There isn’t a shortage of Indian restaurants across Scotland, but here is our pick of the best.
1. Dakhin, Glasgow
89 Candleriggs, Merchant City, 0141 553 2585. Open Monday-Friday, 12pm- 2pm and 5pm-11pm, and Saturday and Sunday 1pm-11pm, www.dakhin.com
Easy to miss upstairs above Bar 91, Dakhin is a real hidden gem amongst some of the better-known Indians in Glasgow. It specialises in South Indian cuisine, with its range of dosas (a thin, crepe-like bread) a particular speciality. It is also believed to be the only Indian restaurant in the UK that can boast a 100% gluten-free menu, making it a stress-free choice for coeliacs.
2. Sid’s Spice, Sutherland
Station Square, Brora, Sutherland, Highlands, 01408 621467. Open every day, 12pm-2pm and 5pm-10pm (Until 11pm on a Friday & Saturday), www.sidspice.com
With a population of just over 1000 people, the rural Sutherland village of Brora isn’t the first place that you would expect to find a sought-after Indian restaurant. But that is exactly what Sid’s Spice offers: with fresh, flavoursome food that is widely admired for its quality. It is a welcome stop for those doing the North Coast 500, offering something a bit different from the many pubs on the route.
3. Kismot Edinburgh
29 St Leonards Street, Edinburgh, 0131 667 0123. Open every day except Tuesday, 4.30pm-11.30pm, www.kismot.co.uk
Know someone who likes to boast about their tolerance of spicy food? If so, take them to Edinburgh’s Kismot restaurant and get them to try the Kismot Killer challenge. Claiming to be the hottest curry on the planet, the Kismot Killer combines five of the world’s hottest chilies in a dish that requires you to sign a legal disclaimer before you eat it. If you do finish the curry then it is yours for free, and if not, then you can boast of your tolerance no more.
4. Tabla Perth
173 South Street, Perth, 01738 444 630. Open Sunday-Wednesday, 5pm-10pm and Thursday- Saturday, 12pm-2pm and 5pm-10pm, www.tablarestaurant.co.uk
Tabla’s co-owner Praveen Kumar has plenty of experience in haute cuisine, having worked at both the Gleneagles and Turnberry Hotels. Alongside his wife Swarna he has brought this wealth of experience to Perth, with the couple’s Tabla restaurant proving popular with diners from far and wide. They pride themselves on creating authentically fresh food, with all the spices used in Tabla being grown in their family’s fields in India.
5. Motherland Spice, Salcoats
16 Bradshaw Street, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, 01294 462 706. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 12pm-2pm and 5pm-10.30pm, Friday-Saturday 12pm-3pm and 4.30pm-12am and Sunday, 4pm-10.30pm, www.motherlandspice.com
The no-frills approach at Motherland Spice results in a warm welcome, big portions and plenty of flavour. The Indian/Nepalese restaurant boasts a mammoth list of tandooris, biryanis and kormas that should satisfy even the fussiest of eaters, as well as a special kids menu with a range of both Indian and western dishes.
6. The Dining Room No10, Dumbarton
10 West Bridgend, Dumbarton, 01389 879759. Open every day except Tuesday, 4pm-11pm
The users of TripAdvisor are particularly hard to please, with even great restaurants rarely achieving a full five-star rating on the site. Dining Room No10 has gained just that, with its five star approval rating proving its popularity with the public and the great quality of its food. The Lamb Rogan Josh is a standout among many good dishes, and it proves a relatively cheap night out with a BYOB policy and no corkage charge.
Countdown of Scotland’s 50 favourite pubs: 50 – 26
7. Wild Ginger, Aberdeen
367 Union Street, Aberdeen, 01224 581000. Open every day except Monday, 5pm-11pm, www.wildgingeronline.co.uk
The beautiful interior (and immaculate food presentation) at Wild Ginger makes it the perfect choice for special occasions. Yet it remains very reasonably priced – with a 10% discount on collections – and will leave you feeling like you got good value for money.
8. Mother India’s Café, Glasgow
1355 Argyle Street, Glasgow, 0141 339 9145. Open Sunday-Thursday, 12pm-10pm and Friday- Saturday, 12pm-10.30pm, www.motherindia.co.uk
Any foodie worth their salt should have already paid a visit to the Glasgow institution that is Mother India. The team have successfully turned tapas on its head by replacing Spanish nibbles with Indian food, encouraging diners to try several dishes at the same time. Customers will often queue out of the door for the takeaway or for a table in the café, with their Butter Chicken and Machi Masala proving particularly popular.
9. Eastern Touch, Anstruther
35 Cunzie Street, Anstruther, East Neuk, Fife, 01333 312836. Open every day, 4.30pm-11pm, www.eastern-touch.com
The sleepy fishing village of Anstruther is probably the type of place you would expect to find seafood restaurants and traditional old pubs. But, in fact, the village has a cracker of an Indian restaurant hidden up one of its side streets: offering a plethora of delicious dishes that will suit both meat eaters and vegetarians. And if you like Naan bread, then Eastern Touch offers an absolutely huge one that will comfortably feed a whole family.
Scotland’s 50 favourite pubs: 25 to 1
10. Kalpna Edinburgh
2-3 St Patrick Square, Edinburgh, 0131 667 9890. Open every day, 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm-10.30pm, www.kalpnarestaurant.com
Indian cuisine is one of the best suited to a vegetarian diet, with many Indians choosing to have meat-free meals. Most restaurants will offer a handful of vegetarian curries, but Kalpna goes one step further, with an exclusively meat-free menu that has a real variety of flavours and style of dishes. And, as an added bonus, several of the curries are also certified vegan.
11. Saffron Indian Restaurant, Inverness
Unit 5, Cradlehall Court, Inverness, 01463 795500. Open every day, 4.30pm-10.30pm
This intimate restaurant only has a few tables, but its small size means that the chefs can really spend time curating each individual dish. The front of house staff also do their bit to make diners feel special, with service that goes the extra mile and complimentary hand towels handed out after the food is served. Poppadoms with onion, relish and a small side salad are also offered free of charge to guests.
12. Daksh Indian Restaurant, Dumfries
55- 57 Queen Street Dumfries, 01387 253876. Open every day except Tuesday, 12pm-2pm and 5pm-10pm, www.dakshindian.co.uk
The team at Daksh pride themselves on the fact that they use no artificial colouring, preservatives or tenderisers in any of their dishes. Instead, the focus is on authentic, home-style ‘Thali’: platters of small dishes that includes a starter, curry, a daal, a naan and some yoghurt. But if you fancy a more westernised meal, then they also have plenty of larger dishes and curries.
13. Jewel in the Crown, Aberdeen
145 Crown Street, Aberdeen, 01224 210288. Open Monday-Saturday, 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm-11.30pm and Sunday, 2.30pm-10.30pm, www.thejewelaberdeen.com
The Jewel in the Crown is much loved by Aberdonians, who have been enjoying its family-made dishes for decades. Their curries are freshly cooked, flavoursome and reasonably priced, while the service is consistently faultless. And rather than being an afterthought, their rice is a real standout, with flavours that include mushrooms, garlic and even mince.
14. Wee Curry Shop, Buccleuch Street Glasgow
7 Buccleuch Street, Glasgow, 0141 353 0777. Open Monday-Thursday, 12pm-2pm and 5.30pm-10.30pm, Friday 12pm-11pm, Saturday 12pm-2pm and 5.30pm-10.30pm and Sunday, 5pm-10pm, www.weecurryshop.co.uk
‘Wee’ is no exaggeration: this restaurant really is tiny. Situated in what would have been a shop, it has only a handful of tables and a uniquely intimate atmosphere. The list of dishes on offer is also limited- but each one is exceptional and will not disappoint any fans of Indian food. Bonus points for the great service too.
15. Goa, Broughty Ferry
7 Erskine Lane, Broughty Ferry, Dundee , 01382 770730. Open Monday-Saturday, 5pm-11pm and Sunday, 4pm-11pm
It might be located slightly outside of Dundee, but Goa makes it well worth visiting the quiet suburb of Broughty Ferry. Starters include some delightful tempura prawns and lightly battered pakora, while the extensive choice of mains should have something that appeals to almost all taste buds. It is advisable to pre-book a table, but it is also worthwhile getting there early, as the pre-theatre menu offers three courses for a very reasonable £10.95.
Kashmir the Land of Saffron
Saffron fueled Kashmir’s local economy and culture for centuries, but its days might be numbered. This Land Is Meant Only for Saffron. Without It, It Means Nothing.’
There are many local legends about how saffron came to Kashmir. One goes back to the 12th century, and says that Sufi saints Khawaja Masood Wali and Sheikh Sharif-u-din Wali presented a local chieftain with a saffron bulb after he cured them of an illness while they were traveling. Another claims that the Persians brought it in 500 B.C., as a means to further trade and market. A third dates the spice back to the Hindu Tantric kings, when it was mixed into hot water to create potions that incited feelings of romantic love.
While the myths arouse discord, there’s one item of consensus: Kashmiri saffron is the sweetest, most precious spice in the world. Its strands are thicker and more fragrant than its counterpart from Iran, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s saffron production. For Kashmiri farmers, crop sells for as much as 250,000 INR or $3,400 USD a kilogram, or $1,550 a pound, in what was once a booming industry. Most of Kashmir’s saffron is grown in Pampore, south of the state’s summer capital, Srinagar. Thirty years ago, it would take a family six to seven months to pick and then package their crop; winters filled with the spice’s fragrance and palms golden from working with it. As recently as a decade ago, one family would be able to harvest 200 kilograms of saffron, half of the 400 kilos her parents would get in the 1990s. Three years ago, the crop dropped to 20 kilograms; in 2016, it dropped to 15. Last year, the crop weighed less than 7 kilograms; this year’s produce has been the same. In all of Pampore, farmers have suffered similar fates, unable to account for their production for the last two years, as it was so little.
In other words, saffron production in Kashmir is at one of the lowest recorded in history. As the farmers have begun to say, “the red-gold is turning to gray.” Due to ongoing regional violence, droughts, and the still-unfolding effects of climate change on the land, Kashmiri saffron has slowly begun to disappear.
Kashmir has been the subject of war between the two nations when the Indian subcontinent gained independence in August 1947, and at the same time was split into two. Since 1990, Indian-administered Kashmir has been fully occupied by the Indian armed forces to quell pro-independence insurgencies. In the ’90s, Kashmir saw a spell of intense communal violence following the occupation, leading to the departure of Hindu Kashmiris from the region and giving rise to a period of civil conflict and oppression that continues today.
More than 47,000 people have died in the conflict since 1989, excluding those termed as disappeared. In mid-June 2018, the state government dissolved. According to local news organizations, by October 2018, more than 300 people — including army personnel, militants, and civilians — died in the valley just that year, of which 139 have been in South Kashmir, where Pampore is located. An estimated 500,000 Indian troops remain deployed in Kashmir. In the region, the war has inevitably become a war on the land, directly impacting the region’s agriculture, which constitutes more than 80 percent of its livelihood and economy.
Pampore, only 30 minutes away from Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, advertises itself as “Saffron Town.” The process for farming the crop begins in April, when the soil is plowed twice to allow moisture to seep in. The corms for the saffron — which cost 50,000 rupees per kanal, or 1/8 of an acre — are sown in August or September, and the soil is pulverized and allowed to breathe. Following this, apart from minor tending, nothing much can be done, except to wait. In mid-October, the plants begin to sprout by themselves from the soil, and for a month they are picked, dried, and sorted.
The saffron flower has three parts. There’s the flower petals — that goes in for medicine, then there’s the yellow strands, which aren’t much use. The red strands, right in the middle, are pure saffron, which is what we’re looking for. A single flower produces just three red strands; one gram of saffron is made from around 350 strands. For a kilogram of the spice, more than 150,000 flowers are sifted and scanned, and the rarity of the red strand can lead to shortcuts from less scrupulous merchants. Often, in the market, the yellow are colored with red and mixed into the bunch.
In the Indian subcontinent, saffron has many names: zafran in Urdu (from Persian), kesar in Hindi, Kong Posh in Kashmiri, and kungumapoo in Tamil. It was popularized by the Mughals — the Turkic kings from Central Asia that made the subcontinent their home in the 16th century, who took saffron wherever they established court and introduced it into their cuisine. Under the Mughals, saffron, as a color and scent, became commonplace in the royal kitchens. It became prominent in biryani, in which golden-colored rice stacked with meat became a favorite meal. It was used in stews made with lamb; in breads like sheermal , a sweet, thick flatbread dipped in saffron water that is today eaten in Lucknow, an ex-Mughal capital in India’s North; in fruit sherbets as a cure from tiredness; and in phirni , a rice pudding made with spices and eaten all over Delhi, Lucknow, and other parts of India and Pakistan where the Mughals had established rule.
Saffron’s presence dates back to Kashmir in as early as the fifth century. Kashmiris infuse milk with saffron to break fast during Ramadan; use it in modur pulao , a sweet rice dish made with dry fruits in times of celebration; and sprinkle it on top of yogurt. The spice is used as novelty, never in excess or in everyday cooking. Its high value lends it exclusivity even in the region where it is grown.
During weddings and funerals, Kashmiris eat Wazwan — a traditional meal cooked by trained chefs that comprises more than 30 dishes. Here, as a token of specialty, saffron is infused into the broths. Saffron is the face of Wazwan. The color that it induces in different dishes is very important to the meal. It also appears in rogan josh, a fiery lamb dish made with Kashmiri chiles, and lahabi kebab, pounded, spiced koftes cooked in a bright red gravy. It is crucial for Wazwan.
While a glimpse of Kashmiri saffron can be seen in its cuisine, its most important presence is, for Kashmiris, in kehwa — a slow-brewed green tea, infused with saffron and spices like cinnamon and cardamom, garnished with almonds, and sweetened with sugar or honey. Kehwa is consumed through the valley; deep golden, it is an ode to local saffron, its color and the fragrance it brings.
People want things to look like saffron; it is not just an ingredient, it is also a concept in Indian cuisine. Often, to replicate the golden-orange hue, people will use turmeric and water. But real saffron is a red-gold. There’s nothing else like it. It’s not food, it’s a feeling. It’s no surprise to me that it’s more expensive in weight than gold.
While saffron has an overarching emotional presence in Kashmir and the rest of the Indian subcontinent, its struggles are mostly ecological: drought and lack of irrigation. In previous years, farmers could count on the winter snow seeping into the soil through spring and summer, keeping it moist despite the region’s strong sun. But climate change in the valley has led to scarce rainfall and snowfall, leading the soil to become dry and unsuited for the crop.
In 1997, more than 5,700 hectares of land were cultivated for saffron, according to the Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Department, producing just under 16 metric tonnes. Due to a severe drought, the early 2000s saw a dip in saffron production, falling to as low as 0.3 metric tonnes in 2001. The next 13 years would see an average of 8.71 metric tonnes yield, even despite flooding in 2012 that brought with it great damage, washing nutrients away from the land.
One saffron bulb can keep producing flowers for 15 days if it is healthy. But the floods damaged the quality of crop, and the drought damaged the quality of the soil. Saffron requires a very precise constituency (called karewa ), a moist soil rich in humus content. Now a lot of bulbs that erupt are unfit for producing flowers, or diseased.
In 2015, the crop totaled 9.6 metric tons of saffron, from 3,674 hectares of land. In 2016 and 2017, while the exact numbers haven’t been calculated, but the output fell to less than 10 percent of 2015’s numbers..
In 2010, the central government set up the National Saffron Mission to revive saffron production in Kashmir. The objective behind the mission, with a budget of 4.1 billion rupees (or $57 million USD), was to reconcile Kashmiri farmers with the changing nature of their job. The goals were manifold: to provide irrigation facilities in the form of sprinklers and taps, to increase the quality of the seed sown for crop, to conduct research to further productivity, and to educate farmers about new methods.
To combat the changing environment, 108 borewells — made by drilling inside the ground to store rainwater — were built. But only eight out of the envisioned 128 sprinklers were set up, and most are not in use: Advocates say local farmers, who have long relied on age-old techniques, have not been adequately educated about the changing conditions, or the methods for the betterment of their crop. Many farmers believe in the religious sanctity of their lands, seeing the newer technologies as an unwelcome force. This land is sacred. These pipes are an intrusion to the divine.
An important thing to know is that the saffron farming industry is not one that is accustomed to poverty. The farmers believe that the land has always given, and so it will.
Because of its low yield, land once used to grow saffron has become less valuable. Villagers and farmers both have begun to abandon their lands, an act that cannot be detached from the Indian military’s control of one of the subcontinent’s most fertile spaces: surveillance, encounter killings, and oppressive force by the armed forces on Kashmiris have become usual occurrences. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, granted to the military in 1990, allows it to search, arrest, use force, and even fire upon those they suspect of armed rebellion, which has led to distrust of the government.
Despite the violence and struggles, more than 20,000 families are associated with the saffron economy in Kashmir today. But Iranian saffron has also begun to enter India through what the farmers call “secondhand channels,” and because of its lower price, it is packaged and sold as Kashmiri saffron. Though high in novelty, the spice is in no position to compete with its Iranian counterpart. Advertisements
How Did Chickpea Flour, A Staple Of Indian Cuisine, Become A Health Food Sensation? | KPBS
How Did Chickpea Flour, A Staple Of Indian Cuisine, Become A Health Food Sensation? Sunday, May 12, 2019 Priya Krishna / NPR Photo by Pinkybird Getty Images Chickpea flour is gaining attention thanks to its gluten-free binding properties. But the ingredient has been a staple of cooking for Indians, Pakistanis and many others for centuries.
There’s a specific section of my family’s fridge that is reserved for the large, seemingly bottomless tub of chickpea flour — or as we and lots of other Indians who also rely on it call it, besan — that my parents keep on hand. We’re not gluten-free, nor do we do a lot of baking. Yet chickpea flour shows up everywhere in our food. It’s the nutty coating for my mom’s green beans spiced with earthy ajwain , the key ingredient in her creamy, tangy, yogurt-based soup, kadhi , and the base for our favorite variety of laddoos , sweet, fudge-like balls flavored with ghee, sugar and nuts.
Across the many regional cuisines in India, chickpea flour is a common denominator: Gujaratis turn it into pudla , thin, savory crepes laced with turmeric and chilies. In Karnataka and Maharashtra, it can be found in jhunka , a spicy porridge. And in Andhra Pradesh, it is the thickener in Senagapindi Kura , an onion-heavy stew. For the country’s large vegetarian population, where eggs are often considered non-vegetarian, chickpea flour mixed with water serves as a convincing omelet replacement.
Indians — along with the Nepalese, Pakistanis, Italians, the French, and many others — have been cooking with chickpea flour for centuries. Americans, on the other hand, only seem to have woken up to the ingredient in the last decade or so. And they’ve woken up in a big way.
It’s hard to trace the exact origin of chickpea flour’s sudden popularity in the U.S. Anna Stockwell, the senior food editor of the publications Epicurious and Bon Appétit , said she first started seeing chickpea flour around 2009 on gluten-free blogs. Stockwell is gluten-free herself, and was excited to find a recipe for savory chickpea pancakes.
She didn’t know much about chickpea flour’s culinary heritage, but she was immediately excited. “Its binding power was magic,” she recalls. “All you have to do is combine chickpea flour and water, and suddenly you can make flatbread, or fritters or vegetable pancakes.” Still, Stockwell saw it as a niche ingredient — something only gluten-free consumers cared about. She wasn’t even allowed to call for it in Epicurious recipes.
Slowly but surely, that started to change. In 2010, one of the more popular recipes from Plenty , Yotam Ottolenghi’s bestselling cookbook, was a chickpea flour pancake, or socca , as it’s known in France, layered with tomatoes and onions. In 2015, food and fitness writer Camilla Saulsbury wrote the popular book The Chickpea Flour Cookbook . That was followed a year later by Chickpea Flour Does It All , by blogger Lindsey Love.
Lani Halliday, the founder of Brutus Bakeshop, a gluten-free Brooklyn bakery, says she noticed a huge uptick in the number of chickpea flour-based, gluten-free sweets available about a decade ago. For baked goods, chickpea flour worked uniquely well, “as it can hold air bubbles and hold moisture,” she says. Plus, “it was cheap, it was accessible, and it was versatile.”
Halliday launched her bakery in 2015. One of her bestselling items among both gluten-free and non-gluten-free customers was a chocolate cupcake made with chickpea flour.
Stockwell believes the mainstreaming of chickpea flour is directly linked to one company in particular — Banza. The company started producing its chickpea flour-based pasta in 2014, and by 2017, it was in 8,000-plus grocery stores and had raised $8 million in funding. The key to the company’s success? It didn’t exclusively market itself as a gluten-free product. Instead, it was branded as health food. And it was one of the first alternative pastas that had a smooth, al dente texture, just like the real thing.
“I had friends who had never heard of chickpea flour, but now they eat Banza,” Stockwell says. “It’s not because they are trying to eat gluten-free but because it’s a delicious and higher-protein pasta. It’s a substitute for empty carbs.”
This year, Epicurious was finally allowed to publish recipes with chickpea flour. Dennis Vaughn, the CEO of Bob’s Red Mill, says that in the past five years, chickpea flour has become a clear bestseller among the company’s sundry flour options.
“My grocery store doesn’t even carry red meat,” Stockwell says, “but they carry Bob’s Red Mill” chickpea flour.
In many ways, it has been weird to watch this ingredient that has always felt so quotidian to me become so ubiquitous so quickly in the U.S. This is certainly not the first Indian ingredient or dish this has happened to. Consider turmeric, chai, or khichdi , which have all been claimed by the wellness community and food bloggers as their own, often times without giving due credit to Indian cuisine. It baffles me that the vast majority of people I talk to are shocked to hear that chickpea flour has long been a common ingredient in my family’s cooking.
On the other hand, it was important to me when I was writing my new cookbook, Indian-ish , that people could find the ingredients for the dishes in their average grocery store. Because chickpea flour is now so common, I could include recipes like those addictive chickpea flour green beans, and the silky, soupy kadhi .
I’m not against chickpea flour entering the mainstream. But I wish that more of the stories I read about it, or the recipes I saw that featured it, didn’t frame it as a brand-new discovery, and completely ignore its heritage.
No one culture can “own” an ingredient — I’m literally writing this with a box of Banza chickpea pasta in my kitchen cabinet — but let’s not treat food like it exists in a vacuum. There’s context for that chickpea flour flatbread you’re making for dinner. Don’t take it for granted.
Priya Krishna is a food writer who contributes to The New York Times, Bon Appétit , and others. She also serves as one of the hosts of Bon Appétit’s video series, From the Test Kitchen . She is the author of the cookbook Indian-ish: Recipes And Antics From A Modern American Family . Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @ PKgourmet
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org. Want more KPBS news? To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader . More Like This
NPR News: How Did Chickpea Flour, A Staple Of Indian Cuisine, Become A Health Food Sensation?
NPR News: How Did Chickpea Flour, A Staple Of Indian Cuisine, Become A Health Food Sensation? How Did Chickpea Flour, A Staple Of Indian Cuisine, Become A Health Food Sensation? Indians, along with the Nepalese, Pakistanis and many others, have been cooking with it for centuries. As Americans now embrace this ingredient with gusto, will its culinary heritage get blurred?