To beat the cold, Kashmiris eat Harissa. This centuries-old cuisine keeps Kashmiris warm


As winter approaches and temperatures are recorded below zero degrees, the Kashmiri people have their own traditional ways of beating the cold. Centuries-old delicacy called Harissa is a must-have breakfast meal in the Valley during the tough harsh winters. 

Harissa, a delicacy made of mutton and spices and cooked overnight in an underground earthen pot by using steam, is the most favourite dish of winter. And is relished for over five months of winter to get those extra calories needed to fight the bitter winter cold. 

According to historians, Harissa came to Kashmir in the 14th century, and the Srinagar city has been serving it for over 200 years. The Harissa makers have been in the business for over two centuries and still carry it forward. 

"This shop is 120 years old, My father and grandfather used to run this shop before me. Harissa is great for winters; it keeps you warm and keeps your full body warm. We use sheep meat for making the harissa and not goat. A lot of spices are used in it. We sell it for four months in winter. People who eat Harissa never have any chest problems. We start at 6am in the mornings and it finishes by 12. It's a great and healthy dish," said Ali Mohammad Bhat, Harissa, Maker and Owner. 

The Harissa makers say that eating Harissa for breakfast will keep a person warm all through the day even if it is below minus degrees. Harissa also prevents various diseases related to cold. And it's made every night for 8 hours by these special chefs. A lot of hard work is put in by these chefs to make Harissa. 

"Harissa keeps your body warm during minus degrees. It's very difficult and hard work to make Harissa. We are keeping the tradition alive. My son might not be able to do it as it requires a lot of work. First, we warm everything and put rice in it. We add meat, spices etc, and later we steam it for around 8 hours in the earthen pot. And we put coal around this pot and keep it on till 3am till it becomes soft and sell it from 6am. It's the most famous breakfast meal here and now we also have so many tourists coming to eat. It has come from Iran and still goes on," said Imran Ali Bhat, Harissa, Maker and Owner. 

The new contemporary cafes have also incorporated Harissa into their menu. Since the demand for Harissa has been increasing, the cafes are making sure to sell Harissa to their customers. 

And some cafes like Chai Jaai are serving it in a very traditional way and with Kashmiri copper utensils. The copper bowls with beautiful, engraved designs and the chef pouring a hot oil tadka (tempering) in front of customers is what make it unique and a memorable moment for the customers. And a lot of tourists now especially come to these places to order and eat Harissa. Some even order from outside Kashmir. 

"Tourists are especially coming for Harissa. It's not limited to Kashmir; people are ordering from across India. We have a lot of tourists especially demanding Harissa from us. It used to be sold in traditional places, but since now it's sold in the cafes, it's becoming a more and more popular dish," said Rafiq AhmadChai Jaai, Cafe Manager. 

The tourists are enjoying these authentic Kashmiri dishes the most. And since the cafes have started serving it, more and more tourists have been ordering them during the winter. 

"We have purposely come to eat harissa at this place. We had heard about it. I am really enjoying it a lot. The service is great and the way it's served is lovely. I remember people used to be in line to get harissa in Kashmir. It's mostly eaten in winters, and it gives you a lot of energy," said Intikhaab Aalam, Tourist. 

And with the onset of winter, Harissa takes over most of the staple breakfast foods eaten by the locals during this period. 


You can now write for and be a part of the community. Share your stories and opinions with us here.