Rocking the Kashmir: Dishing Up a Flavour of the Himalayan Trail

Rocking the Kashmir: Dishing Up a Flavour of the Himalayan Trail

Travel through snow-capped peaks and lush meadows, from Kashmir to Ladakh, for a taste of the region’s kitchen culture. Leading the way is Chef Romy Gill MBE, serving up recipes and their backstories in her new book.

up in West Bengal, as part of a Punjabi family, I longed
to visit the beautiful lakes, snow-capped mountains and rolling
meadows of the Himalayas. To me, as a young girl, it looked
like paradise. Bollywood movies only enticed me further. Then my
husband, Gundeep, regaled me with tales of his travels in Ladakh.
They held me transfixed and fuelled my fascination for these
magical places.

It wasn’t just the incredible landscapes that captured my
imagination. As a chef and a food writer, I was intrigued by the
local people, their food and culture. With so much political
uncertainty in Kashmir, the hospitality and cuisine of the
region can get lost in the noise. I wanted to learn those stories
and share them with the world.

I first visited Ladakh while writing an article for SUITCASE and further research
trips followed, when I enjoyed the chance to eat, learn and cook
some of the region’s recipes.

I met the wazas, Kashmiri chefs who specialise in preparing the
wazwan – a sumptuous, multi-course banquet renowned in the region.
I learnt how they continue to prepare the spread using traditional
techniques and methods. Nothing is wasted in the preparation; each
part of the sheep is cooked for the feast.

I talked with saffron farmers to learn about the treasured spice
– how the saffron is cultivated, harvested and used in cooking. One
feast in particular sticks in my mind as the best vegetarian meal
I’ve had. It was cooked by the mother of Amit, a former doctor and
friend of a friend, who helped guide my research for this book. I
hope to taste her incredible cooking again someday.

In Ladakh I fell in love with skyu, a type of
flour pasta shaped into small discs with thumb imprints. It’s then
slowly cooked in a hearty, root vegetable broth, and sometimes
mutton or creamy yak milk is added. I met Charol and her
mother-in-law, who taught me how to make momos (dumplings). These
filled dumplings, stuffed with meat, vegetables or paneer and then
steamed, are famous in Ladakhi cuisine, and you can find them
across the region.

Exploring the Himalayan trail taught me a wealth of cooking
techniques I wouldn’t have encountered elsewhere. There’s so much
more I need to learn about the homeland in which I grew up. This
book is my attempt to begin that journey of discovery, through
recipes and stories.

The Lowdown

On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories From Kashmir to
Ladakh by Romy Gill is published by Hardie Grant Books (£27) and is
available to purchase at Follow @romygill on instagram.