The conflict in Kashmir is weighing down restaurants serving Kashmiri fare in the Capital. With cooks stuck in Kashmir due to the lockdown and challenges in sourcing authentic ingredients, many Kashmiri restaurant owners fear that they might have to shut shop temporarily.
“You can make authentic Kashmiri food only if you have wazas (traditional Kashmiri chefs) in your kitchen. My chefs went to Kashmir for summer vacation and they are stuck there. It’s becoming almost impossible to run my eatery,” says Mohammad Shafi, owner of Ahad Sons, a Kashmiri restaurant in Uday Park.
Another restaurant owner says that he has lost many loyal customers in the last few days. “The curfew has caused major losses. I can’t serve authentic delicacies such as Dhaniwal Korma and Rista anymore as they require special spices that I procure from Kashmir. My regular customers have stopped coming because of that. I used to buy 50kg of meat daily, but now I get only 3kg,” says Ghulam Hussain, owner, Kashmiri Restaurant in Old Delhi..
However, some believe that it’s the ‘general negativity towards Kashmiris’ that’s leading to sudden loss of customers. “The strife has created a negative image of Kashmiris. There’s a lot of misplaced hatred. This is why people have stopped coming,” says owner of a Kashmiri restaurant, who doesn’t want to be named. Industry experts sympathise with the plight of the restaurant owners. “Kashmiri cuisine is very popular in Delhi. It’s sad to see the business of Kashmiri restaurants suffer due to negativity brought by the crisis,” says Pushpesh Pant, food historian and critic.