Harissa: The winter delicacy of Kashmir

A winter speciality, the most loved morning meal of Kashmir, is the sizzling hot Harissa.

The delicacy, which is famed to have its origin in Central Asia came to Kashmir during the Mughal era, and still remains a popular delicacy in Kashmir.

People welcome the winters with this traditionally prepared delicacy. It is generally eaten at breakfast time and provides protein, and warmth to the body during the cold days.

Harissa is a mutton preparation. Cooked in huge Degs (Earthen Pots) placed inside wood fired ovens, the simmering firewood heat overnight, adds to it. The mutton is cooked, deboned and then slowly stir cooked till it acquires a smooth paste form. The slow stirring is the essence of this mouth watering dish and is done manually till date. Harissa is served hot with flat bread or naan.

The old Srinagar city, popularly known as Downtown is the hub of Harissa-making shops as people turn up in large numbers during the wee hours to gorge on the mutton delicacy. Making Harissa requires not only labor, but also skill.

Vessels of Harissa are often exchanged as gifts between the families of brides and grooms, during wedding season.

In the past, affluent Kashmiris would hold Harise Saal (feasts) after the first snowfall.

A plate of Harissa is garnished with small pieces of kabab, methi maaz, and topped over with boiling mustard oil.

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