Funzine - June 2006
Kashmir – gastro trip to North-India
Concerning the different cuisines of the world there numbers are extreme – in many cases fundamentally wrong – and stereotypical in ones mind. One fare that comes to mind is that most of us believe Indian cuisine is extremely hot and spicy. To check the reality of this statement we took a gastronomic trip to one of the new provinces of Budapest’s hospitality, Kashmir. Only recently opened, it is an authentic place where we can get to know the real flavours of India, accompanied by an bona fide guide.
As was the case last week, we have to clear up a few things first, before we continue our discovery in this very exciting territory. When we are trying to avoid every tender – political for example – topic when we are talking about Kashmir, then we obviously won’t be talking about the southern, intensely coconut oriented cuisine, but the one characterizing the Northern Indian and Pakistani cooking habits.
The restaurant is found on the one square kilometre territory within which – not far from Saint Stephan Basilica - the best restaurants in Budapest have opened one after the other in the last couple of years and will probably continue to open.
Although the neighbourhood is becoming more and more fashionable, the oriental being of Kashmir isn’t ostentatious at all. The decor is notably simple, the colour of the walls and well- developed lights diffuse an inward atmosphere.
After initially perusing the menu we decided to order some drinks. And that’s where we experienced our first surprise: with our stereotypical European thinking, in regards to the worship of cows, we wouldn’t have even guessed we would find any kind of dairy product in an Indian restaurant. As compared to this we consumed here one of the most interesting refreshments here, the Lassi. This yoghurt like drink only needs a little flavouring. There is a Mohito like Lassi with mint and lime; and a mango-vanilla fruit drink here – and of course there is an alcoholic version of the Lassi! Mango shake with vodka anyone? Excellent choice! It is even refreshingly great as an appetiser!
It is important to know in advance, before choosing what we actually eat, that because of religious background, traditional Indian cuisine offers an extensive range of meatless dishes, so here in Kashmir, even vegetarians will have a task when choosing. On top of this, they won’t simply be choosing from the simplified version of the meat dishes, but from unique meals originally designed only for vegetables.
But Kashmir isn’t a vegetarian restaurant! Superior and more superior meat dishes are on the menu – for the greatest pleasure of the Gourmands. Let’s start with the soups. We are choosing two vegetables soups - one is made of Indian yellow lentils; the other is from uniquely selected vegetables. It is instantly clear that we will be in trouble with the description of the spiciness of the dishes: from the unique use of the many type of spices – ginger, turmeric, caraway, chilli, garlic, cashew, coconut – creates such a harmony of flavours that its impossible to clarify one or the other. As a starter we are chose an eggplant creme, spiced as mentioned above, and a well describable flavoured Indian chilli cheese. Au contraire to our expectations it wasn’t spicy at all. (Yet our foreheads were sweating from it!) The trick of this - locally made - cottage cheese, which slightly resembles tofu in texture and flavour, is that it is just like tofu and can be used with nearly all food flavours. We consumed the locally baked buttered, onion or cheesed roti and naan bread with our soups and entrees. For our main course we delved into a meal specifically made for the pleasure of vegetarians as well as poultry. I have to admit I love cashew nuts.
So anything made with Cashews is right up my alley and there was no mistake this time either. The fresh seasonal vegetable, cooked in mildly spicy cashew gravy was the perfect choice. The flavour of tender chicken smoked in the Tandoor oven and Tandoori spiced is heaven and for side dishes we ordered some Basmati rice. The portions are abundant and even if there were absolutely no more room for food, wouldn’t miss the original deserts for love or money. One of the desserts, Ras Malai, based on the previously mentioned cottage cheese is referred to in the Hungarian menu as the Indian Madartej, but if we translate it to Indian Birds milk, then it sure enough sounds comical in English. However it is really delicious. Just like the other dessert we ordered, made from my other favourite nut, pistachio, the Indian ice cream, Pista Kulfi.
The service is extremely attentive at all times and prices are reasonable. In Kashmir, besides the delicious meals there is free WI-FI and 15% special discount for all visitors on Sundays. And of course we didn’t mind that they didn’t force the authentic atmosphere by the all night background music of the Sitar. Namely an Indian restaurant wouldn’t be Indian without this. But this is what you can find in Kashmir: a solid but tasteful atmosphere, attentive but not pushy service and finally but not lastly, thanks to the real Indian Chefs, we tasted real Indian cuisine and flavours. Bon appetit!
Mulligatawny - A spicy favourite, made with yellow lentils
Thupa - Clear soup with savoury vegetables and noodles
Chilli Paneer - Tangy cottage cheese cubes flavoured chilli and garlic
Baingan Bharta - Eggplant grilled in Tandoor cooked in tomato cream sauce
Navratan Korma - Fresh seasonal vegetables, cooked in a mild spicy cashew gravy
Chicken Tikka Masala - Tender morsels of boneless chicken smoked over charcoal, then finished in a tandoori flavoured sauce
Ras Malai - Cottage cheese cakes in reduced milk
Pista Kulfi - Indian Pistachio ice cream
Mango Lassi - Yoghurt, gum syrup, rose water, mango pulp, vodka
Lime-mint Lassi - Yoghurt, gum syrup, fresh mint leaves, Lime syrup