Spices in Authentic Kashmiri cuisine hold a significant amount of value in the making of Kashmiri cuisine. The spices they add are so rich in taste that the food serves all tongues and makes the dishes stand out unique. There are a lot of spices added like Kashmiri chilli powder that is traditionally used in Kashmir valley, shahi jeera (Black cumin, Himali jeera, Kashmiri jeera) and other spices. Kashmiri cuisine is famous all around the world for aromatic spices, color and great taste.
The first name that strikes when we talk about the famous spices in Kashmir valley and the most talked about is Saffron (Kesar). There are only few places where Saffron grows and Kashmir has the privilege of being one of those places. The quality of Saffron in Kashmir is best and it alone carries a distinguishing feature of long stigmas with thick heads that makes it unique and "World's best Saffron". The harvest requires a large amount of manpower and is generally regarded as a labor-intensive endeavour. The harvest period of Saffron is from late October to late November. Saffron is also called 'Lachha' or 'Shahi Zafran'. It is one of the most expensive spices and one of the oldest herbs that are added to the Wazwan that is a multi-course meal and comprises of thirty-six dishes where the orange stigmas of the saffron is used as a flavoring and colouring agent in few dishes that requires spice. It has a crimson shade and is not only added in the dishes but beverages as well.
The authentic cuisine from Kashmir is mild in taste and is recognized by the flavours. Crocus sativus is the botanical name of Saffron. Saffron is added to Kahwa, the famous traditional Saffron tea drunk by Kashmiri people. Due to the presence of Saffron in Kahwa, it serves as a warming drink that helps to withstand cold winters and it was traditionally prepared in a brass kettle called samovar. Saffron the royal spice is added to many dishes like Tabak Maaz, Rogan Josh, Gushtaba, Dhaniwali Murgh Korma, Aab Gosht, and many other dishes as well.
Tabak Maaz is one of the best dishes of Wazwan with flat pieces of mutton cut from the ribs and are fried till they acquire a crisp crackling texture. The ingredients added to Tabak Maaz are powdered aniseeds, ginger powder, turmeric, saffron, cloves and cinnamon. These spices are added to make the Tabak Maaz delectable.
Rogan Josh is a lamb based dish that is cooked in gravy prepared with a mix of different spices like Kashmiri chillies (dry powder), ginger, saffron, asafoetida and bay leaves are among other ingredients. Yogurt is used as a thickener because of the absence of onions in the dish.
Gushtaba is called "The Dish of Kings" and is an authentic Kashmiri cuisine that one cannot resist. Gushtaba is a Kashmiri Delicacy and if one of the most favorite dishes in Kashmir valley. The ingredients include spices like coriander, cumin powder, Fennel powder, Cinnamon powder, and saffron that are added to savor your taste buds to heaven-like experience.
Aab Gosht is the dish that can be prepared in two ways that are Kashmiri and Iranian. It is among many mutton dishes of Kashmir, but among all it is the most popular. This is an everyday dish eaten by Kashmiri people. It is made using milk and other Kashmiri spices like saffron, black pepper, Kashmiri chilli powder, milk, cardamom and other spices.
Dhaniwali Murgh Korma is chicken murgh korma with coriander leaves and 10 strands of Saffron is added to this dish. The ingredients added are cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, ginger powder, turmeric powder, fresh coriander leaves and other spices to give pleasant taste.
Saffron is a royal spice not just because of its high price and rich flavor but also because local folklore associates it’s blooming with romance.