Srinagar, Nov 12: As winter tightens its grip in Kashmir, the traditional delicacy of Harissa is enjoying a surge in demand among locals, with both traditional brick-and-mortar shops and online platforms witnessing increased sales.
The minced mutton dish, introduced to Kashmir during the Mughal era, continues to be a favourite among residents seeking warmth and comfort during the chilly winter months.
In the Aali Kadal area of downtown Srinagar, where cold and foggy mornings are the norm, hordes of people are flocking to Harissa shops to savour the mouth-watering delicacy.
The demand is so high that by 10 am, obtaining a plate of Harissa becomes nearly impossible as many shops have already sold out. The popularity of Harissa has led to the emergence of new food outlets specializing in its preparation, with Hattrick Foods pioneering this trend.
Muhammad Maqbool, who has been involved in the family business of selling Harissa in the Aali Kadal area for generations, expresses his passion for the art of Harissa preparation.
“Preparing Harissa is in my blood. I have devoted my life to this art, which brings me cheer and satisfaction. While I have earned a lot, seeing a satisfied customer relishing the dish gives me even more contentment,” says Maqbool.
Traditional Harissa shops are scattered across old city areas such as Nawa Kadal, Rajouri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, and Gojwara, each competing for customers and emphasizing quality. The popularity of Harissa is now extending to uptown areas like Maisuma and Rajbagh.
Customers begin arriving at Harissa shops at the crack of dawn, eager to indulge in this winter delicacy. Iqbal Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar, shares, “I, along with my friends, make sure that we relish Harissa twice a week. We eagerly await winter to arrive so that we can enjoy this delicacy with tandoori bread.”
Noticing the increasing demand, food joints have joined the Harissa bandwagon, offering the dish to consumers across Kashmir. Babar Chowdhary, Managing Director of Hattrick Foods Ltd, highlights the enduring popularity of Harissa during the winter months. “Its demand is never dull. In fact, with each passing day, its popularity is on the rise,” says Chowdhary.
He notes that packaged Harissa has become a convenient option for those who cannot visit traditional Harissa shops, and it also serves as a delightful gift sent to loved ones outside Kashmir.
Chowdhary emphasises the importance of expertise and hard work in crafting the best Harissa.
“From the careful selection of the right mutton to choosing the best quality spices, one has to spend the entire night gently stirring the mixture to achieve the right consistency and aroma,” he explains.
While Harissa has been a cherished dish in Kashmir for centuries, its exact origin and entry date into the Valley remain unknown. The old city of Srinagar, known as Shahr-e-Khaas, stands as the epicentre of Harissa-making shops, attracting large crowds during the early hours to relish this time-honoured mutton delicacy.