Srinagar: If you go to famed Dal Lake in the wee hours this winter, you will find Mushtaq Hussain Akhoon serving ‘kehwa’ in a ‘shikara’ at the floating vegetable garden.
When people avoid venturing out of their homes due to bone chilling cold, Mushtaq serves his special kehwa flavoured with saffron and honey from a traditional Kashmiri samovar from 7 am onwards in sub-zero temperature.
Saffron-honey kehwa topped with rose petals
Sprinkled with dry fruits and topped with rose leaves, the kehwa is popular not only among the vegetable sellers and buyers at the Dal Lake’s famous floating vegetable garden, but tourists too enjoy this Kashmiri drink.
Though Mushtaq serves kehwa to the vegetable vendors and buyers in the morning, he returns later in the day for tourists and other visitors at the Dal Lake.
Serving time 7.00 am sharp
“No matter what the temperature is, I start serving kehwa at 7.00 am sharp when it is still a bit dark. We do not feel cold as we were born here. I have been coming to the vegetable market every morning for the past eight to nine years. After my first round at the market in the morning, I go home for meals. Later, I return to serve kehwa to visitors at the lake,” said Mushtaq.
He claimed that his kehwa had more than the traditional 11 ingredients.
“My kehwa has 15 ingredients and is topped with rose leaves. I also put pure saffron and honey in it,” he said.
Kehwa attracting national food bloggers, tourists
Interestingly, Mushtaq’s kehwa has attracted the attention of food bloggers from all over India.
Valley-based food blogger of ‘Kashmirfoodgram’ fame, Omar Rather, said Mushtaq had become very popular not only with the tourists but the bloggers as well.
“Recently, two famous food bloggers including #dilsefoodie interacted with him and are expected to feature him soon on their channels. His kehwa is very special as it has all the 11 spices including saffron, elaichi, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, mulethi, honey, etc. It is also topped with rose petals and served from a samovar in the shikara….this makes it special,” he said.
‘A sight to behold!’
“The kehwa has of late become very popular among the tourists as well as food bloggers. Despite sub-zero temperatures, Mushtaq serves kehwa everyday. One must visit the floating vegetable market in the morning and see how kehwa is served from a shikara. It is a sight to behold! Even if the peripheries of Dal Lake are freezing and covered with ice, Mushtaq will be there in the wee hours well before sunrise near the floating vegetable market,” said Omar.