New Delhi: “Kashmiri food is more than Wazwan, and both Muslim and Pandit cuisines of the region need due recognition,” says celebrity Sanjay Raina, who is on a mission to change traditional perceptions about Kashmiri food and its preparation.
A name to reckon with when it comes to the business of food — be it as a restaurateur, a hotelier, or an award-winning celebrity chef — Raina’s labor of love is to provide the finest quality home-cooked Kashmiri cuisine and make it available across the country without ever having to compromise on quality and taste.
“It has taken me a few years to put Pandit cuisine on the map… It took a lot of information sharing, educating customers, and social media posts to achieve this. I feel vegetarians always feel short-changed when it comes to eating out, so I have tried to change this.
“Whether it’s at our restaurant, or food festivals or catering, the vegetarian components are as important as any other dish. With Kashmiri Pandit cuisine, I get the opportunity to highlight vegetarian options and make them shine,” states Raina.
The chef’s culinary skills were shaped at the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa, New Delhi. Born and brought up in Srinagar, Raina is a confessed ‘ambassador of Kashmiri cuisine’.
Quick to understand market dynamics, Raina notes that people now want to eat and explore regional cuisine; they’re happy to have ‘Nadru Yakhini’ and ‘Haak Saag’ or try traditional lotus stem fritters.
Raina goes on to clear the misconception that Kashmiri food should be avoided in summers, clarifying, “When you think of Kashmiri food, you think of spices and oil. But think about it, Punjabi food like butter chicken is rich with cream and cashew nuts but it’s eaten all year round.”
“Kashmiris all over the world eat their food daily, so there is no such thing that it should be avoided in a particular season. Kashmiri food is unique, and the spices are local to the region, so the fennel powder or red chili used in our food comes directly from Srinagar and is customized to meet specific requirements.”
Being optimistic about the restaurant industry, which was one of the worst hit during the pandemic, Raina states, “I hope the worst is behind us, but it allowed us to learn a lot. The business of food evolved during that time and what we learnt will see us through the coming years.”
To take patrons on a delectable journey, the chef is hosting ‘Paradise on a Platter’, a food festival at Four Points by Sheraton, New Delhi, from April 27-30, a must-try for all food lovers.