Friday, November 18, 2016




It is believed that while onions originated from ancient Egypt .Onion has been in cultivation for at least about 7,000 years.

Potatoes are said to have been grown for domestic consumption in some Latin American country . From Latin America , Spanish settlers brought Potato to Europe sometime in 16th century . . From Europe , Portuguese introduced potatoes to Indians sometime in 17th century. They called it 'Batata', . And it is still known with the same name in Mumbai ( Maharashtra ) . Later British traders introduced potato cultivation to Bengal where it came to be known as Alu. By the end of the 18th century, it was Cultivated in entire North India . In Kashmir , Potato cultivation was introduced during the Dogra rule .

To kashmiris , Both Potato and Onion appeared Alien , Not like their own native Green Leafy Haak . I don’t know why Kashmiris were unkindly fascinated by this combination of two words Ganda and Olluv . Possibly Onions and Potatoes arrived in Kashmir very late. Usage of Onion in cooking was unknown to the people of Kashmir till 14th century .

Neelmat Purana is silent about Potatoes and Onions . In Rajtarangini, Kalhana also does not confirm usage of Onion in kashmiri kitchen or Cuisine . There is a mention in 8th Taranga verse 143 ( Palandu ) but read in context , it is like a herb or medicinal item and presented to Guru along with incense and some other herb. May be some outsiders were carrying onion as a medicine or special herb for kashmirian kings or Royal families but population as such was unaware of its usage in Cuisine or kitchen till 14th century.

For many centuries, kashmiris treated both Potatoes and onions ( Bulb Variety ) as something thrust on them. Although Onions gradually found acceptance in Muslim households , Potatoes had to face some unkind treatment from a common kashmiri . The common Refrain from use of Potatoes was expressed By kashmiris as Under :

“ Treath yimun Olluvun .Beyyi Ossuaai Na Kenh Aetti “
“ Curse these Potatoes . Couldn’t you find anything else in the Market ?

Kashmiri Pandits who relish DUM-ALLU ( Prepared from Boiled and Deep fried potatoes ) as a special Dish in every feast were somehow inimical to its general use .

“Kyaa Chhukh Olluv Khyvaan .Sienn Paava anizihey “
“ Why are You eating these Potatoes . You should have bought a Paav ( 250 gms ) of Mutton. “

The Disdainful attitude towards Potatoes came to surface when Sheikh Mohd Abdullah was Nicknamed as Olluv Bub ( Potato Father ) by Kashmiris . Sheikh sahib had advised kashmiris to eat Potatoes when Rice crops Failed and a drought like situation prevailed in Kashmir during his Incumbency . This fact has also been recorded by V S Naipaul in his Travelogue “ An Area of Darkness ."

While People in Plains make bulk purchases of Potatoes and Onions and store them, a kashmiri generally buys need based quantity . kashmiri Muslims prefer to use the Shallot Variety of Onions known locally as Praan . They use Praan extensively in their Cuisine especially in Wazwaan.
Gradually and post Migration , Pandits have also Brought The Bulb Variety of onion to their kitchen .Though they do not use it for preparation of their core or Traditional Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian Dishes Like Yakhni , Rogan Josh , Mutsz ( Keema or Mutton Balls ), Haak , Dum Allu , Pullav ( Biryaani ), Rajmash ( Kidney Beans ) , Tchaaman Kali ( Yellow Cheese ), Vozeij Tchaaman ( Red Cheese ) Etc, It is liberally used in Salads , Pickles and Indian style vegetables cooked by them.

When I was young , I would be surprised to see that carpenters at work would usually bring a dish of Onions and Potatoes with them . For sometime, this dish got associated with carpenters . Many times , when some kashmiri saw this dish in a fellow kashmiri’s Tiffin , He would instantly comment ,

“ Kyaa sa Tche kyaa az Chhaana Seinis Pyaath Votmut “
“ What Happened , Why have you come down to a Carpenter’s Dish Today ? “

And the disdain for Potatoes and Bulb onions would also get reflected on streets . If a crowd of idlers could not find a suitable Nickname for a simpleton on the road , they would just call him,

“ Onion and Potato “

Sometimes you would get surprised as to why a particular person is being hooted on his back by a strange Nickname “ GANDA TSOOR “ or “ Onion Thief “. The person had remotest link with either onions or thieving .

And quite often I have heard Kashmiris saying,

"Aei't Ho, Ba Chhu'ss Vaenni Heissuv. Mey Chuvv na vaeinni Ganda Russ."
" You Beware, I am still in my senses. I have not drunk onion juice as yet."

Here onion juice or Ganda Russ meant Liquor or some intoxicating drink.

I found that Boiled / Fried Potato mixed with Chop fried onion is a popular recipe in many European countries . Germans just love this recipe of mashed Potatoes ( After boiling or deep frying ) mixed with chop fried Onions laced with herbs or spices .

It has now been established that Both onions and shallots contain Allicin, which helps lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. Shallots have a milder taste and odour than onions, so shallots are more commonly eaten raw.

Presently Bulb Onions are extensively grown and used in Kashmir. And Production of Bulb Onions far exceeds the production of shallots ( Praan ). To meet Demand , Onions are also imported into Kashmir . While Demand for Potatoes and onions has surged , I am not sure about the past disdain that kashmiris used to give to these two items .

( Autar Mota )
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