A chowk full of Kashmir f lavour.
Life at Khayam Chowk begins after sunset. A smell of roasted meat from the cinders delights the air inside the narrow market.
Tourists and Valley residents make a beeline for the shops selling barbecues and kebabs as aroma of roasted meat hangs heavy in the air.
Barbecues are served with 12 kinds of chutneys ( condiments), pickle and Kashmiri flat bread -- lavasa -- in the famous foodies' street of th e Kashmir valley.
Khayam Chowk, which is named after a Cinema hall in the neighbourhood, has already gained popularity across the Valley for its delicious barbecues.
" All shops in Khayam Chowk were small stalls serving tea to cine- goers who visit Khayam Cinema before 1990. However, after the armed insurgency broke out in the Valley, cinema halls were forced to close down," says Riyaz Ahmad Tantray who has been working at Imran's Barbecue Shop -- one of the oldest shops in the area -- for the past two decades. He is a witness to how the market has emerged into a popular food street over the years.
In 1990, cinema halls across the Valley, including Khayam Cinema, had to pull down their shutters in the wake of insurgency. Khayam Cinema was later turned into a super- specialty hospital.
In the 90s, several shopkeepers switched to barbecue business which picked up gradually in the Valley. A decade ago, a bowl of barbecue -- six small pieces of meat -- cost around ` 25. Over time, the price of a bowl of barbecue has soared to ` 90.
" Those who have visited the street like to bring their friends and colleagues whenever they visit the valley. We have been able to provide them with what they are looking for," says Tantray, adding, " What we sell here is different from what they get in restaurants in Srinagar." Tourists also throng to Khayam Chowk. " I have come to this place to eat barbecues. One of my friends who had been to this street earlier recommended this place to me for barbecues," said Arun Kumar, a tourist from New Delhi.
The barbecues are prepared by slicing mutton chunks into smaller easy- to- eat pieces.
After adding spices and curd to the meat, it is stored in a cold place for about 12 hours until the spices penetrate deep into the pieces of meat.
Subsequently, the meat is then kept on burning charcoal to allow it to get roasted. Intermittently the meat pieces are brushed with butter. Once the barbecues are ready it is served hot.
These days, shopkeepers even receive catering orders from party organisers in Srinagar. " Recently, there was a barbecue party in the Delhi Public School, Srinagar.
I served barbecues over there," said Hilal Ahmad Chopan, a cook. " We also serve barbecues at functions organised in the Dal Lake."
Khayam Chowk is named after a popular movie hall that was shut down in 1990.
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