Life of a Kashmiri
Eats Monj Haak
You are never truly a Kashmiri if you don’t believe in the above statement.
You must be wondering what is this Monj Haak? Kohlrabi/ Knol Khol/ Monj Haak/ Kadam, is a bulb like structure out of which green leaves grow out. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked and in pickle form. Many edible preparations are made with both the bulb and the leaves. So in Monj Haak, Monj is the bulb, and Haak is the leafy part.
In Kashmir it is grown in abundance and one can find people selling it on floating shops in Dal Lake.
Monj Haak is an integral part of Kashmiri cuisine. Be it a regular day or a wedding, presence of Monj Haak still drools people. Kashmiri Pandits in particular have not been able to forget Monj Haak despite the diaspora.
The recipe is quite simple and devoid of too much spices, unlike other Kashmiri dishes that incorporate a lot of Kashmiri red chili powder.
With the onset of winters, every Kashmiri household gets its stock load of Monj Haak. So, by the time summers arrive, you feel saturated. But, but, but as a month goes by, craving for this dish evolves again. It is generally served with boiled rice. But I used to have curd and fries with some salt and kashmiri red chili powder sprinkled over it.
Being married to a half Kashmiri guy, our taste buds are slightly different. While he prefers dishes with typical pyaaz, tamatar, adrak, lehsun tadka, I love the Kashmiri style of cooking (no onions, tomatoes, ginger or garlic). Staying away from your own people brings out this love more often…
My Encounter with Love
So, when I came to the United States, I had literally given up the hope of finding any Kashmiri vegetable, let alone Monj Haak! We happened to visit a grocery here and while hopping from one shelf to another, my eyes got stuck at a shelf decorated with Kohlrabi bunches. “Aankhen phati ki phati reh gayi” would be more apt for this I guess.
Within a minute, I don’t know what happened, I started jumping, my hands up in the air. Everyone at the store was in a daze as to what happened to this lady? My husband was clueless and embarrassed, though he never talked about it, but because he took an oath at our marriage to add on to my insanity, he started dancing too.
After a minute or two of this hilarious performance, I could hear people clapping and cheering (people here clap for anything until it’s about hitting a child). My husband was still in the dancing mode, looking at him, I gave a “what has happened to you, people are watching” look, not realizing the fact that I lost my sanity first.
Finally he asked me, what had happened? Why did you just lose it? I told him the reason and he could not believe his ears. He got all those bunches and asked me to prepare it the way my mom used to, back home. I made some along with potato fries and lassi (needed energy after performing in front of so many vegetables and people).
That day, I felt my tummy was thanking me for gifting it with something it had been begging for so long. I had the rest of the Monj Haak for the next 3 days (a stomach spa basically).
All said and done, this made me realize that food is not just limited to what we eat; it is a part of our identity, instinct, and a way of life!
Have you ever given this a thought? If yes, do share your moments with food that represent you..