Ayodhya Nath Kerni
During ancient times the area between Ravi and Chenab was called Poorvi Madr and area between Chenab and Jhelum Upr Madr with its capital at Sakal (Sialkot). Sikandar also ruled this area in 323 BC and Milind during first century AD. In fact Madr were a warrior clan upon whose name area was named as Madr Desh.
Madra is also a food delicacy of Duggar land served on special occasions in Jammu Region. Urd Madra was served during marriage functions etc. but nowadays it has lost its importance as its preparation requires more time and expertise preparation. Its main ingredients are desi ghee and curd in due proportion There is no parallel to its taste therefore efforts must be made to encourage its preparation. In our neighboring state Himachal Pradesh Madra of Rajmash, chana and roungi are served during marriage parties. In Chamba sweet madra of rajmash is served by adding dry fruit and sugar in the recipe. Sepu bariyan (nugget) and Ghardyali are also famous dishes of Himachal Pardesh. Rajmash and rice are considered most famous food of Jammu Region. There are numerous varieties of Rajmash available in the market so it is difficult to recognize and select good quality having the same look, Rajmash grown in snow bound fields are only of good quality.
Maize chapaties and sarson saag is the food attracting others to enjoy the taste; Urd madra a traditional dish occupied attraction in functions during the past but now a days it is hardly finding any place in the menu of parties etc. The reasons for its decline may be much time taken for cooking, lack of knowledge of important ingredients and their equation. Cooking knowledge of this food is also limited to very few. The recipe is so tasty that we hardly find any parallel to it. It needs to be given due importance keeping in view its taste considerations. Urd hardly finds any place in dhabas and restaurants of Jammu region but in Punjab e.g. Bharawan da dhaba and Kesar dhaba of Amritsar are famous for Urd preparation only. Our old generation was very much inclined to urd madra and dal as well. It could not be passed on to present generation
Dish needs to be revived as it is very delicious. Previously a dish with guchhi (Morel) was also prepared in the houses but not served in functions owing to its high cost. During my childhood I enjoyed guchhi recipe of and on. Our relatives used to gift us guchhi and my grand mother usually prepared it. Guchhi pulao, Kaddu Ambal is also a combination among other items served during functions.
These simple foods have been replaced by the items not suitable to our culture in restaurants. We find boiled bean curd soup, stewed procini, pancake Sauted vegetable, Sauted asparagus, Lotus seed, Vegetable in cury sauce with rice, chilled mango saga cream, Bean curd with mushroom, Water chest but in bean sauce . In many restaurants we find Chinese food or other imported diets. Russian salad and different puddings are the order of the day.
In old days the population was not so dense in Jammu region particularly in villages. The farmers besides tilling the land opted to keep animals in their houses like cow, buffalo, goat, sheep etc as there were sufficient meadows for grazing. The extra milk beyond the requirement of house hold was also found in houses as owing to non availability of transport and road connectivity. They prepared ghee etc as it was not feasible to sell their milk in market. To overcome this problem our forefathers introduced kalari a milk product long back. It could be preserved for many days and then supplied to the market.
Kalari is a traditional ripened cheese product indigenous to Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Ramnagar, Panchari Chenani and in many villages. It is a very dense cheese that is usually sauted while serving. The kalari prepared of cow milk is very delicious and also good looking. The light pale shape is very attractive besides its good taste. The paneer is prepared throughout country but preparation of kalari is restricted to Jammu region only. The preparation of paneer and kalari is almost same with little difference. In case of paneer, milk is allowed to get boiled and then sour agent is added to get it split. Then it is tied in a cloth and kept underneath a stone weight. In case of kalari, milk is kept over low flame to get hot to the extent that finger could tolerate its warmth then whey water (mather) is added and small round shaped cakes are prepared and squeezed . These cakes are kept in Sun to dry up its moisture.
These cakes are usually sauté in its own fat and salted while serving. Kalari kulcha is a street food of Jammu city and also served as snacks in functions. Kalari prepared out of cow milk gives a light yellow shade is considered as of top quality. At about 18 kms from Udhampur on national high way leading to Srinagar there is a Kalari Shop run by Sham. He states that he is running kalari shop for more than twenty five years. Besides supplying kalari to local customers and visitors coming to Patnitop he supplies considerable quantity to Jammu city. Some VIPs and distinguished personalities book their orders to get kalari on a particular date. Good quality kalari is also available at Ramnagar, Panchari and Kainthgali etc.
About half a dozen tea stalls and cafeteria at Udhampur provide kalari. Singh cafeteria is among those more reputed and kalari is always available with them. Sending gifts of kalari to distant living friends and relatives is in vogue since long. Kalari is produced in Jammu region only whereas paneer is everywhere in our country and foreign as well. In case farmers turn to utilize milk for preparation of kalari, it may boost their economy. We should not part away with our traditional food like Urd etc. In order to bring change in taste of routine items the varied delicacies are quite tempting and must be tried.
Ayodhya Nath Kerni