Changing tastes of Jammuites

Lalit Gupta
From a sleepy transit town of 1950s-60s, Jammu, the primate city of the region has witnessed a great transformation. Alongside the phenomenal urban sprawl, the cityscape has also undergone a sea change in the culinary sphere. Over the last few years, Jammuites, especially the Gen next has begun to relish exotic cuisines. A lot has changed – not just in food but people’s palates and tastes as well.
While the recently opened international food chain outlets in the city like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Café Coffee Day, Dominos, Smoking Joes, etc as moderately fashionable family restaurants are seen as a haunt of the upper-middle class youth who have money to spare, it is the road side eateries serving whole new range of fast foods, which are defining the new taste of Jammu’s burgeoning brigade of teenagers.
This silent revolution in the cultural landscape is a total contrast from days of roadside squatting neighborhood vendors and small kiosks selling pakoras, dwaraas, seviyaan, boiled black grams, raitaas, seasonal kanji, jaljeera, etc. Now the list includes momos, thupkas, chowmin and soups. Dished out by roadside vendors operating from rehris and improvised outlets, these fast food items not only cater to the changing taste buds of new generation but also an expression of food as a social ritual.
The samosas and various kinds of handmade breads like parathas and puris along with Punjabi favourites, such as golgappas, chhole-bhature or chhole-kulche, tikki and dahi bhalla, remain favorites with older generations who grew up in a conventional fare of sugar-heavy and oily diet, the new types of fast foods are being savored by high school and college going students as a gesture identified with modernity.
Surprisingly it is ‘momos’, the morsel-sized food item which is giving competition to and easily beating the good old pakora and samosas among the younger generation Jammu. From high-end restaurants to roadside stalls, it has become ever-present in the city. Sellers of these can be spotted in the markets of old city, in colonies located in south and west of winter capital like
Gandhi Nagar, Shashtri Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, Chhanni Himmat to Janipur and Roop Nagar.
Some five years back, not many locals knew of this dish, which is preferred by the people in Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, and Ladakh and some parts of Himachal Pradesh. But a platter of momos which emerge out of steam along with the accompanying tomato and red chili sauce guarantees to make the taste buds transcend the flavors of oily foods, has become a hit. Originally, these used to be a non-vegetarian delicacy, but are now available for pure vegetarians with vegetable and paneer stuffing.
Despite the mushrooming of lavish restaurants and food courts, Jammuites, in particular ladies, take pleasure in trying out the road-side delicacies. No one is embarrassed of picking up a quick bite on the streets. Rather, it’ is a common practice to gulp down golgappas or eat kachaloos,
while doing shopping in old city areas like Kachhi Chowni, Pacca Danga, Fattu Chowgan, Purani Mandi etc.
Jammu’s unique importance as the winter capital of the state, industrial hub, centre of education, destination for latest medical facilities, has made it a truly a regional metropolis where Dogras , the original inhabitants are sharing space with Kashmiris, Gujjars, Paharis, Bhadarwahis, Kishtwaris and Ladakhis. Living in a melting pot of cultures, the city dwellers of Jammu are showing a remarkable trait of lapping up alien culinary habits.
With floating population of thousands of daily commuters coming to Jammu from adjoining villages, towns as far as Samba, Hiranagar, Kathua, Udhampur, Katra, for work, study, or on official business, there is a great demand for food joints. With the result, today, the street vendors with tasty fast food delicacies to serve can be easily encountered in and around the schools, colleges, office areas, and at other places where people congregate.
Along with customary puris served with chicken peas (white channas), aaloos, and auria, the stuffed nans, pranthas, or bread and omelet, is popular breakfast for students living in hostels and office goers. The reasonably priced lunch served at number of dhabas compromising of roti, dal, kari, vegetables or non-veg mutton and chicken curries, remains a standard choice for everyone including thousands of pilgrims coming to holy cane shrine of Shri Mata Vashinodevi ji.
The Kashmiri wazwaan, previously confined to the Residency Road area famous for hotels like Cosmo, Premier and restaurants like Naaz, Moughal Darbar, etc, is being served at different hotels and non-vegetarian dhabas of the city. Unlike the olden times when ‘Ojari’-offal and ‘kharode’-trotters and boiled eggs, were few non-veg items sold by roadside vendors, the growth of large number of kiosks dishing out fried and tandoori chicken, mutton kababs and varieties of fish item, speak of the growing tribe of non-vegetarians amongst the city population.
Gandhi Nagar, which has emerged as the address for brand shopping in the city, is also now a favorite haunt for foodies who during evenings gather around some of the best roadside food stalls in the city. The easy to eat to take away fare includes varieties of soups, Kalaadi–Bread, nutri nuggets, chicken and mutton dishes along with tandoor baked Handi Biryani.
But it is the fast foods like momos, thupka (a Tibetan noodle soup), chowmien, sandwiches, wraps and rolls, partaken by mobile lot of youngsters between the traditional meal hours—is in high demand. This new food trend as the symbol of multicultural sensitivities and cosmopolitanism, is also increasingly becomes a major emblematic substitute for the native culture.
Fast foods, per se, can be incredibly healthy meals, depending on the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the cook. However, the term has, in recent times, become almost synonymous with junk food, which is only appealing to the palate, loaded on unhealthy calories and has little or no nutritional value. While healthy fast foods, such as salads or soy burgers, are recommended for a wholesome daily diet, unhealthy fast foods (junk food), such as commercially sold burgers, aerated drinks, pastries and candy are harmful, and should be consumed in moderation. Children’s appetite and taste — notoriously difficult to control — can be severely affected by continual consumption of junk foods. The calorie-filled junk foods lead to obesity, which aids and abets numerous, more serious diseases.