Over the years, I've walked round Srinagar many times - but I'd never before noticed the fish market on Amira Kadal, one of the most prominent bridges across the Jhelum. The bridge - there's more about it here - dates from the 1770s and the period of fairly brutal Afghan rule over the valley - through the current construction is as recent as the 1980s. It's just a couple of minutes walk from Lal Chowk. The fish sellers, all women, are all on the right side of the bridge as you walk over from Lal Chowk - all the other traders, of which there are plenty, stick to the other walkway.
There is something about 'fish wives' around the world - sassy, confident, outgoing. It's certainly true of the sellers on Amira Kadal. A friendly, welcoming bunch who were happy for me to take photographs, and were clearly doing good business.
The fish in the plastic basins - covered both to stop them jumping out and to discourage the cheel overhead - were clearly that morning's catch. Still very much alive. The women were gutting some of the catch as they sold it - I hadn't realised that they simply disembowelled living fish. There were three main types of fish - a small one which I can't name, a medium size which looked to me to be the famed Kashmiri trout though the women clearly didn't recognise that name, and a much larger fish which they called 'golden fish'.
It all leaves me to wonder why fish dishes don't feature more prominently in Kashmiri wazwan. I ate in a few local restaurants, and there certainly wasn't a lot of fish on offer. I once managed to eat pan-fried trout in Kashmir, served with lightly fried Kashmiri almonds - but that was at the Grand Palace on the sole occasion I've dined there.
Who catches the fish? Is it the women's menfolk, or are they buying catches wholesale? And where is the fishing? On the Jhelum and Dal Lake or further afield? If you know, let me know. And if you are wondering how to cook fish Kashmiri style, there's a film on YouTube which might help you.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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