Offbeat

By Bilal Kuchay


Incredible pictures show hundreds of fish being roasted in dry grass before they are being sold in the market.

A small community in Kashmir is fighting odds to keep alive its dying delicacy – smoked fish – which has remained a part of the region’s harsh winter cuisine for decades.

PIC BY UMER ASIF/ CATERS NEWS

For decades, the smoked fish locally known as Phari has remained a major source of income for hundreds of families in Srinagar, in Kashmir in northern India, during the winter season when temperatures in the region drop below freezing point.

After catching the fish from the nearby Anchar Lake or buying it from the market, scores of families in Srinagar’s Tipli Mohallah, lay a layer of dry grass on the ground.

In each grass layer-made of 10 bundles, between 50 to 100 kgs of fish are perfectly placed before being roasted.

PIC BY UMER ASIF/ CATERS NEWS

Mohmad Ramzan ,45, who has been associated with this trade for almost three decades now, said: “The fish should be roasted uniformly. Neither the fish should get over-roasted nor should they remain under-roasted.”

“Once roasted, 100 kgs of fish are reduced to 80 kgs.”

An estimated cost spent on roasting 100kgs of fish is around £16.

PIC BY UMER ASIF/ CATERS NEWS

Once roasted, the women in the family collect the fish from the charcoal in wicker baskets and sell it in different markets across the city.

Bashir Ahmad, another trader, said: “There is not much difference between the price of normal fish and the Phari.

“The normal fish of the size of smoked fish are being sold at Rs 200/kg and the smoked ones are sold between Rs 250 to Rs 300/kg.”

PIC BY UMER ASIF/ CATERS NEWS

Ahmad’s family, which only five years ago used to sell over 200kgs of roasted fish daily, sells between 40kg to 50kg of fish a day now.

“There is a sharp decline it this trade now.

“The tradition is dying fast as new generations are unwilling to take it as a full time livelihood option.

PIC BY UMER ASIF/ CATERS NEWS

“Earlier we used to buy fish from local fishermen at an affordable price. But now we are dependent mostly on the outside market where the prices are considerably high which is also making it difficult for lot of people to continue this trade,” Ahmad added.