Vaer and Tahaer – Culinary and Cultural Significance

kashmiri traditional food

The Kashmiri culture comprises of a diverse blend of mouth-watering foods, singing, dancing and warm clothes. Food is a very important part of our culture, and comes with a palette of its own flavours. All Kashmiri feasts from big to small, have one thing in common – they are different in their own way! And undoubtedly, rice is a preferred staple on our plate. Every celebration in our house, involves a serving of some form of cooked rice.

On all auspicious occasions from weddings to Mekhal, Yaegnopavit, Kahnyethar and house warming – ‘Tahaer’ and ‘Vaer’ are two rice delicacies which dominate. They are both quick and easy to make, and involve use of special spices in their preparation. If you are willing to try different rice preparations, read on —

Here we talk about them one by one.

Tahaer – Pronounced as ta-har, is famously known as ‘kashmiri yellow rice’. Kashmiri Pandits have a custom of observing their birthdays according to the Hindu calendar. We usually prepare turmeric rice on this day. It is considered a good omen to do so. The rice has both a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian version.

The process to make it is extremely simple. While the rice is still boiling, add turmeric to it. Cook it, and drain the leftover water from the rice.

Serve it with either mutton(tcharvun) or cooked liver. However, vegetarians can enjoy the yellow rice with another Kashmiri preparation – Dum Aaloo. The combination will definitely tickle your taste buds. And, adding a spoonful of ghee to a steaming hot plate of rice will make it even better!

The dish resembles ordinary khichri and is prepared not just by Kashmiri Pandits but by Kashmiri Muslims as well.

Vaer – It is also called as ‘Ver’ in Kashmiri. This one looks pretty bland by the looks of it. But, then again it has its own distinctive taste.  Ver is special rice porridge prepared in Kashmiri families, and just like Tahaer is served at weddings, Yaegnopavit ceremonies and on several other occasions. This rice specialty gets its name and unique flavour from Veri masala. Veri masala is a mix of hing, Kashmiri red chilli, urad dal flour and mustard oil. The mixture is made into small cakes and dried in the sun. This was the order in the good olden days, nowadays the veri masala (in cake form) can be sourced from a local Kashmiri bakery or INA market in Delhi. I would like to call it the flavourful rice porridge. And here’s how to make a hot steaming bowl of Ver.

Heat mustard oil, hing, and Kashmiri red chilli powder in a pan. Keep stirring. Quickly add soaked rice and about 3 cups of water. Now add salt. Let it cook a little, till it achieves the consistency of a creamy porridge. Now add crushed veri masala.

After this you can garnish the Ver with small pieces of either walnut or mutton.  It is served hot and is perfect to enjoy on cold winter evenings.