A Kashmir store that pickles your imagination (With Image)

February 20th, 2011 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, Feb 20 (IANS) For long, mango pickles have adorned the Indian platter, working as the perfect taste enhancer. But ever tasted peach or strawberry pickle? Or the more exotic fish or mutton varieties? Head to Kashmir’s Sanoo Kashmiri Pickles to savour these interesting assortments.Lotus stem, knolkhol, mango, citrus fruits, cabbage, carrot, radish, apple, apricot, cherry, peach, strawberry, fish, chicken, mutton - you name it and they have it! A total of 40 varieties of pickles are spread over the shelves at this novel store in old city Habba Kadal area of Srinagar.

Besides a roaring business that the shop does through its local clients, pickle lovers from abroad also send their relatives and friends to collect a few packets of their favourite pickle.

Run by the father-son duo of Haji Gulam Qadir Sanoo and Abdul Majid, the shop has become the ultimate destination for the pickle lovers of the city.

But there is a sad history behind the present success of the shop.

“We were a prosperous family of transporters till 1989 when my elder brother, Muhammad Yusuf, was killed in mysterious circumstances in the beginning of violence in the city,” 32-year-old Abdul Majid told IANS.

“Before his death, my second brother had died in an accident in 1988. As if this was not enough, my mother was killed in a grenade explosion in 2002.

That ended our family’s transport business. There was nobody except my old father and me to look after the fleet of buses we had,” an emotionally-charged Majid said.

“We had no option but to sell the buses and look for some other means of sustenance,” he says.

Majid, an undergraduate, had to give up his studies to help his father create “the pickle magic in Kashmir”.

“Father had always loved good quality pickles and he used to himself make them in the good old days.

“In 1990 he thought of converting his hobby to a full fledged business.

Locally-made good and healthy pickles were not available in Srinagar markets even though Kashmiris have always loved their pickles,” Majid says.

“Initially I helped my father prepare pickles of a few vegetables and sell them at this shop which we started in 1990,” he recalls.

And there was no looking back after that. The response was phenomenal.

“Buyers literally mobbed our shop as we did not have enough stock to meet the demand.

“Encouraged by the response, we hired workers and diversified into non-conventional varieties like cherry, apricot, fish, mutton and chicken, besides citrus fruits and other varieties,” Majid says with excitement.

According to him, an assortment of spices are used to lend flavour to the pickles. Also, pure, organic spices are ground at a factory and added to the pickles along with mustard oil which acts as a preservative.

“No vinegar, artificial colour or maturing agent is used in our preparations. We go for natural maturing,” Majid said.

According to him, customer suggestions have helped a lot in deciding about the pickle flavours. So much so that he feels the most sought after pickle varieties have all evolved over time with customer feedback.

“We have always taken customer complaints and suggestions very seriously and that has been the secret of improvement of our pickle varieties.”

The shop sees huge business for most part of the year except for June and July when it’s very hot.

“From hotels to marriages we have been supplying pickles for every occasion,” he said.

Bowls full of mouth-watering mango, carrot, apple pickles are lined up on one side of the shop while large containers full of fish, chicken and mutton pickles are laid on the other shelf.

Appetizing aroma fills the shop and also spills over to the street outside as Majid wears gloves to take out a bowl full of apricot pickles for an eager buyer.

The family now intends to open branches at some other places in Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley.

“To maintain the quality, we do not intend to pass on dealerships, but would open and manage branches on our own in the coming days,” Majid says.

(F. Ahmed can be contacted at f.ahmed@ians.in)

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