An architect and an engineer have opened a portable restaurant on a replica of a shikara, a wooden boat found on the Dal Lake and other water bodies in India-held Kashmir, which has drawn widespread attention in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir capital.

The restaurant, named Koshar Foods, was inaugurated on Thursday “to promote the culture of held Valley in its liberated part – Muzaffarabad – and give tourists and locals a taste of…Kashmiri cuisine” at Upper Adda, which turns into an undeclared food street in Muzaffarbad shortly before sunset.

Once a popular spot for political gatherings, it is now home to a number of eateries. Every evening, their staff places chairs and tables on the road in front of their shops to provide open-air dining to their customers.

The idea to develop the mini eatery on a shikara replica came to Kamran Hassan some two months ago, after “repeatedly hearing his Pakistani friends ask about the specialty of Muzaffarabad that connects it with the held Valley”.

“They would ask me that whenever we visit Muzaffarabad the food we eat and the structures we see are just like the ones we have here in Pakistani cities. So what’s the difference,” said the 39-year-old architect.

Mr Hassan brought material from Lahore and engaged local workers to develop the mini-shikara. Khawaja Jamil, an electrical engineer, teamed up with him.

On its inaugural day, the shikara offered pink Kashmiri salty tea, goshtaba yakhni and chicken pulao, with side dishes. While the tea was offered for free, there was a 40pc discount on the other two items, with are already sold at an affordable price.

As people enjoyed tea and other items, they were also treated to Kashmiri Sufi music that Mr Hassan said would be played regularly.

The price of a cup of Kashmiri tea, prepared with desi milk and topped with crushed almonds and coconut, costs Rs30. A big goshtaba in a bowl of Kashmiri yakhni is for Rs100 and a large plate of chicken pulao with shami kebab, raita and green salad is for Rs110.

Mr Hassan told Dawn that the illuminated shikara would be brought to its base from at 5pm daily to remain there till midnight.

The owners also plan to develop another larger shikara, which would be permanently placed across the main entrance of AJK University’s city campus, hardly 200 yards from the existing site.

“But that will open [during the day] and close at 5pm,” he said. “And there, we will also offer Harissa on the weekends soon after the onset of winter.”

Harissa is another winter delicacy of Kashmir, which so far is offered in the town by just one eatery - Lalazar café – on weekends in the winter.

Saghir Lone, who was eating Kashmiri pulao, praised both items. “I am happy they have offered this good quality food at a very reasonable price,” he said.

Shahid Zargar, another customer, urged the civic bodies to stop entry of all vehicles at the ‘food street’ after sunset to provide a dust-free environment to diners.

Originally published in Dawn, October 7th, 2017