Daan: The forgotten traditional stove of Kashmiri kitchens
Made of clay, Daan or Dambur was a pre-eminent feature of Kashmiri kitchens in the past but it is no longer the case in present times
Advanced technology has replaced many household items in today’s world. It’s the same in Kashmir. Modern kitchens in Kashmir with modern tools like gas-stoves, electricity enabled heaters have replaced the traditional Daan. Made of clay, Daan or Dambur was a pre-eminent feature of Kashmiri kitchens in the past.
In present times, one can hardly find a Daan in a Kashmiri house as technology has replaced traditional tools.
Today, these traditional Daan or Chullas are only used by people living in forest areas where they have access to firewood.
Only some decades ago, the Daan was a mandatory feature of a Kashmiri kitchen and it is said that the taste and quality of food cooked over Daan surpass that of meals cooked with modern tools.
With more and more Kashmiris constructing new houses, Daan has slowly disappeared into the crevices of history. In villages, however, Daan can still be found at some houses where these Chullas can variously be used to cook food and also to get burning coal for Kanger in winters.
The traditional way of cooking on Daan involves the use of earthen pots that naturally adds to the flavour of the dish. Locals in Kashmir believe that food cooked in earthen pots is nutrient-rich, as the Daan helps maintain the moisture and the aroma of the cooked food.
For many centuries, it was all about homemade clay Chulha (clay stove) that used a combination of clay, husk, and water. With a change in time, the humble Chulha got replaced with the fancy and one-touch cooking range that is supported by chimneys and keeps the home smoke-free.
Ali Mohammed of Kupwara told Rising Kashmir that gas cylinders and other electric gadgets used for cooking purposes has led to the general deterioration of the health of Kashmiris as the food lacks nutrients. “The best part of cooking on a mud Chulha is that the flame is not too harsh and thus the food cooked even in aluminium utensils never loses its moisture and nutrients,” he said.
“The slow cooking process keeps all the minerals intact,” he said. Ali Mohammad hopes for the return of Daan and mud Chulhas to the Valley as the prices of cooking utilities like gas cylinders, heaters and ovens is only hiking.
If experts are to be believed there are still villages in Kashmir where people still prefer food made on Daan or mud Chulhas as it is considered as having a more textured flavour.
According to health experts, food cooked on a Daan is healthy in every possible way. “The only thing that one needs to take care of is to use cow dung cake in place of wood or coal, as the latter two are not good for the respiratory system of the human body,” they maintain.