The dried veggies locally known as ‘Hokh Syun’ has been popular among Kashmiris for centuries, and consuming them in winters has been an age-old tradition.
As winter sets in, a large number of people throng local markets to buy the traditional sun-dried vegetables and fish. But over the years, the likings for the ‘Hokh Syun’ have gone down, as many fear that it might contain carcinogenic elements.
‘Hokh Syun’ is preserved through drying or dehydrating, wherein the water or the moisture from the vegetables is removed to make sure that the food is dry and is ready to be stored for the winters
Valley-based top oncologists believe that there is no harm in consuming dried vegetables during winters unless preservatives are not added to them. “There is no scientific evidence regarding sun-dried vegetables can cause cancer. But pickling the vegetables and then eating it is harmful,” prominent oncologist, Dr Sameer Koul told Rising Kashmir.
He said that it is not possible for people to consume dried vegetables every day. “This food does not affect your health. However, pickling the meat or adding preservatives, using chemicals for preservation of the food can cause cancer,” he said.
Dr Koul said people grill and roast meat on charcoal and the black layer which is accumulated on meat contains carbon which is very harmful for health.
The various varieties of Hokh Syun include Ruwangan Hache (Dried Tomatoes), Al-Hache(Bottle Gourd), Nader Hache (Lotus stems), Hokh Gaad (Dried Fishes), Wangan Hache( Brinjal) and Gogji Hatche (Turnip) among many.
Dr Afrozah, Head of Radiology department at SKIMS, said that eating sun-dried vegetables once or twice in a week is not harmful for health.
“There is no harm in eating the sun-dried vegetables during winters but it can cause harm among people who continuously consume it. People should always take care of the method of drying and preserving the vegetables,” she said.
“If there is a fungus present on sun-dried vegetables then people have to be very careful. The fungus contains some harmful toxins which can cause cancer," she said.
Earlier, storage of dried food used to be a necessity in Kashmiri homes as the land-locked valley used to remain cut-off from rest of the world for most of the part in winters. There would be no availability of fresh vegetables and fruits in harsh winters. However, today even when fresh vegetables are available in the market in winters, people still prefer to eat dried vegetables.
“I like eating dried vegetables during winters. It is our traditional food. I spent last winter in Delhi but I did not stop eating the dried vegetables. My family also likes to eat the dried vegetable dishes. Even our relatives who live outside Kashmir take along a variety of dried foods when they visit our home,” said Haleema, a resident of Habba Kadal locality in Srinagar.
Hameeda, a resident of Rainawari, said that she dries and preserves the vegetables at home. “We do not miss eating the dried vegetables during winters. It is a wonderful winter delicacy. There were rumours like eating dried vegetables cause health problems but we did not stop consuming it.”
A dried vegetable seller in the downtown area of Zainakadal said that he sells dried vegetables especially in winters because there is a huge demand for it and people love relishing the food.