Kashmir Indepth

Engineer trio opens cafe at J&K’s Udhampur to promote local Dogra heritage, cusine

UDHAMPUR: Three engineers from Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur have adopted a unique initiative to promote the region’s local heritage and food, setting an example for ‘Vocal for Local’ as well as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. The trio has created employment opportunities for over 20 people, both directly and indirectly.

Prepare for the greatest experience after eating a nutritious breakfast. You will travel over some of the highest passes in the world on your adventure, and you will be greeted by ever-changing vistas of the desolate landscape. Stop at the café on Khardung-La Pass, the highest all-season motorable road in the world, and take in the scenery; you'll feel as though you're on top of the world. Upon leaving Khardung-la, the terrain changes to a white sand desert as you approach the Nubra Valley, which is home to the Nubra Sand Dunes. Visit the Diskit Monastery, the oldest and biggest monastery in Ladakh, which also contains a sizable Buddha statue, if time permits.

After the first wave of COVID-19 in September 2020, the trio quit their well paying MNC jobs and opened a Cafe called ‘The Kalari Factory’, to promote the local Dogra culture. Among the fare offered at the cafe is Kalari, a traditionally ripened Himalayan cheese, indigenous to Udhampur. Made of cow milk, the cheese with a mild mozzarella-like flavour and of stretchy and dense texture is among one of the authentic food items of the area


This traditional Dogra cheese is often made part of various cheeses. Earlier, the cafe severed Kalari without any bread, but gradually, as the business grew, the cafe started selling ‘Kalari sandwiches’, consisting of Kalari placed between two slices of bakery bread, and shallow fried in the pan containing leftover fat from frying the Kalari. Tamarind chutney, along with red chilli powder and salt are also added to this loved sandwich.




Shubam Sharma, one of the owners of the cafe said, “We three are childhood friends and wanted to try something new and unique, hence the joint-venture.” “We are all Civil Engineers and were working outside Jammu and Kashmir earlier. We always wanted to start a business of our own and to give employment to others; we even had many ideas for the same. Gradually, when we shared our ideas, we mutually decided to promote our local Dogra heritage and food; the Kalari,” he added.

Kalari is a part of the tradition of several districts, including Chenani, Ramnagar, Panchari and Udhampur. We started our joint-venture when the first wave of COVID-19 was about to end, and the government had eased the lockdown restrictions, he said.

Talking of how their cafe is unique, Sandeep Arora, a partner in the venture said, “The locals generally ate Kalari separately and sometimes used it in sandwiches, but we wanted to do something different. We introduced more than 20 dishes of Kalari, and Udhampur welcomed all warmly.” Explaining the design of the interiors of the cafe, Sandeep said, “The walls of our cafe are full of paintings from local artists, and demonstrate the Dogra heritage. We wanted to promote and help the local artists too, so we give their painting space on our walls free of cost, and even share their contact with our customers who are willing to buy their painting(s). This way, these artists get a platform to display their art, and generate income too.”

He further added, “Presently, we have 6 employees working for us at the cafe, and we have also adopted a village of 20 houses who prepare Kalari exclusively for us. Directly and indirectly, we provide employment to 22 persons altogether. Each of them earns handsomely, and had income during the pandemic too.” “Our mission is to promote the local heritage, local artists, and local food in tune with Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi’s mantra, ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Atam Nirbhar Bharat’,” he said.

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