J-K: Three engineers open cafe in Udhampur to promote local Dogra culture and cuisine

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Three engineers from Udhampur in J-K, have devised an innovative strategy for promoting the region’s traditional cuisine and heritage through a cafe


Picture Credit: ANI/Unsplash  

Three engineers from Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, have taken a novel approach to promote the region’s native heritage and cuisine, setting an example for ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat.’  Over 20 people have gained jobs as a result of the trio’s efforts, both directly and indirectly.  The trio left their well-paying MNC professions after the first wave of COVID-19 in September 2020 and founded a cafe called ‘The Kalari Factory’ to promote the local Dogra culture.

Engineer trio opens cafe at Udhampur

Kalari, a traditionally matured Himalayan cheese native to Udhampur, is one of the cafe’s offerings. The cheese, which has a mild mozzarella-like flavour and a stretchy, dense texture, is made from cow milk and is one of the area’s authentic foods.  This classic Dogra cheese is frequently used in a variety of cheeses.

Initially, the cafe served Kalari without bread, but as business expanded, the cafe began to sell ‘Kalari sandwiches,’ which consisted of Kalari sandwiched between two slices of bakery bread and shallow fried in the pan used to cook the Kalari. This popular sandwich is also flavoured with tamarind chutney, red chilli powder, and salt.

One of the owners of the cafe, Shubam Sharma 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.

Several districts, notably Chenani, Ramnagar, Panchari, and Udhampur, have a Kalari tradition. We began our joint endeavour just as the first wave of COVID-19 was coming to a close, and the government had reduced the lockdown limitations, he explained.

Sandeep Arora, a partner in the venture, described their cafe as “special.” He 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.”

Cafe at Udhampur to promote local Dogra cuisine

While describing 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 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.”

A local of Udhampur and a regular customer at the Cafe, said, “The hospitality of the place is very nice, and so is the ambience. It is a nice place to come with friends and family. They also follow all COVID protocols, so it is safe to come here. The Kalari is native to Jammu and Kashmir and the tradition was getting extinct since the youth was not promoting it. Their initiative will not only promote the local but will also generate employment, just like our PM wished.”

(with inputs from ANI)

Picture Credit: ANI/Unsplash  

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