Thinking of Kashmir? The gushing water travelling from the glaciers, the scented flowers in the gardens of Gulmarg, the decorated shikaras on the Dal lake and the snow capped mountains all around, it is the picture that always flashes in everybody’s mind. But the beauty of the paradise is incomplete if you have not had an overdose of the Kashmir’s royal feast called Wazwan during your visit.
Prepared by professional chefs called Waza under the guidance of head chef called Wouste Waza, Wazwan is a multi-course meal that carries the legacy, culture and hospitality of Kashmiri traditions on one plate called tarami. It involves professional skills, dedication and most importantly, tons of love and is generally served on special occasions such as weddings, business events etc.
The history of this famous Kashmiri cuisine dates back to the 14th Century when a Mongol invaded Kashmir. Many historians believe that this invader was none other than the notorious Turco-Mongol conqueror Taimur. He brought some skilled professionals like artisans, carpet weavers, pashmina experts and cooks from Samarkand to Kashmir. However, some believe that Wazwan is Persian and came to the valley along with Medieval Rulers, Sufi saints, and Islamic Preachers. It is believed that Zain-Ul-Abidin the eight Sultan (King) of Kashmir popularly known as “Badshah” promoted Wazwan the most and raised its stature to a royal feast.
This traditional cuisine has freshly-slaughtered lamb meat as the main ingredient. Traditionally, the mutton has to be fresh for the Wazwan to taste right and delicious. If the Wazwan is required in larger quantities that is usually the case, Wazas start cooking the meat the night before. They are very specific and precise about the kind of spices, oil, rice etc to be used.
In the cuisine of around 36 dishes, seven main dishes are famous for their scrumptiousness and lip-smacking taste. These royal 7 dishes are:
- Tabakh Maaz- deep-fried crispy ribs of lamb smouldered with yoghurt.
- Koshur Kabab- devoury roasted kebabs.
- Riste- tasty meatballs served with saffron spiced gravy.
- Rogan Josh- aromatic curried meat dish spiced with Kashmiri chillies.
- Goshtube- curry of spicy meatballs cooked in a yoghurt gravy
- Yakhni – The savoured gravy made of cooked milk with a little bit of salt and mint making the perfect end of the exotic meal.
- Aab Gosh- a big-sized meatball served with the devouring Yakhni.
Apart from these mouth-watering main dishes, some other delicacies are also a part of this grand feast but not served as frequently as the above-mentioned food items. These items are the shami kabab, nadru, dum aloo, tsok wangun (sour brinjal) etc. They are generally served on the special request. The feast usually ends with the hot Kahwah, the conventional Kashmiri tea with cardamom and almond mixed in it.
As per the tradition, everyone enjoys the food sitting on the floor in a group of four. But before eating, everyone is supposed to wash their hands in a basin called Tasht-e-naer. The people then eat together with their own hands and do not use any spoon or fork. Isn’t it the best way to bond over food, along with the health benefits of eating food with hands?
Even if you crave more, no need to worry! You will keep getting more, and more unless your stomach is forced to say no! The rich spices in every dish let your mouth water to the feeling of golden saffron and exotic chilly powders. And the phirni– a dessert made with sooji and milk just slides down your throat leaving an unforgettable taste and memories of the hospitality of the valley.
It is not sure that the way to somebody’s heart is through his stomach but the way to experience heaven on the earth is certainly through the legendary Wazwan of Kashmir. So if you are planning to visit Kashmir, don’t betray your taste glands and find the best place to enjoy this delicious package.
Aman Singh is a student pursuing B.A Programme from Jamia Millia Islamia
Edited by: Rutba Iqbal
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.