Food Quote of the Day

- George Bernard Shaw


Kashmiri Wazwan - History

WAZWAN", in short, means a royal multi-course meal in the tradition of Kashmir region of Himalayas in India. It is the ultimate formal banquet in Kashmir and is treated with great respect because it's preparation is considered an art and regarded as the pride of the Kashmiri culture and identity. The Wazwan is not a simple meal but a ceremony. Hours of cooking and days of planning go into the making and serving of a Wazwan. Throughout the history like its culture, Kashmir cuisine has stood high and unrivaled by any other state in India.

Waz stands for chef and Wan means a shop selling delicacies. A Vasta Waaza (single skilled chef) looks after the planning, preparation and serving of Wazwan with several Waz under his guidance. The eating style of Wazwan is directly inspired by Arab Muslims. 

What makes the Kashmir Cuisine special is the detailed preparation and traditional presentation of sumptuous meals, which comprises 36 courses. All this makes 'wazwaan' a spectacular and royal repast. 

Of its thirty-six courses, between fifteen and thirty can be preparations of meat, cooked overnight by the master chef, Vasta Waza, and his retinue of Wazas. Guests are seated on cushions on the floor in groups of four and share meal out of a beautifully engraved large metal plates called trami. The meal begins with a ritual washing of hands at a basin called tash-t-nari, which is taken around by the attendants. The tramis arrive, heaped with rice, quartered by four seekh kababs and contains four pieces of methi korma, one tabak maaz, one safed murg, one zafrani murg, and the first few courses. The lids of tramis are whisked-off to release the most deliciously appetizing aromas of WAZWAN. Curd and chutney are served separately in small earthen pots. 

As each trami is completed, it is removed, and a new one brought in, until the dinner has run its course. Seven dishes are a must for these occasions - Rista, Rogan Josh, Tabak Maaz, Daniwal Korma, Aab Gosht, Marchwangan Korma and Gushtaba. The meal ends with "Kehwah", an exclusive and fragrant variety of green tea.

Seven dishes typically form an inseparable part of the feast - 'tabakh maaz, rogan josh, rista, aab gosh, dhaniwal korma, marchwagan korma and goshtaba. Firin and kahwah (green tea)' conjure delicacies that are rich in taste and texture with mouth-watering aromas.

Wazwan is generally prepared in marriages and other special functions. The culinary art is learnt through heredity and is rarely passed to outside blood relations. That has made certain waza/cook families very prominent. The wazas remain in great demand during the marriage season (May - October).

In fact, Kashmir is famous for its hospitality. A gourmet's delight, Wazwan is the ultimate name in Kashmir banquet. Many big names have shown their weakness for this aromatic cuisine. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, is said to have often extended his scheduled visits to the Kashmir Valley due to his weakness for the local cuisine.

With rice as its staple Kashmiri cuisine has seen its evolution over time. The history of Kashmir's traditional cuisine, Wazwan, dates back to the last years of the 14th century when the Mongol ruler Timur invaded India in 1348 during the reign of Nasiruddin Muhammad of the Tughlaq dynasty.
The cooking style of Kashmiri Pandits who liked the extensive use of turmeric, curd and mustard oil with a deliberate neglect to garlic, onions and tomatoes got influenced by the Turkish, Persian and Afghan cuisine with the arrival of warrior Timur.

Once the Muslims arrived in Kashmir, they got mesmerized by the beauty of this paradise on earth. Kashmir is naturally gifted with the most fragrant and flavoring spices like saffron, Kashmiri red chillies, cockscomb, zirish, etc. Muslims gave an entirely new face to Kashmiri cuisine by bringing those rich spices into use. Muslims introduced saffron, dry fruits, Kashmiri red chillies, butter and clarified butter, and garlic and tomatoes to Kashmiri cuisine. Like Turkish, Persian and Afghan cuisine lamb became a relished food in the new Kashmiri cuisine.

The existing rich cuisine of Kashmir is mildly spiced and full of aromatic flavors. Kashmiri cuisine has a rich variety of vegetables, yoghurt and meat dishes prepared with aromatic mild spices, butter or clarified butter and dry fruits. Some of the most popular Kashmiri dishes are goshtaba, shabdeg, saffron rice, Rogan Josh, Phirnee and Kahwa. The popular Balti food of Baltistan is also inspired from Kashmiri cuisine.