Wazwaan - One of the hallmarks of Kashmiri cuisine is the wazwaan, where ‘waz’ means cook and ‘wan’ means shop. In practice though the wazwan is actually an elaborate lavish meal – a feast fit for kings! It ritualistically starts with a tash-t-nari – or washing of hands in a basin held by attendants - talk about royal treatment! What follows is a ceremonious entry by a retinue of attendants bearing large metal plates known as trami’s heaped with fragrant rice, quartered with long seekh kababs and dotted with a variety of rich meat preparations. Relishes, raitas and chutneys are served in beautiful looking earthenware or copper bowls. As each trami is consumed, a new one is brought in till the meal runs its course of thirty six presentations. This feast is put together by a team of chefs called wazas under the supervision of vasta waza or master chef. The meal ends with a cup of kahwa.
Meat Delights – Kashimir is a meat lover’s paradise. Sometimes as many as thirty of the thirty six dishes in a wazwaaan are based on meat! Traditional Kashmiri non vegetarian fare is light on the spices, but very rich on the whole. Yogurt is a big favourite and finds its way in the marinades as well as in the curries. Kashmiris love their non-vegetarian fare – including the Brahmins or Kashmiri pandits, many of who are meat eaters, but refrain from eating garlic and onion.
Kahwa - If ‘K’ stands for Kashmir it also does for the world renowned soothing drink kahwa, which is a specialty of Kashmir. With its unique aroma, kahwa is a brew of tea leaves with cardamoms, cinnamon and quite often saffron too. Just before serving crushed almonds are sprinkled on the brew. Kahwa not only rejuvenates but is also a health drink! Another popular type of tea is the noon chai also known as Gulabi chai because of its beautiful pink hue!
Favourite flavours - Kashmiri cuisine has some vantage ingredients like dry ginger, fennel, red chillies, curds and mustard oil. The generous use of curds in the gravies, gives the dishes a rich and creamy consistency. The Kashmiris use plenty of asafoetida to flavour their meat dishes. In fact mutton is cooked in many a varied form and more than a hundred recipes are known in Kashmir! Saunf (aniseed) and dry ginger are other spices used imaginatively to enhance the taste. For instance some dishes get their pungency not from chillies, but from dry ginger. Other dishes have no spice except may be a little saunf added to them for flavour.
Vegetarian options - Even though it is dominated by non-vegetarian fare, the vegetarian delicacies manage to carve a niche for themselves. Puddings, snacks and curries are studded with dry fruits like walnuts, dried dates and apricots. Cottage cheese or chaman as the locals call it, is a popular accompaniment to many non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. One we recommend you must try is a Methi Chaman Biryani
Mutton Rogan Josh – One of the most popular dishes from Kashmir, rogan josh is a spicy thin curry made usually with mutton. The quality of meat is as important as the blend of spices in this dish. Meat with a good amount of fat attributes to the thin layer of fat on top of this fiery curry that tastes best with steamed rice!
Ver – A doughnut-shaped, thin hard dried cake of ground spices with a strong and pungent aroma, ver is what adds character to a lot of Kashmiri dishes. Garlic, pran (a Kashmiri onion) and a bunch of aromatic spices like dried ginger, turmeric, asafetida, red chillies are ground, shaped in a patty and dried on wooden planks. Small amounts of this fragrant spice mix are broken off as needed, crumbled and then sprinkled over many foods to give them that classic Kashmiri flavour.
For more brilliant rich Kashmiri recipes browse through Sanjeevkapoor.com and prepare a wazwaan in your home kitchen!