|A traditional meal arrangement, Mughal Darbar|
The word 'Wazwan' is known to evoke a conditioned reflex in people who have tasted it once- a conditioned reflex that involves a dreamy appearance, excessive salivation, and an intense desire to go back to Kashmir!
Exaggeration much? Well, a wazwan is worth all the hype surrounding it. Wazwan refers to a multi-course spread, fit for a king, made on special occasions. Traditionally, four people eat from a single plate, which is a huge copper one referred to as a 'Trami'. it is served as a huge heap of rice, with pieces of various preparations of lamb/chicken placed over it.
The chefs who prepare this grand spread are referred to as wazas. Cooking the wazwan is an art handed down through generations. Preparations to get a wazwan ready begin on the previous day of the event. Most of the dishes are made of lamb or goat. Lotus stem is considered a delicacy. For some dishes (like harissa) the lamb has to be cooked on a slow flame and hand stirred, for hours. It is interesting to note that in Kashmir, even Brahmins eat meat (Yay!).
On my short visit to this beautiful land, I did not have an opportunity to attend a Kashmiri wedding [Sigh! I should have self-invited myself to one ;)]. I asked around for the next thing that would come closest to a traditional wazwan, and I was directed to two restaurants located on Residency Road in the capital city, Srinagar: Mughal Darbar and Ahdoo's Hotel. We went to both. For an à la carte meal, I liked Ahdoo's, while Mughal Darbar offered a mini-wazwan. They said it was enough for two, I personally felt it would suffice for at-least three people, if not for four! The food was not very spicy, and a true-blue south Indian used to spicy cuisine may find the food a bit bland. I personally liked the food. My favourite dishes were Lahabi Kabab and Rista.
|Kashmiri Wazwan: Rista, Gushtaba, Sheek kabab, Tabak Maz, Dhania Qurma, Mirchi Qurma etc served with piping hot steamed rice. Many of these are cooked for hours together for that special flavor.|
Lahabi Kabab, lamb koftas cooked in creamy yoghurt based sauce
|Rista, lamb meatballs (made by pounding the meat) in red gravy|
|Mughal Darbar restaurant|
It was a LOT of meat alright, and was quite heavy. There was absolutely no room for dessert on any of the days. In both places, the service was excellent. The maitre d' was thoughtful enough to help us not to over-order and waste food. Ahdoo's is an old name in the city and will complete a hundred years of existence in 2018! I felt my trip wouldn't have been complete if I hadn't sampled Kashmiri cuisine. So when in the valley, do have your fill of some delicious wazwan!
Read also: 13 Things You Cannot Miss in Kashmir!