Kashmir Cuisine

WAZWAN :

The pride of Kashmiri cuisine is Wazwan - the fantastic 36 - course wedding banquet, now also served on special occasions. A true gastronomic journey of epical proportion it showcases the finesse of saffron, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. Kashmiri chilli curds etal woven into Rista (meatballs), seekh kababs, tabak maz (fired rib cuts), Rogan josh (mutton curry with generous helpings of red Kashmiri chillies), chaman (fresh cottage cheese) and dam allu (potato). Rice and bread (sheermaal and baquerkhani, tsochvoru, tsot, kulcha) and bakery items play an important role in everyday meals as do mutton and fish, Spinach and lotus root. The delectably flavoured Khawa (green tea) is drink through the day.

In the olden times, almost every Kashmiri home in the plains had a professional Kashmiri cook in residences, who were the masters of their art. Pure ghee and mustard oil was used freely and every mealtime was an event in itself. Gradually and with time, the ladies of the household learnt the art under the specialized training of these culinary masters and became as proficient as their 'gurus'. As the living costs increased with time, the era of the super cooks came to an end. However, their art has not all lost. One can frequently taste the delicacies mastered by the chefs at Kashmiri weddings. Kashmiri cuisine that evolved in the Valley several centuries ago acquired some of the scrumptious elements of the Mughal art of cooking and yet has retained a distinct personality of its own. There were two great schools of culinary craftsmanship in Kashmir, namely those of Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims. The basic difference between the two schools was that the abundant use of heeng (asafetida) and curd among the Hindus and the open-handed use of onions and garlic among the Muslims.

Hindu Brahmins or Kashmiri Pandits are not averse to eating meat and are rather voracious meat eaters. However, they prefer goat and that too a young one. The meat is generally chosen from the legs, neck, breast, ribs and shoulders and cut into large pieces. No vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish, except certain kababs, is cooked without curd. The Kashmir’s often cook their food by heating it on two sides, from both top and bottom for that distinctive taste. The charcoal fire was their solution in the earlier days but oven serves as a good substitute these days.

Originally, Kashmiri Pandits avoided onions and garlics but now many of them have acquired a taste for them and include them in certain recipes as optional. Though the basic principles of cooking are largely similar in almost all homes, certain Pandit families have adopted minor changes in both ingredients and methods. The most important of the retained traits are the liberal use of aromatic spices and the avoidance of onion and garlic in some homes. Kabargah, Kofta, Dum Alu, Methi Chaman and Firni are some of the delicacies of the region known for their sheer flavor and richness.