The great Mughal emperor Jehangir had fondly repeated what Amir Khusro had said – if there is heaven on earth it is here in Kashmir. Its beauty has the power to mesmerize anyone but there is something truly unique that adds to the enigma of Kashmir. I am talking about its exotic Kashmir cuisine.
The Kashmiri cuisine, better known as Wazwan, might not be very popular; however, it’s a royal treat for all Kashmiris. It is unique and traditional. The history of Kashmiri cuisine can be traced back to 15th century invasion by Timur and it is based on the ancient tradition of this area. Rigveda tells us meat is an integral part of Kashmiri cuisine and mutton is the most notable ingredient here but Kashmiri cuisine is highly influenced by Kashmiri pundits and so beef is strictly forbidden.
Wazwan is the most formal meal; it is a ritual serving of all the food in the house before the guest. Regarded as an art by Kashmiris, it an essential element of their culture and identity. The origin of the name Wazwan is derived from the Sanskrit word vyajjana, related to cooking. The cooks or the wazas of these meals are the master chefs of Kashmir. The whole Wazwan cuisine includes 36 dishes out of which 15 to 30 dishes are of meat.
The guests are seated in group of 4 and served in large metal plates called tramis. The meal consists of rice being the staple diet of Kashmiris, accompanied by kebabs, korma, murg and much more. Curd and chutney are also served in separate earthen pots as part of the meal.
The Kashmiri cuisine is mainly dominated by non-veg dishes: Rogan josh (lamb cooked in red sauce), Yakhni (lamb cooked in curd based sauce), Muj Ghaad (fish with radish), Syoon Pulao (meat pulao), mast Schgand (minced lamb) and Gushtaba (extra minced meat balls cooked in creamy sauce).
There are some vegetarian dishes as well like Rajma or kidney beans, Nadir Haq/Gogji/Manji (lotus cooked with spinach or radish). There are 2 beverages as well- the noon chai and the Kahwah/Gahwah that originated in the 14th century.
I would like to make a special mention about Rogan Josh- one of the most important dishes of Kashmiri cuisine. Rogan means oil in Persian, while josh means heat, hot or passionate. The meat dish is red in colour. The red colour is characteristic to this dish by the use of red Kashmiri chilli.
In the end, we can say that the Kashmiri cuisine carries with itself traditions, culture and life of Kashmir; not only is the food spectacular but also the way in which they are served. Superb preparation and fabulous aromatic flavour of the Kashmiri food is so alluring that even those who are not feeling hungry end up yearning for more.
Though not as popular as other Indian dishes yet it’s simple yet lavish delicacies are no less than a treat in itself every time you indulge in them.