In Kashmiri cuisine, a Wazwan is a formal multi course meal that is served at auspicious occasions like weddings. Many courses are usually served at the same meal and the number of courses can range anywhere from 10-35 at a single sitting. The meal consists of several meat dishes that are served according to a set ancient pattern.
History of the Wazwan
The Wazwan was actually a demonstration of the Waza’s or the main chef’s cooking skills to every honored guest who visited the house. The actual history of the wazwan dates back to the 14h century when the Mongol invader, Timur invaded north India during the reign of the Moghul emperor, Nasiruddin Muhammad of the Tughalq dynasty. There was a mixture of traditions that took place resulting in a fresh infusion of skilled master chefs who learned the cuisine of both cultures. The resulting dishes were a rich amalgamation of both cultures and the Wazwan recipes are treasured till today. Over 25 different meat dishes are served at a traditional Wazwan and most of the Wazwan recipes are cooked under a strong influence of Iranian, Afghan and Central Asian methods of cooking. Non-vegetarian dishes predominate but there are several wonderful vegetarian Wazwan recipes that are unique too. Sweets are not usually an integral part of the meal but sweet kahwa or green tea is used to wash down the rich meats and dishes. There are traditionally about 35 Wazwan recipes that are followed in this preparation, and the meal is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings and festivals. A special chef called the Vasta Waza prepares the dishes and it is cooked with assistance from his set of assistants called the Wazas.
Ingredients and Popular Methods of Preparing a Wazwan
Traditionally, the Wazwan was considered a royal meal and it is still reserved for special occasions like weddings. There are 35 traditional courses, but seven wazwan recipes are essential to the meal. A Wazwan is incomplete without these seven dishes: marchwangan korma, ,gushtaba , rogan josh, aab gosht, rista, tabakh maaz and daniwal korma. The individual recipe of each dish will vary but essentially, most of them are meat dishes. Meats like lamb and mutton are preferred over chicken and most of the dishes are cooked in rich sauces. For example, the Tabakh maaz is lamb ribs simmered in yoghurt gravy and then fried and served as an appetizer. Rogan josh is tender lamb cooked in a thin gravy of tomatoes and special spices. Daniwal Korma consists of rich mutton gravy cooked with coriander, while aab gosht is spicy lamb gravy. Almost all Wazwan recipes are cooked in yoghurt and are rich in traditional spices.
Serving and Eating the Wazwan
The Wazwan is a communal meal where four people share a common dish called the trami. A washing up dish is first sent around called the TASH-T-NARI as the meal has to be eaten with the fingers. The trami is then followed with the special kashmiri pulau and the first few coursers are served after it. The courses start with two seekh kebabs, followed by a few pieces of methi korma, two tabak maas, safed murg, zafrani murg, followed by the remaining courses. Chutney and yoghurt are served at the side. The trami is emptied of rice and contents and new ones are bought in to replace the rice. At the end of the meal, the Gushtaba which is pounded meatballs in yoghurt gravy is served. As there are so many courses that are served, it is considered rude or a social faux pas to ask for more when eating.
Nutritional Content of a Wazwan
There are 36 different courses that are served at a traditional Wazwan. The nutritional content will vary according to the dishes that are served and the ingredients that are used in them.