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The Waza brothers with a ‘wazwaan’ spread.  (Photo: Roli Books)
The Waza brothers with a ‘wazwaan’ spread. (Photo: Roli Books)

Culinary secrets from the masterchefs of Kashmir

  • A new book on Kashmiri 'wazwaan' offers a selection of traditional recipes
  • Written by the original family of 'wazas' or master chefs, it brings together of the produce and diverse history of the land

The cultural cohesion across language, art and cuisine in Kashmir—the idea of Kashmiriyat—has long been a defining feature of the land. Culinary expressions were common between Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. Take, for example, the case of lamb, a favoured protein in the state—the Pandits would make curries without onion or garlic while the Muslims would use them in plentiful quantities while preparing the same meat.

The wazwaan (from waza, meaning cook, and waan, meaning shop), the most famous Kashmiri spread, has foreign antecedents. Dating back to Timur’s invasion in the 14th century, these were the recipes of the original wazas, or master chefs, who travelled with the Turco-Mongol conqueror from Central Asia. Passed down generations, these recipes were preserved by successive generations of wazas.

Wazwaan: Traditional Kashmiri Cuisine (Roli Books) is a comprehensive reference guide to this cuisine. It is written by cookbook writer and liquor baron Rocky Mohan along with brothers Waza Sharief, Shafi and Rafiq—descendants of the original family of Kashmiri wazas and keepers of the traditional recipes and techniques.

A valuable addition to a food aficionado’s library, this is a book which breaks down an elaborate wazwaan feast into its basic components. Right from sourcing speciality ingredients to making spice mixes, condiments and cooking pastes that form the cornerstone of wazwaan preparations, this is a handy manual for those who want to replicate this repast in their homes.

While the focus is on lamb dishes—from kormas to rich meatball curries and kebabs—there is a selection of recipes featuring freshwater fish and local vegetables like spinach, haak, knol khol, lotus stem, turnips and mushroom. There are chutneys with apples, zirish (black) berries and walnuts, and desserts comprising milk, saffron and dried fruits. Wazwaan is a book that reflects the produce of Kashmir, its diverse history and the unique identity of its people—and offers a plate full of lessons on pluralism and cultural synthesis.

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