Mawal, The Kashmiri Flower That Gives Rogan Josh Its Rich Hue
Image Credit: Mawal or Cockscomb Kashmiri flower, Kashmir Exotics@Facebook

Cockscomb flowers, also known as Celosia, come in a wide variety of colours and textures. A particular quality distinguishes the Celosia Cristata (also known as C. Argentia) kind of cockscomb, commonly known as mawal in Kashmir. The red crest seen on the heads of some birds, such as roosters and turkeys, inspired the name cockscomb because of the striking resemblance between the flower's head and the cock's comb. Coloured varieties of cockscomb are common, with red and purple being the most sought. Moaval is what they call mawal in Kashmir. Cockscomb is known by several various aliases in different parts of the world. Do you know that mawal, the edible flower of Kashmir, is the secret behind Rogan Josh's rich hue? Now, let's find out why mawal (or moaval) is so essential to the cuisine of Kashmir. Likewise, learning more about the cockscomb flower is fascinating.

What is Mawal?

Kashmiris refer to the Celosia Cristata, a form of cockscomb, as mawal. Its appearance naturally lends itself to the term "brain blossom." But it's not just a pretty flower. It's a rare ingredient in gourmet dishes. If you want to give your Rogan Josh or other meals in the Kashmiri Muslim cuisine a nice crimson colour, you need to use mawal, a traditional condiment. The flavour and texture of Kashmir mawal are comparable to those of basil or spinach.

Use of Mawal in Kashmiri food

The Kashmiri cockscomb flower is bright red in hue. It is used as an exotic spice in culinary delicacies. Cockscomb is the key ingredient in the much-relished signature dishes of Kashmiri wazwan like Rista, lahbi kabab, Muslim Rogan Josh, Mirchi korma and more. Moaval is boiled to prepare a red food colouring, as used in certain dishes. The locals in Kashmir use the fresh flower or the sun-dried version. Nowadays, one can also get organic mawal flower powder made out of dried and crushed blooms. Its rich red colour is a great natural food colouring agent.

Kashmiri rogan josh, Image Source: Depositphotos

Is Celosia or mawal edible?

A member of the amaranth family, celosia can be found in diverse forms. In many cultures, the plants have long been cultivated and harvested for use as a staple food source. East and West Africans, Indians and Chinese, and even Southeast Asians all eat the leaves and flowers. Meat, chicken, and soup complement well with cockscomb flowers, which is why it applies to so many different dishes. The same may be said about using it as a salad topping. It's nutrient dense and contains lots of protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.

A close up look of mawal flower of Kashmir, Image Source: Twitter

How can the colour be obtained from mawal?

Simmering the cockscomb or mawal flower in a small amount of water for the barest minimum of time will allow you to extract colour from the flower. The colour will become darker and browner the longer you let it sit.

How to oven-dry mawal?

If you have some fresh Kashmiri mawal or cockscomb blossoms and wish to preserve them later, count yourself fortunate. To oven-dry, this edible bloom, preheat the oven to the lowest heat level and arrange a cookie sheet with parchment. Another alternative is using wax paper. Spread the flowers without crowding or letting one touch the other. Put them in the oven at a low temperature with the door ajar to allow moisture to escape. Flowers usually take between eight and twelve hours to dry out fully.

Now you know the secret of Rogan Josh's rich hue, i.e., the mawal flower of Kashmir. It's time to make some space for it in your spice and herbs collection.