Although ‘devil’ might sound like a strange way to address the chefs, the story behind this mysterious reference is quite interesting
The beautiful valley of Kashmir is home to scenic landscapes and lush greenery. If that wasn’t enough, the aroma of slow-cooked rich and hearty Kashmiri food captivates the taste buds and makes a visit to the paradise fulfilling. The culinary affairs of the Valley are known for being hot and delicious but it is the Kashmiri wedding feast that is the most awaited time of the year. Given the topography of the place, the months between April-October are well-suited for events like weddings to take place. The highlight of the wedding day is the traditional Wazwan that is prepared for the family and guests.
For the unversed, Wazwan is an authentic Kashmiri meal that is mostly prepared for festivals like Eid as well as weddings. The term is coined from words like waz, meaning cook, and wan, meaning shop. One family that has been preparing this traditional feast for generations are the Shaitan wazas or devil chefs. It is believed that this unique name was given to the family of cooks during the tenure of Ghulam Muhammad Bakshi. At a special function at the then Prime Minister’s house, Asadullah Khan’s great grandfathers were asked to prepare Wazwan for the guests, as per a media publication.
Some dishes that you would commonly find in a Kashmiri Wazwan are Rogan Josh, Tabak Maaz, Rista and Gushtaba. Asadullah also shares that the lavish feast involves a team of several junior Wazas or chefs along with head chefs and a mutton dish takes about 16 hours to cook. All these dishes are prepared in the courtyards of the customers in open fire and relished on a traem, a large platter on which rice and the meat are served to be eaten by four people at a time. The rich and hearty delicacies are savoured by all the guests after the wedding rituals and are an indispensable part of any Kashmiri marital affair.