The History Of Kashmiri Wazwan And The Tradition Of Eating It
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Kashmir is famous for its flavourful delicacies that have intriguing flavours and preparation methods. One of the most popular Kashmiri feasts is called Wazwan. This is prepared only on special occasions like marriages and is a 36-course meal. This is not just an indulgent meal but an experience unlike anything else in the world. It is also a pride of the people of the valley and there is an emotional connection with this Royal meal. 

The word Wazwan is a mixture of two words, waza which means cook and wan means shop. The literal meaning of Wazwan is setting up a feast in the courtyard of the host. Let's have a look at the origin of this celebrated Royal meal of Kashmir and how it became so popular among the natives. 

Origin Of Wazwan 

It is believed that at a point in time in history, Kashmir was the centre of the silk route that connected Asia to the Mediterranean. Thousands of silk merchants used to pass this route for business and trade purposes. This is how Kashmir was introduced to a lot of Persian and Russian dishes. In 1398 when Taimoor invaded Hindustan, he brought a lot of cooks from the land of Uzbekistan. These cooks were known as Waza. All of these cooks were very good and were able to blend Persian, Turkish and Afghani, cooking flavours and techniques and developing a new Kashmiri cuisine.

Wazas were extremely passionate and skilful cooks who started preparing for the meal even before the sun rose at 3 AM. The master of these cooks was responsible for supervising all the other chefs. The most authentic way of preparing Wazwan is by only using sheep meat and other different organs of the sheep. The meat is prepared within one hour of butchering the sheep to maintain its authentic taste. It is mixed with a walnut wood hammer or stone until it loses its grip. Wazas used to mince the meat with a hammer until the nerves of the mutton would be entirely dissolved in the rest of the meat to get a creamy consistency. 

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Most of the dishes prepared in India by then involved mixing spices while the dish was being cooked. On the other hand, Wazwan was prepared by mixing a lot of herbs and other flavourful condiments while the meat was still wrong. Also, a small quantity of flavourful water was added to the meat while preparing the dish. This helps in a flavourful osmosis and meat is used to absorb all the flavours of the water. 

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Flavours In Wazwan

Wazwan is filled with several interesting flavours. One of the intriguing and different things about Wazwan is that the flavour blend used in the preparation of meat is not prepared by using spices. Most of the condiments used in the preparation of meat are herbs. A lot of mild flower essences were also used in giving delicious flavours to the meat. The red dye that is used to give the colour to the meat is taken from the Cockscomb flower. The pre-cooking method used to prepare Wazwan is very complicated and precise. To attain the perfect flavours it is very important to ace the pre-cooking method. 

Another important thing about the preparation of Wazwan is that it is prepared on old fruit tree logs using nickel-plated copper vessels. The meat is also boiled in salted water and the water can be used in the preparation of other dishes as broth. Kashmiri shallots, dried Kashmiri  red chilli are also very critical in giving Wazwan its authentic taste. 

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Way Of Eating 

As said before, Wazwan is an experience and not just a simple delicacy. There are proper ways or mannerisms to eat this food. A special Dastarkhwan, a formal dining space, is prepared with the help of white sheets and silky Kashmiri carpets. The guests are made to sit in groups of four and an attendant carries an hourglass-shaped ornament copper pot that contains lukewarm water for making the guest wash their hands. Then very large and heavily embellished copper plates called tream are placed between guests. These contain the first sequence of Wazwan. It is generally rice, seekh kebab, mayth maz and chicken. These can be considered starters and are placed before guests as soon as they arrive. The tream is covered with copper lead to avoid the food getting cold. All the family members start eating the food by saying their customary prayer before eating the meals.

All the dishes are then served in front of the guests one after the other. Wazwan is not just a rich and versatile blend of flavours, but it also promotes harmony and an intimate relationship among the family members. The process is continued until 21 different types of mutton dishes are served to the guests. For Kashmiris, weddings are a very special occasion where all the family members contribute equally to make the celebration happen. Kashmiris are very hospitable people and it is considered disrespectful if you do not eat food at the marriage.

If you ever get the opportunity to try Kashmiri Wazwan then consider yourself lucky as this is an experience that only a few get to live.