Tasting Wazwan Delicacies in Kashmir

After a wonderful dinner of mutton curry and rice at Aru Valley we had a miserable luck with food the day after. As soon as we reached Sonamarg market, we saw the hotels and eateries advertising their Wazwan fare.  Realising we will not be able to savour all of 36 dishes at one go or even locate 36 dishes we decided to take stock of at least one dish in every tourist spot. After a series of informal conversations with locals we decided to head towards Hotel Himalaya for our lunch of rice and Mutton Rogan Josh. A plateful of rice was enough for 4.  While walking down the Sonamarg market we spotted ovens with handis coated with mud. As soon as we approached near the handi the owner scooped out a hearty size of minced ball in yoghurt based gravy. We decided to dig into a bowl of goshtaba.  Halfway through our Goshtaba arrived two skewers which smelt of freshly prepared mutton sheekh kebabs. We gave in to our temptation and retired to our rest house with leftovers from our lunch (Rogan Josh and Rice).

As we reached Srinagar and patiently waited in the queue for our Gondola ( the famous Gondola ride in Gulmarg) tickets  we decided to prepare a check list of the items we had to taste from the Wazwan fare.  Under the guidance of people at Tourist Transit Centre Srinagar, we drew up the following list

  1. Tabak Maas
  2. Aab Gosht
  3. Rista
  4. Goshtaba
  5. Nadru Yakhni

After drawing up this rather minimal list we headed towards Mughal Durbar on the Residency Road. It is located in the heart of the city and you can easily find your way to this fantastic place. For those interested in the legacy of the place you could visit (http://www.mughal-darbar.com/about.asp). As we browsed through the menu, we were told that Nadru Yakhni was not available and we were disappointed. We settled for the remaining four. As the dishes arrived we realised we had more than we could eat.  Tabak Maas is a dish prepared from Lamb Breast.  As one of the authors put it, “It’s deep-fried and so crispy outside and tender inside that you can even chew on the bones”( http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/article3304066.ece).  Next arrived Aab Gosht ( a milk based mutton curry). The flavours of freshly roasted cinnamon and cardamom were an added incentive. Then followed  the famed Goshtaba and Rista. Goshtaba is freshly pounded meat kneaded into balls and cooked gently in yoghurt based gravy and when it is cooked in a red fiery gravy it is called Rista.

Though we could not taste the 36 dishes of the famous Wazwan fare, the five dishes we tasted during our five day stay left us wanting for more. Wazwan is an art and a communal meal. The way the communal meal has made its way into restaurants and eateries is significant in the way the portions have not been reduced to cater to a fine dining clientele. Keeping with the communal essence of the “eating of the Wazwan” rice across places is served so that four people can get together to eat Wazwan.  Though traditionally a large plate called “Tarami” is used for serving the rice and first few courses ( as told to us by various people during our stay) the restaurants have adapted this in the huge portion of rice serving. Usually one plate of rice is sufficient to serve 4 people. 

 Wazwan is central to Kashmiri cuisine and as one of the bloggers (http://inlovewithfood.blogspot.in/2007/09/wazwan-heart-and-soul-of-kashmiri.html) in her entry on Wazwan food illustrates that Wazwan is an art as the word Waz denotes the head chef who is skilled at the art of cooking and usually passes on the skill from one generation to another. The word “ wan” on the other implies, a shop for meat. In other words, Wazwan is a celebration of feast of 36 dishes prepared by skilled chefs under the head chef.

Though we got to taste a few from the 36 dishes, we hope that in our life time we will have a chance to taste the remaining 31 dishes.


Food-Stop a-float

As soon as our car parked near Ghat No 9 of Dal Lake, Srinagar around 3pm, a boat zoomed past carrying Lays, Kurkure, Mineral water bottles.  As I struggled to capture the brilliant picture of Cola-isation of Dal Lake,  the boatmen assured me that there will be more of that. And of course, they were right.  As the boat glided through the waterways of Dal Lake lined with houseboats, I was left awestruck by the life on waters.  We crossed a floating Phone Booth marked with Vodafone, Airtel stickers. A little ahead we saw a fruit-vendor selling watermelon to a local.


As we got ready for the sunset Shikara ride in Dal Lake there were more surprises waiting for us. As soon as the Shikara left our houseboat, we saw boats zooming by with cans of coke, fanta and mineral water bottles. This was the trailor of what Dal Lake could offer to a foodie on a shikhara ride.


 As the boat came close to the floating post office we encountered a man selling Chicken Tikka, Mutton Seekh Kebabs and Chicken Seekh Kebabs. We could not resist the temptation.



We ordered half-plate of Seekh Kebab which came with three mouth watering chutneys. Already full from a lunch of Wazwan delicacies at Mughal Durbar ( one of the popular restaurants in Srinagar) we tasted a mouthful of kebabs.

As the boat zoomed past the Nehru Park we made another stop to buy a bottle of coke from a food stall (floating) which sold beverages. You could get anything that you wanted from a bottle of coke/ pepsi to even tea/ coffee. If that was not enough we coaxed a boatman selling roasted corns to strike a pose for us. As our Shikhara took to strange waterways we found ourselves near to a boat selling the famous “Kahwa”. As our two and a half hour long ride came to a close we sat in our verandah of the house boat watching boats sellings corns ( bhuttas), kebabs and fruits. 


Life does not come to a standstill on these shores till its pitch dark and with the break of dawn the boatmen are ready to embrace a new day selling cups of tea and flowers.


The lake of Paradise has lots to offer for a foodie on a Shikhara ride in Dal Lake,Srinagar.