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Kashmiri Wazwan

Wazwan (Kashmiri: وازِوان) is a multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisine, the preparation of which is considered an art and a point of pride in Kashmiri culture and identity. Almost all the dishes are meat-based using lamb or chicken with few vegetarian dishes. It is popular throughout the Kashmir. Moreover, Wazwan is also served internationally at Kashmiri food festivals and reunions.

In the Kashmiri language, waz means ‘cook’ or ‘cooking’ and wan means ‘shop’. The ultimate formal banquet in Kashmir is the royal wazwan. Of its thirty-six courses, between fifteen and thirty can be preparations of meat, cooked overnight under the supervision of a master chef called a vaste waze. Guests are seated in groups of four and share the meal out of a large copper platter called the traem. For Kashmiri Muslims, the meal begins with invoking the name of Allah, for Kashmiri Hindus the name of Lord Shiva and a ritual washing of hands in a basin called the Tash-t-naer, which is taken around by attendants. Then the traem arrive, heaped with rice, quartered by two seekh kababs and contains four pieces of methi korma (chicken or mutton flavored with a spice mixture containing dried fenugreek (methi) leaves), two tabak maaz (twice-cooked lamb ribs, initially braised with ground spices and milk, then browned in butter), one safed kokur (chicken with white sauce), one zafran kokur (chicken with saffron sauce), and the first few courses. Yogurt and chutney are served separately in small earthen pots. Up to about 20 items are served thereafter by waza (the junior cook). Seven dishes are a must for these occasions — tabakh maaz, rista (meatballs in a red, paprika-saffron-fennel spice gravy colored with dyer’s alkanet), rogan josh, daniwal korma (lamb roasted with yoghurt, spices and onion puree, topped with coriander leaves), aab gosh (lamb chunks cooked with a fennel-based spice mixture, cardamom and partially evaporated milk), marchhwangan korma (chicken legs/thighs cooked in a spicy browned-onion sauce) and gushtaba (meatballs cooked in a spicy yoghurt gravy). The main course usually ends with gushtaba. The Gushtaba is a large meatball which signals the end of the main course. After that, desserts are served. In winters, the dessert can be a hot sweet dish and in summers, it is usually something cold.

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