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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Wazwan: All you need to know about this Kashmiri multi-course meal

While film director Vivek Agnihotri suggested 'vegetarian' Wazwan, it is traditionally a meat-based meal

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 16, 2021 10:00:59 am
wazwanWazwan is usually served at weddings and other festive occasions. (Source: feelkashmir_/Instagram)

Netizens of late have been engaged in a Twitter battle about whether Kashmiri delicacy Wazwan can be both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. It started after film director Vivek Agnihotri suggested making ‘vegetarian’ Wazwan in a now-deleted tweet. Social media users, however, were of the opinion that vegetarian Wazwan did not exist.

What is Wazwan?

Wazwan is a multi-course Kashmiri meal, usually prepared at weddings and other festive occasions. It comprises 36 dishes — from rista, rogan josh to kababs, primarily made of lamb. The main course ends with what is known as gushtaba, a meatball dish.

In Kashmiri, ‘waza’ means the cook, and ‘wan’ means ‘shop’, explains Urdu writer and critic Deepak Budki, who is a Kashmiri Pandit.

“By custom, wazwan is associated with Kashmiri Muslims, in which four people eat together from the same plate called traem. And the cooks charge money per ‘traem’. Hindus, on other hand, bought all raw materials themselves and paid daily wages to the waza. But they don’t call it Wazwan — the chulha is called ‘voore’ and the feast is called ‘saal’,” says Budki, who himself hails from a place in Kashmir called Wazapura, where the cooks traditionally stay.

Can Wazwan be vegetarian?

“Wazwan traditionally is completely meat-based. Even the vegetarian dishes that come with it have mutton broth in them — from palak to nadru yakhni unless a guest is completely vegetarian. In that case, pure vegetarian dishes can be specially cooked for the particular guest,” chef Jasleen Marwah tells indianexpress.com.

It is important to note that Kashmiri Pandits are traditionally non-vegetarians too, given that they had to keep their bodies warm amid cold climate conditions. It was only after migration that many of them turned vegetarian. That said, Hindus never made non-vegetarian food on their daughter’s wedding day, even if they would have non-veg delicacies during pre-wedding celebrations, Budki says.

He argues that while Wazwan was not traditionally prevalent among Kashmiri Pandits, one cannot really stop anyone from calling their equivalent with the same name since the term ideally means “food served by a cook”.

“We make a variety of vegetarian dishes too,” says Budki. The two most common vegetables that are cooked either by themselves or in combination with other vegetables are nadru (lotus stem) and Kashmiri brinjal. Collard greens are also commonly eaten and are known as haakh. This saag can be made with nadru or other vegetables.

Kashmiri vegetarian dishes

Here are some of the commonly-made Kashmiri vegetarian delicacies: Nader yakhin, Ale yakhin, Shikar Nader, Nader haakh, Haakh, Dum Aloo, Aloo Baingan/Nadru, Vusta Haakh, Munje hakh (knol khol), Nader churma, Mujhe, Mujhe chetin, Tchaman (paneer) yellow, Tchaman red, Tchuk wangan (sour brinjal dish), Sutchal (Malva leaves), Gugji Nader (turnip dish), Gugji rajmah, Gurdael, Obuje, Fresh beans, Gol Ale (pumpkin) red. Kashmiri Pandits also mix vegetables with mutton or fish (which is quite commonly eaten).

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