Visit to Kashmir is incomplete without digging into the flavours of Wazwan. Ever since I had planned my trip to Kashmir, Wazwan was high on my agenda. It is not one dish nor is it a drink but the name of the elaborate and uber delicious set of dishes from the Kashmiri cuisine typically served in banquets.
After a long and arduous trek through the mountains in search of the Great Lakes of Kashmir we decided to treat ourselves with Wazwan in Ahdoos, Srinagar. Ahdoos is considered to be one of the most popular and upscale restaurants in Srinagar and did live up to the taste that we expected. As I settled down in my chair and relished through the dishes that arrived faster than I could remember the names the grime and fatigue of the long trek faded away. The traditional Wazwan is a 36 course meal specially prepared by the Wazas or the Master Chefs who had supposedly migrated to the area from Samarkand.
Tabak Maaz is the twice cooked Kashmiri Ribs once with spices and milk and then fried brown on heat are to die for. This chewy yet soft delicacy aptly set the tone for the rest of the meal. By the time I could look up and think of the next one on the menu, my plate was full with the Kashmiri Chilly Kabab (Chicken) and the Kashmiri Sheekh Kabab (Lamb). The meat pounded fine seemed to have been soaked with spices for a long time to get that uniform taste. I was yearning for more of this soft and tasty kabab that seemed to have engulfed my senses but my friend cautioned me to go slow since the best was yet to come. The Chicken Chilly Kabab was succulent and juicy. The chilly combined with a slight dash of sweetness from the yogurt based radish chutney on the side did not set my tongue on fire but opened up my taste buds for the next course.
The aromatic Pulao generously laced with dry fruits and saffron was a delight and combined with spoonfuls of the gravy accompanying the Lahabi Kabab tasted even better. Lahabi Kabab is flattened and pounded meat cooked with spices and yogurt. So far so good, but the prince (Gusthaba) and princess (Rista) were yet to arrive.
Rista are small meat balls cooked in a fiery red gravy. I cut through the meat ball to check its softness and mind you, princesses need to be revered and not sliced the way I did :). The spice was befitting of a princess and swept me off with her beguiling charm, never shall I slice the Rista with such insensitivity, but slowly dig through it and devour every bit. I was about to grab a glass of water when the Gushtaba was served. The tangy taste of the yogurt gravy neutralized the spice and the softness of the meat melted on my tongue. Aah!! who better than this prince Gushtaba to tame the fiery princess Rista. While the prince and the princess were quietly sent to rest in my stomach, I took a spoonful of the sweet firni. I must sheepishly admit that I forgot all about the photograph.
Ahdoos is very much recommended, good food, great staff and the warm ambience made the Wazwan e Kashmir all the more special.
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