Kashmiri wazwan for the modern traveller

Why you should give the wazwan trami a try when you’re in Kashmir next.

What should I eat when I’m in Kashmir? My question drew scores of suggestions before my trip. Most people recommended a traditional Kashmiri wazwan at Ahdoo’s or Mughal Darbar, both on Residency Road. This feast usually contains at least 36 different dishes, each richer and more flavourful than the last. So, of course, I indulge in one that has it all, from the nadru yakhni (lotus stem in a creamy gravy) to the delectable meatballs in a yoghurt gravy known as goshtaba. It’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How a wazwan works

It starts with the ritual washing of hands with rose water poured from a tasht-naer, an elegant vessel into its matching metal basin.

Wazwan, wazwan trami, kashmir
A freshly made tasht-naer set (in the foreground) with the coppersmith who handcrafted it in Srinagar’s old city. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

After this, they usually bring in a magnificent trami, which has all the main elements of the wazwan — such as sweetish rice, seekh kebabs, methi maaz (fenugreek-flavoured mutton intestines), tabakh maaz (braised lamb ribs), chicken in white sauce, and one in saffron sauce.

Wazwan, wazwan trami, kashmir
The wazas or chefs are specially trained for years. Image: Shutterstock/Burhan Shafi.

Next come rista (meatballs in a hot, fennel-saffron gravy), rogan josh (a lamb and tomato gravy flavoured and coloured with the use of alkanet plant and Kashmiri chillies), daniwal korma (made with roast lamb and onions), aab gosh (lamb cooked with fennel and cardamom), marchhwangan korma (chicken legs in browned-onion sauce), and goshtaba.

The waza (chef) serves a host of other dishes, condiments, and desserts, all of which together comprise the wazwan. While the most authentic wazwan is best enjoyed at a family celebration in Kashmir, many commercial establishments have been offering it on their menu for decades.

How wazwan 2.0 differs

Wazwan, wazwan trami, kashmir
The copper trami with the lid called sarposh is what the main part of the traditional wazwan is served in. Image: Courtesy Kanz & Muhul.

But tasty and tempting as it is, not everyone wants to binge on this calorific excess for every meal, especially when they’re travelling. Which is why most restaurants and hotels now offer a ‘wazwan trami’, a pre-plated meal that gives you the highlights of the traditional feast without being insanely heavy on the stomach. Trami actually refers to the copperware plate that the main part of the wazwan meal is usually served in.

The traditional trami comprises rice served with five essential dishes — seekh kebab, methi maaz, tabakh maaz, waza kokur and dhen, followed by the rest of the elaborate wazwan. But with the modern-day mini trami, they serve smaller portions and the rista as well as the goshtaba (traditionally served last) are all presented together.

Wazwan, wazwan trami, kashmir
The Kashmiri Wazwan Trami is a lighter, more adaptable version than the traditional spread. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Hymee42.

One afternoon, as we sit in Ahdoo’s, the iconic restaurant that has become famous for its royal wazwan, I ask the elderly man serving us why they have deviated from tradition to offer the abridged version as well. He replies, “The times are changing. Tourists want to try the local food but don’t have a big appetite these days. With our trami, we give them the option to choose what they want.”

Wazwan, wazwan trami, kashmir
Ahdoo’s which has been around since 1918, has had a makeover recently. But its wazwan is still respected and recommended by locals and tourists alike. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

It also helps to reduce wastage, points out the owner of a small kiosk serving trami meals to pilgrims and tourists visiting the Hazratbal shrine. This too is in keeping with the Sufi philosophy of zero waste and the nose-to-tail usage of lamb across all the dishes. And it can be adapted, so health enthusiasts and vegetarians can enjoy the same rich taste without the meat or the calories.

The perfect blend of rich culinary heritage and a modern approach, a wazwan trami is definitely something you must sample on your next visit to Kashmir if not go the whole 36 yards!

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