Vol 4 No 1 | Apr-Jun 2024

Inimitable Wazwaan

Story and art by Suhail Naqshbandi


What is wazwaan?
Wazwaan is the Kashmiri name given to a feast prepared by traditional chefs called wazas, laid out for special occasions such as weddings, large clan gatherings, etc. The spread can consist of a large number of dishes – some books and Websites list up to 32, several of which are written about in the comic. The food is painstakingly prepared over a number of days, and usually served course-wise.

But the experience of a wazwaan is not only about the food. Guests eat four to a traami – a big serving platter on which rice is heaped, and the dishes served on that, but in portions for each guest. It’s also about the camaraderie that comes with eating together.



Cuisine of Kashmir
Kashmiri cuisine is quite heavily meat-based. Mutton is a favoured ingredient, but chicken also features. There are a few differences in the food eaten by Kashmiri Pandits and that consumed by Muslims. In general, the Muslim versions of dishes tend to use onions and garlic where their Hindu counterparts use asafoetida (heeng). Also, Muslim cooking leans more towards goat, where Pandit dishes are more likely to feature lamb.

Kashmiri food tends not to be particularly spicy – the Kashmiri chili is famous for lending colour rather than pungency. In addition, cockscomb flower, locally known as ‘mawal’, is also used to add a rich red colour to some dishes.

Though meat dishes dominate, there are also dishes that use haak (local greens), mushrooms or paneer. The lotus stem (known as nadru) makes for a specialty ingredient for disghes such as the nadru yakhni. Some dishes incorporate fruits such as plums. Rice is the staple – either in plain form or cooked into fragrant pulao. But there’s also the tradition of the qandarwan – bakers who prepare a wide range of leavened breads such as lavash, baqarkhani and sheermal, which reflect the influence of Central Asian cuisines.