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A fulsome feast

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SUMPTOUS! Chefs Khan Mohammad Rafiq Waza and Shafeeq Waza with their wazwan
SUMPTOUS! Chefs Khan Mohammad Rafiq Waza and Shafeeq Waza with their wazwan

The Kashmiri Food Festival returns to Trident Hilton's Saffron restaurant in Gurgaon by popular demand. The wazwan is the traditional elaborate Kashmiri feast, prepared for special occasions. To guarantee quality, the Trident has brought in two Vasta Waza (chief cooks). Based in Srinagar, Khan Mohammad Rafiq Waza and his brother Shafeeq Waza are seven-generation chefs. They supervise every aspect from the carving of meats to the final garnish. Practise starvation before the meal, to do justice to the seven-dish thali. The tabakh maaz is a transformed rib cut. The lotus stem kabab could fool a carnivore. It is well spiced. The roganjosh shocks with its sharp red colour, courtesy the Kashmiri cockscomb flower. The aloobukhara korma is very tender. The sweetness of peaches compliments the meat and spices. While fish is not often combined with spinach, the sole fish and haak (Kashmiri spinach) is a refreshing dish. Even staples like rajmah, dum aloo and paneer are transformed through slow cooking and carefully selected spices. In tsok wangun or aubergines cooked in a sweet sour sauce, the tamarind and jaggery perfectly complement each other. Kashmiri cuisine is usually served with rice and not breads.But to suit Delhi palates, a choice of breads is also offered. The thali, however, goes best with plain steamed rice or the delectable Kashmiri pulao. The exclusive and expensive morel mushroom lightly but firmly flavours the rice. The thali is complete only after gushtaba. These are soft spongy lamb dumplings in yoghurt gravy. Rafiq Waza says this is the hardest dish to prepare, as it has to be hand pounded for many hours with a walnut wood mallet. If it is over or under-cooked it will become a rubber ball. Greed and not hunger will urge you towards the desert. The kong firin is an exquisite cold dessert flavoured with slivers of pistachio. Flavoured with saffron, cinnamon and green cardamom, the kahwa (Kashmiri tea) finally warms both body and soul. NANDINI NAIR

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