The Westin Gurgaon was known for our food festivals. Then, 2020 happened and our regulars kept asking when we were going to resume that celebration of food. I am glad we could restart with this cuisine,” says Anurudh Khanna, Multi-Property Executive Chef for the Westin Group in Delhi-NCR.
The cuisine in focus is Kashmiri for which the hotel flew down an expert Waza, Chef Tariq Ahmed from Srinagar, to take guests on a 10-day sojourn among the foods of the valley with the ‘Sair-e-Kashmir’ festival.
Chef Tariq is from a family of Wazas, with generation after generation of the Ahmed family having passed down the recipes of Wazwan. The master Waza has to come up with 15-20 courses to the full 36 Wazwan. However, the duo found it easy to coordinate as Chef Khanna had worked with Chef Tariq on a previous occasion a couple of years ago.
The two brainstormed over the phone over dishes that would appeal to the Dilli palate, with Khanna saying, “Kashmiri food is simple, but rich, full of flavours with the ingredients prepared in unique ways.” Chef Tariq brought along only one assistant Waza to help him, but also brought with him a taste of home. “I have done a cross section of meat and vegetarian dishes, though traditionally we concentrate heavily on the meats, with only one or two vegetarian dishes.
That being said, though most Kashmiris eat meat every day, the Wazwan is usually only prepared for special occasions.” From home, he carried along dried Kashmiri chillies, dried cockscomb flower, cinnamon, “as those same ingredients taste very different here. Even the appearance changes, as you will see when you have the Rista (meatballs in a fearsome chilli gravy), which is as red as it is hot. You wouldn’t get that colour from the chillies here,” says the chef , almost apologetically.
Given our predilections, we stuck to the meat side of the menu, indulging in signature Kashmiri non-vegetarian dishes like the Gushtaba (hand shaped meatballs in a rich, buttery white yogurt gravy), Waza Chicken (two halves or two full chickens cooked whole), Mutton Kanti (tender mutton pieces prepared in mustard oil) and dallied with a Mutton Yakhni Shorba, a soup guaranteed to drive away the blues. Traditionally breads are not served, but the hotel is happy to rustle up rotis, though personally the velveteen Kashmiri Pulao was the perfect vehicle for our meaty meanderings.
Other dishes on the menu include Rogan Josh, the aforementioned Rista, Mutton Yakhni, Tabakh Maaz and more. Meanwhile, vegetarians can indulge Kashmiri Rajma Dal, Chok Wangan (eggplant in a tangy yogurt gravy), Dum Kashmiri Aloo (potatoes cooked in yogurt gravy), and Nadru Yakhni (lotus root with mild aromatic spices in a yogurt gravy), among others.
While Kahwa, an aromatic Kashmiri green tea made from cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron, complements the meal (“It’s a good post-digestive, but Kashmiris like to drink it throughout the meal so we can keep eating all the meat,” smiles Tariq), dessert is the iconic Zafrani Phirni, made with rice, milk and saffron. Who could ask for more?
TILL: January 31
AT: Seasonal Tastes, The Westin Gurgaon
CONTACT: +91 78380 90923