Srinagar: Wazwan is a culinary tradition from Kashmir that has been around for thousands of years. Some historians trace it roots back to the 15th Century. It has always been an integral part of every celebration, every festivity of the Kashmiri people – especially weddings. It is a vital part of the intangible heritage of Kashmir, and because the ancient chefs (known as Waza) passed the recipes down only by word-of-mouth many recipes have been lost in the mists of time. Legend has it that the complete royal feast once encompassed more than forty dishes. Today, only 18 authentic recipes remain.
P Mark Mustard Oil takes great pride in having been a part of this tradition for more than eight decades. The brand started out in Kashmir in the year 1933 and has been an integral part of every Wazwan recipe since then. Many old chefs fondly remember how they would display the P Mark Mustard Oil tin prominently on the food counter at weddings to signal to the guests that everything was cooked in this highly popular brand of mustard oil.
To celebrate its long and memorable association with the tradition of Wazwan, P Mark Mustard Oil is all set to present a unique cooking show focussed entirely on Wazwan recipes. Produced in collaboration with the News 18 Group, the show comprising five episodes will air on News 18 Urdu in October and November this year. Titled Mezbaan-e-Wazwan, the show features celebrity Chef Harpal Sokhi (of Turban Tadka and Namak Shamak fame) with well-known Wazwan Chef Abbas Bhat, who is known for his strict adherence to authentic Wazwan recipes, ingredients, and preparation and cooking techniques. The series is anchored by well-known Kashmiri television personality Aaliya.
Every episode features two Wazwan recipes presented by Chef Sokhi and Chef Bhat, followed by a Kashmiri recipe presented by a guest – chosen from among numerous participants who sent in recipes to get an opportunity to participate in this one-of-a-kind show. The programme is a mix of serious cooking and fun. While Chef Bhat prepares his authentic Wazwan delicacies, Chef Sokhi and Aaliya engage in lots of light-hearted banter.
The show also offers many interesting insights on mustard oil. In Wazwan, the traditional tadka is made by heating mustard oil to its smoking point. In one episode, Aaliya asks Chef Bhat what the significance of this smoke is. Chef Bhat responds by saying that the smoke indicates that the mustard oil is pure and of good quality. Mustard oil is the only oil that takes on a silky golden texture when it reaches its smoking point – and retains all its nutrients, including its natural antioxidants. Aaliya agrees and points out that if mustard oil does not emit smoke on heating, it indicates that the oil is probably not pure.
To ensure authenticity, Mezbaan-e-Wazwan is shot entirely in Srinagar. The brightly coloured set created for the television series is decorated with exquisite Wazwan artefacts, ornamental utensils and exotic Kashmiri ingredients. In its essence this set captures the festive celebratory mood that lies at the very heart of Wazwan.