Meeting Chef Tariq Ahmed after two decades was indeed one of the incentives that took me all the way to Navi Mumbai. His food was the second luring factor.
Chef Tariq Ahmed has been serving traditional Wazwan food from Kashmir for almost three decades. This humble man, who never went to school, learnt the secrets of Wazwan cuisine from his father. He started serving at weddings and is in demand today across the globe at five-star properties for Kashmir food festivals.
Nadru Churma | Pic: Shruti Pandit
Wazwan spread is a part of the dinner buffet at the Hill View Café of Mariott Executive Apartments (MEA) at Navi Mumbai. Chef Tariq cooks his food with love and serves with care. He is so particular about his ingredients that he carried Nadru (lotus stems) from Kashmir along with local onion’s paste, Kashmiri Red Chillies and a few other spices. That’s what makes his food special. The Nadru Churma (Fried sticks-stems-) is crunchy and tasty. So is the Nadru Palak – nice big chunks and slices of lotus stems cooked with spinach, turmeric, Kashmiri red chilly powder, onion paste and spices. The texture of the stems add drama to the softness of spinach.
Nadru Palak | Pic: Shruti Pandit
Though Kashmiri food is more famous for its non-veg food, Chef Tariq has created a myriad menu for vegetarians as well keeping in mind the taste buds of Navi Mumbai. Dahi Baingan – whole brinjal cooked in yogurt gravy with subtle spices, Tamatar Chaman – paneer cooked in tomato gravy with turmeric and Kashmiri red chili powder, well known Kashmiri Dum Aloo are a few to name. Kashmiri Rajma is also on the menu and is different and subtler than the Punjabi version.
Rista | Pic: Shruti Pandit
Wazwan specialty remains the meat dishes and some of the delicacies are so good that you need immense will power to stop yourself from eating. Rista and Gushtaba are definitely of that category. Included in the buffet, both have meatballs made from meat (mutton) pounded along with spices.
Gushtaba | Pic: Shruti Pandit
However, for Rista they are cooked in a red-n-yellow curry that has Kashmiri red chilli paste, turmeric, and spices and for Gushtaba in a subtler yogurt gravy with subtler spices. Both, Gushtaba and Rista are a part of buffet at the MEA. And trust me the meatballs are melt in the mouth. The gravies are perfectly spiced. The flavours so subtle yet encompassing the palate that you can just keep eating…
Pulao | Pic: Shruti Pandit
The Wazwan cuisine does not use many spices. Neither does it use red chillies in a great quantity; the reason why it never tastes very fiery. It does not believe in overpowering any vegetable or meat with the spices and chillies. But believes in delicate flavouring. Even the condiments adhere to this philosophy.
Do not miss the condiments at this Wazwan buffet; especially the Kashmiri Zerish. This is a chutney made from a local plant found on the hills of Kashmir. Chef Tariq carried it from Kashmir to add zest to the meal. The Akhroot chutney, made from walnuts, is a good accompaniment to sheekhs.
The Kashmiri Wazwan Festival curated by Chef Tariq Ahmed will be on at the Marriott Executive Apartments, Navi Mumbai till November 4