Taj Krishna presents Kashmiri Food Festival with Chef Special Dishes from Wazwan Cuisine of Kashmir at Firdaus

By: Sourav

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“Yaadein mithai ke dibbe ki tarah hoti hai….ek baar khula toh sirf ek tukda nahi kha paoge” (Memories are like a box of sweets…once it opens then you can’t eat just one piece). I recalled these filmy words from Bollywood movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani when my foodie companion (also an eminent food blogger) Sabyasachi Ray Chaudhuri was sharing some moments from his visit to Kashmir with me over a spread of Kashmiri food at Firdaus, Taj Krishna in Hyderabad.

There is no Dal lake. There is no houseboat. There is no Chinar tree shedding leaves of golden and crimson hues in Hyderabad. But there is Kashmiri food amidst soulful notes of live ghazal performance for foodies in Hyderabad. Taj Krishna presents Kashmiri Food Festival with a chef-special menu of traditional dishes from the Wazwan cuisine of Kashmir at its signature restaurant Firdaus for 7 days from 21st to 27th February.

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The flavor of Kashmiri food from starters to main course conspired with the live rendition of Jagjit Singh ke ghazals to enchant my senses at Firdaus. Adding to the spellbinding ambience was the presence of Chef Waza Tariq from Vivanta by Taj – Dal View in Srinagar, who curated the menu for Kashmiri Food Festival and shared tidbits of the Wazwan cuisine with us. He will be in attendance to interact with guests till the festival ends.

The Kashmiri food festival at Firdaus offers four starters and two varieties of Kashmiri soup ‘Shorba’. We were served Nadru Malai Tikki (pan grilled Dal grown lotus stem and cottage cheese escalope), Chicken Kanti (traditional home style cooked chicken with crunchy onion) and Tabak Maaz (yogurt simmered baby lamb ribs, fried till crunchy). There is Paneer Kanti for vegetarians.

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Among the starters, I loved Chicken Kanti. I got to know from Mr. Ray Chaudhuri that Chicken Kanti is a popular street food in Kashmir. A bit of mint chutney added zing to the taste of Nadru Malai Tikki. The two types of Shorba are Yakhni Shorba (Kashmiri spiced flavorful chicken soup) and Zafrani Vegetable Shorba (local vegetable soup with saffron).

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The main course of the Kashmiri Food Festival menu at Firdause is like a qawwali that is longer than a regular song. Hopefully, you got what I meant to say. The number of items in the main course bears a testimony to how rich the Wazwan cuisine of Kashmir is. Kashmiri Pulao, Tamatar Chaman, Muttan Rogan Josh, Rajma Gogje, Dhaniwal Korma, Waza Chicken, Gustaba, Rista, Gosht Mirchi Korma, Gosht Yakhni, Nadir Yakhni, Haak, and Tchok Wangen.

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We were served Muttan Rogan Josh, Gustaba (pounded soft mutton dumplings simmered with yogurt), Rista (pounded soft lamb dumplings simmered with saffron, Kashmiri chilli curry), Nadir Yakhni (fresh lotus stem simmered in yoghurt gravy), Haak (local grown leafy greens with fresh Kashmiri chilli), Rajma Gogje (old and famous Jammu rajma with turnip) and Kashmiri Pulao.

The flavor of authentic ingredients used in the main course dishes was as distinct as a fresh morning breeze blowing over Dal Lake (though I have not been to Kashmir yet). I liked Kashmiri Pulao, Mutton Rogan Josh, Gustaba and Rajma Gogje the most. The pulao was not heavy with dried fruits unlike other versions of pulao. That’s why aroma of the pulao was not subdued. Spiced with Kashmiri chilli, Rajma Gogje had smaller rajma beans and small slices of potato. Generally I don’t like potato pieces in any rajma dish. My personal taste apart, Rajma Gogje tasted well with bites of crispy phulka and nibbles of steamed rice.

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Mutton Rogan Josh was cooked in the likable quantity of ghee. I liked Gustaba the most. The mutton dumpling in yogurt gravy was soft and delicious. Rista was the only dish which I did not find on friendly terms with my taste buds because of its watery curry. Since it was my first tryst with Kashmiri food, naturally there was no room for comparison. However, I have had Kashmiri Pulao and Kashmiri Dum Aloo many times before this festival.

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The menu has two entertainers – Badami Phirnee and Kesari Halwa – for the sweet tooth. Kesari Halwa is what we call Suji ka halwa. It was unusually dry which we are not used to. However, Badami Phirnee (rice pudding with almonds and saffron) defined the sweetness of Kashmir to me. I enjoyed it to my sweet tooth’s content.

My gastronomic journey through the valley of Kashmir came to an end with a cup of Kashmiri Kahwa from guest chef Waza Tariq’s selection of Kashmiri delights at Taj Krishna Firdaus in Hyderabad.

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