By Syed Zulkifil Sarfraz
MUZAFFARABAD, Dec 06 (APP):Geographically and historically the state of Jammu and Kashmir has a unique position in the South Asian region and is famous across the globe for its beautiful landscape, ethnicity, languages and cultural heritage. The region-specific foodstuffs such as Kashmiri apple, Kashmiri Saffron fields, and Kashmiri Wazwan are the part and parcel of Kashmiri culture. These ethnic- and region-specific foodstuffs of Jammu and Kashmir have earned a distinction in international as well as in domestic markets.
The Kashmir valley is world famous not only for its mesmerizing natural beauty but also for its cultural richness. Kashmir has been described as an ancient region possessing a distinct ethnicity, character, language, dress, customs, rituals, and a rich cultural heritage.
The culture of Kashmir valley in Indian subcontinent is very diverse, multicolored, and multifaceted.
The Kashmir valley is a brilliant blend of different ethnic groups and social entities an amalgamation of numerous civilizations that have inhabited the Kashmir valley, from time to time, and have left their impression on the Kashmiri culture . Kashmir has been at the crossroads of various civilizations and religions during the past 5,000 years of its history. Kashmir has been influenced by Chinese, Indian, Central Asian, and Persian civilizations and cultures. Kashmir is said to have close cultural relations with present-day China, Tibet, Central Asian cities, Afghanistan, and Iran. All these factors have contributed immensely to the evolution and development of present-day Kashmir and Kashmiri culture.
The history of Kashmir depicts various culinary practices that amalgamated into Kashmiri cuisine embodying the cultures of the different settlers. The specialty meat product of the Kashmir valley is Wazwan, which is a combination of ethnic meat products. The blend of various aromatic spices with meat and meat products is the basis for ethnic and heritage Kashmiri meat products.
The cuisines of Kashmir are a unique and inseparable component of Kashmiri culture. These consist from seven to 36 dishes of mutton or beef, chicken, fruits, and vegetables but the main nine meat-based dishes are the important ethnic meat products of wazwan. i.e, Kabab, Methi Maaz, Roghan Josh,Aab Gosh, Rista, Yakhni Gosht,Tabak Maaz, Korma and Goshtaba are some of the most important meat products of wazwan prepared from mutton and hot boned tender lamb or beef meat.
The local knowledge and information pertaining to the ingredients, local taste preferences, and history of the product formulations had passed down from generation to generation. Along with researchers and academicians, the meat industry is trying to develop ethnic Wazwan meat products for the domestic as well as international markets because of their highly appealing flavor, texture, palatability and popularity, there is a vast potential to introduce them at the international level and to promote their export… As the demand for ethnic/heritage meat products is ever-growing because of rapid urbanization and industrialization, substantial efforts need to be made to meet such increasing requirements.
Moreover, because of their popularity, there is a vast potential to introduce them at the national level and promote their export. The food habits of the majority of the population of Kashmir are predominantly non- vegetarian.
Wazwan is the ultimate name in Kashmiri banquet and is a formal meal prepared on special occasions such as Kashmiri weddings. It is also being processed at fast food corners, restaurants, star hotels, etc., and is relished by one and all visiting Kashmir because of its unique taste. Wazwan is a multicourse meal, and the main ingredient of this meal is meat from sheep, goat, or beef, although other elements such as chicken, fish, and vegetables are also there.
The origin of the Kashmir’s ethnic/heritage cuisine wazwan dates back to the 14th century when the Mongol ruler Timur invaded India in 1348 during the reign of Nasir ud din Muhammad of the Tughlaq dynasty, who brought skilled persons of various professions including cooks from Samarkand to Kashmir.
These skilled cooks, called wazas in the local language, cooked meat into various dishes and classified them according to shape and gravies used for their preparation. The credit for popularizing Wazwan dishes goes to Persian and Sanskrit immigrants.
The term waazi is basically a Sanskrit term waja, which means to cook.
The origin of the term has also been derived from a Persian word, ashpaz, which means a special cook proficient in making soups, and with the passage of time the term became Waza. After acquiring the meat, the waza sorts it out for the different types of dishes—for example, ribcage is used to make Tabakh Maaz, whereas boneless meat is ground and is used for preparation of Kabab,Rista and Goshtaba.
Wazwan dishes are traditionally cooked in copper utensils (named Degchas in Kashmiri) over simmering wood fire, preferably obtained from old fruit trees. The dishes are served in large copper plates (called Tarami) with rice. Four people take food in each Tarami.
The dishes are served in a particular sequence. Goshtaba is the last one to be served, also called a full stop dish.The names of the Wazwan dishes reflect Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and Central Asian influences.
The term Kabab is Arabic in origin, Korma has Turkish roots, and Rogan Josh,Yakhni, Aab Gosh, Rista, and Goshtaba stem from Persian sources. Various spices are used for the preparation and processing of Wazwan including sonth (dried ginger), darchini (cinnamon), Elaichi (cardamom), loung (cloves), Badiyan (fennel), etc. The spices used in its preparation give special taste and aroma and suggest its Sanskrit influence.
The red color of the dishes is attributed to the extract from dried maroon cockscomb flowers, locally known as Mawual. T
he challenge to scientists and the meat industry is how to effectively develop and commercialize the traditional Kashmiri meat products because of the non- availability of standardized technology for commercial scale processing. In addition, no systematic information is available from any single source because of the lack of scientific approach for handling, processing, and storage.
The meat products have a limited shelf life.
Exploration of the ingredient selection, maintaining sensory and nutritional properties, and selection of suitable packaging materials for enhancing the shelf life of ethnic meat products of Wazwan deserve research studies.
Meat and its products are considered an ideal environment for microbial growth and chemical reactions as highly perishable foods. The non-availability of cold chains for storage and long-distance shipment of traditional meat products is a major constraint to their introduction in local and national markets and in promoting their export.
The ethnic meat products of Kashmiri Wazwan are high calories and fat dense food products. A way to reduce the caloric content without compromising their quality needs to be researched. Nowadays, health-conscious consumers are concerned about the fat content of meat and meat products. A considerable amount of animal fat (20%) is used in the formulation of some restructured meat products of Kashmiri Wazwan to achieve a stable emulsion and also to impart special quality to the products saturated fatty acids and cholesterol are dominant in animal fat diets. High animal fat diets are associated with several types of disorders such as obesity, hypertension Thus, the reduction of fat content is a key issue in the promotion of traditional meat products.
Most of the operations involved in the preparation of various dishes/components of Wazwan, are performed manually. Mechanized production of these products, suitable processing technology, long-term storage, and cool chain transportation of traditional meat products are few major challenges for technologists and the industry.
New processing approaches for the replacement of traditional batch type processing are required for the industrial manufacturing of traditional meat products. Using modern continuous food processing machinery will reduce the inventories and capital outlay for enhancing the production and profits. Hence, processing using modern food processing machinery is an essential criterion to meet the increasing market demands for traditional meat products.
The adoption of traditional meat products at the commercial level is driven both by the need for profit and existing food regulations. The application of principles of HACCP, FSSAI specifications, and other quality/safety criteria need to be considered for expanding the market of these products. Because safety is critical for improving commercial reputation, the need for product distribution would provide a driving force to the traditional meat products both in national and international markets. There are various health-promoting ingredients that, when incorporated at appropriate levels, can make traditional meat products healthier and functional. For example, a number of non meat ingredients such as hydrocolloid systems and plant proteins are able to replace the fat content of traditional meat products.
In nutshell, we came up to the conclusion, the ethnic meat products of Kashmiri Wazwan are part of the identity of the local population. They have unique sensory attributes and have economic potential for organized sector participants. At present, traditional meat products of Kashmir are not scientifically standardized as there is no comprehensive information available for their commercial production.
The present scenario of their preparation in batches is time-consuming, and the products have a limited shelf life. Because of their unique delicious characteristics, traditional/heritage meat products of Kashmir have a promising future and demand abroad. Hence, knowledge of their formulations, process optimization, commercial production, advanced packaging, and cold chain for distribution could definitely put them at national level and on the world map .