Vasta Waza is the Chief Orchestrator of a Wazwan which is a splendid and extensive celebratory Kashmiri feast. A wazwan is considered by the Kashmiri community as an essential and fundamental aspect of their very essence and culture.
The preparation of wazwan is regarded as an art and the event is held with a very high regard in Kashmir valley. This multi-course meal traditionally comprises 36 courses of which 15 to 30 are usually of meat (invariably mutton).
Some say that the original feast consisted of 52 dishes, making it extremely expensive and difficult to prepare.
Many days of planning go into the making and serving of a Wazwan which is cooked overnight by the Vasta Waza (master chef) and his retinue of wazas.
The cooking process headed by the Vasta Waza is actually a long two-day affair – not just because of the number of different dishes or that some dishes require to be cooked on a slow fire, but also the fact that with time a particular dish acquires a distinctive taste. All cooking is done under the direct supervision and guidance of the Vasta Waza.
In a Kashmiri wedding, the wazwan, a multi-course feast, is the epitome of celebrations and the most important person after the couple is the vasta waza, or master chef. It’s not unusual for parents to postpone the marriage if the waza of their choice is not available on the chosen day!
The history of modern Kashmiri Cuisine can be traced back to the fifteenth century invasion of India by Timur, and the migration of 1700 skilled woodcarvers, weavers, architects, calligraphers and cooks from Samarkand to the valley of Kashmir.
Todays professional Kashmiri chefs known as wazas are believed to be the descendants of extraordinary cooks who migrated from Samarqand.