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Wonders of a pure Kashmiri ‘waza’

October 26, 2012

I suppose you have never heard of Muhammad Maqbool Mir. He is a ‘waza’, the name they give to the very finest Kashmiri chef.

He is a puritan in every sense of the word and if you have deep enough pockets to book him, he can surely transport you to another culinary world.

Mir Sahib is as pure a Kashmiri as they come. He belongs to Kupwara and decided that life on this side of the ‘line’ that divides the Kashmiris made more sense to him. So he trekked alone across the high mountains and got severe frostbite. When he reached his nirvana, his leg had to be amputated. But then with steely nerves he has survived and continues to practice his fine art. At the moment he manages a barbeque on Multan Road at Stop Eleven, and when the super rich like the Sharifs, or the Mians of Baghbanpura, or such other old families who love what they eat call him, he creates what few readers have ever had.

I was doing a piece for the Michelin people in France and interviewed him for a profile on ‘specialties’. He conjured up a few dishes and Mama Mia, I was in another world far from hot spices but with a palette that wanted more. He made me a Kashmiri Kebab, the pure fat-free meat hand-grinded (not minced) with cardamoms, a whiff of salt and that was it. He grilled it in a ‘tandoor’ -- never over burning coal -- and the result was amazing. It just melted in the mouth. “This is a cholesterol-free snack, as all pure Kashmiri food is supposed to be, not the wrongly assumed full of fat dishes popular in Punjab”. It is a humbling thought.

He produced from his fridge a small portion of Gushtaba, and it was amazing. The meat just melted in the mouth. To be honest I have never seen anyone make such delicious meals from meat. Mir Sahib, popularly known as Tariq Waza, or the ‘Chef at the Peak’ lets his creations speak for themselves. He says people love his White Korma, which is heavy on cardamoms.

For rice he refuses to make a ‘pilau’. White boiled rice, drained of its starches, glistens as he adds some Tabakmas for me to try. I close my eyes and say to myself: “Lahore has a lot to learn from this Tariq Waza, and shame on Nawaz Sharif for enjoying all the good food himself”. If you have deep pockets, I recommend him strongly.

PESHWARI KAWA: My old motor mechanic operates in Gulberg market, and the other day he insisted that I try the famous Peshawari Kawa that is produced in the famous Khan Sahib fish and chappal kebab shop. This is a place we have been using since our college days when the Gulberg market was half built. The spicy mild hot drink is a class act and though I do not like it so sweet, yet it is a pleasant experience. In Lahore few places can match its quality. One only wishes the cups were of a better quality.

EID MUBARAK: I suppose you will all have spent a busy first half managing the sacrifice of goats and cows. It is sensible that this year the government has decided to crack down on the ‘trotter and head smasher’ brigade that emerges with welding rods in hand on this festival. It is a poisonous combination. But go light on the meat and have a great day. Eid Mubarak to all our ‘Eating Out’ readers. — AMSHE