Khyen Chyen literally when translated in Kashmiri means “Khaana Peena” (To eat and drink). This was told to me by Nasir, the man who has brought the “wazwaan” from his homeland to the glittering city of Gurgaon. If you have been to Kashmir, you would have noticed the Tshirts with slogans “I am in Kashmir, Heaven can wait!” Khyen Chyen for me was just that … a foodie heaven.
I say this because Kashmiri food, laden with red meat is definitely heaven for meat eating food lovers like me and to “raid” restaurants like these I always trust my heavy weight foodies from The Delhi Foodie Club (TDfc) to accompany me. Located on the ground floor of the DLF Crosspoint mall (the one diagonally opposite DLF Galleria), a mall which has become famous for its eateries, Khyen Chyen is a quaint cosy little place which can seat around 12 guests at the max. So considering there were 10 of us the restaurant completely belonged to TDfc’s private party which consisted CEOs to bankers to journalist and hotel industry veterans. Having a Kashmiri pundit along with us helped a lot in vetting the authenticity of the wazwaan and also receiving some extra gyan on the side.
The logo of the restaurant is hard to miss and matches with the fire burning in your bellies when you are hungry. That of course is my version of the logo, though the real thought was told to me by Nasir that he wanted to have something that signifies strength, commitment, something that makes the brain think. They gave the centre of it a perfect circle that signifies their belief in complete satisfaction. The crowns are derived from various Kashmiri designs, like utensils, the famous chinar leaf etc. The logo as one would notice also has the tag line of DISCOVER. TASTE. INDULGE. something that blends perfectly with their cuisine and hospitable culture.
The interiors set the mood for a Kashmiri experience as you enter the restaurant. The hues of red and yellow lighting are what are mostly used in the wooden houses and even the houseboats in Kashmir. The warm colours help in countering the cold climate and it seems Nasir has used the same effect to complete the effect of a Kashmiri dining hall for his restaurant and complementing the quaint setup of the place. Kashmiri’s use a lot of wood and Nasir decided to have wood as the base instead of the usual Plywood and Laminates keeping the lighting simple yet precise so that the focus does not go away from our dishes, rather they could impose the lights on the food served. The place is small but attention to detail has been paid by strategically placing artefacts and elements from the culture and vantage points but not in your face.
Once settled the aroma from the kitchen is what will take over your sense and though one cannot eat from the nose, one definitely can salivate to the aromas of meat. The food which were waiting for as mentioned is called the Wazwaan and while we waited patiently, Nasir once again like the good host he is explained to us what it means. In Kashmiri language Waza means a ‘Cook’ and Wan means ‘Shop’, hence the name. Wazwan is a multi-course meal in Muslim Kashmiri cuisine, the preparation of which is considered an art and a point of pride in Kashmiri Muslim culture and identity.
And no sooner had he finished we had the Tabakh Maaz on the table. The fried Goat Ribs, Tabakh Maaz, which is a signature of wazwaan is golden friend and crisp on the outside and fatty and soft inside. The one served at KC was just that and once the pierced through the crispy skin it was so juicy that it melted in the mouth. A plate of Tabakh maaz consisted of six pieces and being the first dish to grace our tables, I finished two of those plates one after the other. Satisfied with the meat and can of Coke in front of me (sadly no Thums Up) I was ready to take on what Nasir and his Chef Manzoor were planning next.
Mutton Kanti, with its entire aroma landed on the table even before the Tabakh maaz was fnished, though it had to stay as we kept ordering the maaz till the very end. Kanti is so simple a dish that the sanctity of the mutton remains along with the fragrance and taste of the spices that blend into the meat along with the smoothness of the yogurt in which it is marinated. A mutton dish which was served alongside naan (Indian bread), not sure if done traditionally, but a great combination. A plate of Mutton Kanti along with a complete naan was devoured and though I was eating beyond capacity, the will and intent to keep going was very strong.
Now this was not even the beginning and some of us were already full. The main course however were an array of heavily loaded BIG GUNS, from the Marchwangan Korma to Wazza Kakur, from the opulent Rista and the full stop to the meal, the mighty Gosthaba. Over a bed of steamed rice, each of these items were served in these traditional metal dishes, keeping it close to tradition and authenticity.
The Marchwangan Korma or better known as the Mirchi Korma does justice to its fiery name, as this mutton dish is red hot and mysterious. Made in fiery red Kashmiri chillies, this mutton korma when served to us deserved a fresh plate of rice on which the reddish gravy was poured. The hands did the talking as the mouth was full of this spicy concoction of meat, rice and chillies. Never the one to complain about spice, I finished my plate in record time expecting more from the Waza’s kitchen and I was not disappointed as I spotted the bowl of Rista in my peripheral vision.
Rista, meatballs made out of fine minced mutton which is pounded for hours by a wooden hammer to give it the softness and texture no other meatball can have. To be honest I have had a bigger Rista sitting in a houseboat in Kashmir and there is nothing which can beat that. However, KC has done a good job on this dish and though smaller, I loved the laden red gravy, which just coloured my rice in a hue similar to the warm lights of the restaurant.
A confession … The first time ever I had Kashmiri food, my Punjabi Palate took to the Rista much faster and I preferred it over the mighty Goshtaba. Slowly as I got to know the “King of Meatballs” I took a liking to it and this evening I could not wait for the Goshtaba to grace our plates. The gravy is what makes the Goshtaba and it consists of an elaborate mix of Saunf powder, dry Ginger powder or Saunth (as it’s called) with Salt and Jeera powder with whipped yoghurt added cold to the masala giving it the creamy white character and taste. Since onion and garlic is not used (hardly grown in the valley) the gravy is thickened by rice flour. The gyaan provided to me by a fellow Kashmiri foodie did stuck with me and though I hardly ever go into the details of cooking the Goshtaba has always fascinated me. Nasir however served us smaller meatballs, though the Goshtaba is huge. On sensing my disappointment, I was assured the mighty ball in all its glory was on its way and on arrival, there was a Goshtaba cutting ceremony followed by “Devour the Goshtaba” carnage and a round of “Diet” Coke to down so much red meat which had gone down our foodie pits.
We were so full that we had to stop ourselves from ordering anymore though the order of food demanded we finish off on a sweet note and the row of Phirni was too good to resist. With shiny spoons and pure white bowls, the thickly textured Phirni did taste like the “food for gods” on our palates.
After being satiated when I met the kitchen team headed by Manzoor bhai, I realized that despite the challenges that they face in Delhi in finding the right meat for preparation and supply chain (as the dishes are dependent of the quality of meat and the time of preparation) they have successfully overcome them by sourcing all ingredients from Kashmir (besides the meat) which ofcourse is logistics nightmare at times but not impossible. The passion definitely reflects in the cooking and the hospitable nature of the staff. The evening was just beyond words and we ate like there was no tomorrow. A great value for money meal which set us back by 1100 bucks per person, meat lovers if you crave for the rich cuisine from the valley, in Gurgaon or a matter of fact in Delhi, Khyen Chyen, is the place which you certainly cannot give a miss.