Wazwan's American connect | Soothing taste buds overseas with Kashmiri cuisine

US-based Kashmiri entrepreneur Uffaq Mattu is popularising wazwan among food lovers globally. In an interview with Kashmir Ink Correspondent Saqib Malik, Mattu shares how Kashmiri cuisine has got a global acceptance and the way her venture 'Uffi’s Kitchen' is making it more popular.
Wazwan's American connect | Soothing taste buds overseas with Kashmiri cuisine
Representational Pic

Kashmir Ink (KI): What is the concept behind Uffi's Kitchen?

Uffaq Mattu (UM): I was always fascinated with food , trying different cuisines, flavors and textures of food. My true passion was cooking, experimenting with new recipes and trying my hand at learning different cuisines. Apart from cooking authentic Kashmiri cuisine, I also love to cook Mughlai food and I love baking.

After coming to Los Angeles, I realised that cuisines from all around the world were available here. The only cuisine missing was Kashmiri cuisine, wazwan. In fact it was not available anywhere in the States. It prompted me to do something, in my humble capacity, to try to bring the rich Kashmiri cuisine on the world food map.

Whenever I used to throw parties for my friends and family they used to encourage me to start catering Kashmiri food as they loved my food. It started as a hobby, with a small Whatsapp group by the name Uffi’s Kitchen, and then grew into a full fledged business. I have been catering Kashmiri wazwan, hareesa , koshur aanchaar and koshur kulchas for the last five years. Uffi's Kitchen not only caters locally in Los Angeles but also ships food throughout the US. Uffi's Kitchen has catered to almost all the 50 states in the US. Uffi’s Kitchen has garnered the support of 350 plus customers, which include Indians, Pakistanis and also Americans.

Concept behind Uffi's Kitchen is to take the rich Kashmiri wazwan cuisine all over the US. It is not a physical restaurant but a food catering business which ships wazwan, hareesa, Kashmiri bread and kulchas and koshur aanchaar all over the US. This concept helps it in not only catering locally in Los Angeles but catering to a huge clientele all over the US.

This was possible because of the phenomenal postal service we have in this country. Uffi's Kitchen has shipped food to almost all the 50 states in the US. Uffi’s Kitchen has a base of 350 plus customers, which include Kashmiri diaspora, people from the rest of India, Pakistanis and also Americans. This helps in popularising the Kashmiri cuisine throughout the US. Ordering and enjoying authentic Kashmiri wazwan is just a click away anywhere in the US.

KI: How has it led to popularise Kashmir cuisine outside the Valley?

UM: The Kashmiri community in the US is of course very familiar with Kashmiri food and wazwan. It's the younger generation, our kids, who were born here, but are not very familiar with Kashmiri wazwan or cuisine. Fusion cuisine is all the rage — whether it's combining elements of one cuisine with another (say, Italian and Kashmiri) or devising delicious mash-ups of two iconic dishes ( pizza and ristas),these super creative dishes take food fusion to new mouth-watering heights.

We at Uffi’s Kitchen, in a humble way, tried to employ this concept of food fusion as a means of subtly introducing Kashmiri food concepts and dishes to the generation of Kashmiris born here, via the food they know . We did this for the Super Bowl game, American Football, in 2019, which is like the Cricket World Cup here.

Instead of burgers, Uffi's Kitchen offered Chicken patties, Harissa bites and shaami kabaab burgers , french fries were replaced with Nadir monje. Pizza was refurbished with Kander tchot as base, topped with crumbled tchaaman and tamatar and thin slices of ristas and goshtabas. Fettuccine was given a very interesting twist, it was smothered in Yakhni with goshtabas. The Chicken wings were replaced by Waaze kokar wings. Wazze seekh kabaabs were put in hot dog buns with gande tchyout ( pickled onion). My customers, especially their children, thoroughly enjoyed the fusion dishes .It is very heartwarming to see the new generation of Kashmiris here getting introduced to Kashmiri food and loving it.

Uffi's Kitchen through its innovations and promotions has popularized Kashmiri wazwan in the US , not only among the people who are familiar with the cuisine but also among the younger generation of Kashmiris and non Kashmiris born here.

KI: Is this initiative a sign of women's empowerment vis-a-vis sending a message of how the presence of Kashmiri culture can be strengthened?

UM: If my experience as a woman entrepreneur has taught me something, it is the infinite power of resilience, consistency and perseverance. Uffi’s Kitchen has given me the opportunity to be a women entrepreneur, run and manage my own business, refresh and innovate new ideas to propagate and make my business successful.

Women empowerment is not only empowering women financially but it is also a very liberating thing for women. It boosts your confidence by not only making you financially independent but by the fact that you created and run and manage a business , which in turn provides a livelihood for others too.

All those Women out there, who want to be entrepreneurs, if you have the passion and are determined to work hard and be consistent and persistent, nothing can stop you from being successful business owners.

Uffis Kitchen's started with the main purpose of putting Kashmiri cuisine on the world food map. We as Kashmiris have the responsibility of preserving our rich culture and heritage , be it Kashmiri music, Kashmiri food, Kashmiri language or Kashmiri arts and crafts. We at Uffi’s Kitchen, in a very humble way, are trying to do our part by popularising Kashmiri cuisine in the western world.

KI: Among whom is Uffi's Kitchen popular and why?

UM: Uffi's Kitchen food, apart from being very popular among the Kashmiri community in the US , is also enjoyed and relished by non-Kashmiris. I also have quite a few Middle Eastern clients. These communities in the past never had the opportunity or option to try these delicacies in the US as authentic Kashmiri cuisine was not available here.

The thing that gives me immense joy is the fact that I have Kashmiri parents asking me to ship Kashmiri food to their children in hostels across the US. It is a very fulfilling feeling when I get reviews and appreciation messages from these children after they receive their packages.

KI: What are the future plans for this interesting initiative?

UM: There are a lot of ideas in the pipeline for Uffi's Kitchen. Uffi's Kitchen has grown tremendously in the past 5 years of its conception. On the business front, we are planning to start full catering of wazwan and event management at Kashmiri weddings and functions across the US. It's a huge project which involves a lot of logistics and collaboration.

Uffi's Kitchen is also very soon coming up with providing a service of Kashmiri tea carts ( Nun chai and Zaafraan Kehwa) served in traditional samavaars ,with assortment of Kashmiri kulchas and baesrakhs , at functions and parties. In an initiative to take Uffi's Kitchen to different places, we will shortly start shipping canned wazwan , hareesa and aanchar to Canada

In its initiative to preserve the Kashmiri cuisine we at Uffi’s Kitchen are very soon announcing summer cooking classes which are open to the younger as well as the older generation and will be available online and in person. This is a very exciting project for me personally .

I am also working on a series of books, which will be coming out very soon . My dream is to own an authentic Kashmiri restaurant in Los Angeles, the ambience and the food of which would remind you of your motherland , Kashmir. It's a dream that I am working towards, slowly and steadily but surely.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir