After an unforgettable birthday in Ladakh, which started out solo and ended with the warmth of new friendship, Srinagar paled in comparison. I was the only occupant in my houseboat, the streets were devoid of friendly travelers, and the numerous flower gardens weren’t enough to satiate my hunger for new experiences. But the carnivore in me knew there was an obvious solution: I would drown myself in the delicious meaty gravies and flavors that Srinagar is famous for. I had my heart set on wazwaan – a traditional royal feast eaten at weddings and special occasions. The only problem was, a feast-for-one portion was hard to find, and I wanted to do justice to the meal. But as luck would have it I ran into a familiar face from my travels who became the chosen wazwaan companion. As we stepped into the restaurant that had been so carefully shortlisted, we were hit with the aroma of saffron, fennel, steaming rice, and char grilled meat. We settled for the mini version of the feast – the traditional affair consists of 36 dishes or more, which a family shares from a large common plate. Soon, juicy meatballs swimming in gravy, crackling ribs, and smoky kebabs presented themselves. That first bite of succulent Gushtaba eclipsed all my other Srinagar experiences. The light curd gravy with a hint of sourness, the soft meatballs with the right amount of bite, all brought together with the flavors of cardamom and fennel – it was certainly the star dish for me. And every time someone mentions Srinagar, that’s where my memory takes me. I think food, like music, absorbs new memories every time it’s recreated. When an old friend from London was visiting, I cooked her an Indian meal with Gushtaba as the main dish. And when I make it now, it’s a lot more than fennel and cardamom I taste. The crisp Srinagar air, the thrill of discovering a local cuisine, and the love of friends both old and new, it’s amazing how much a little meatball can hold.