I am a morning person and ‘Oh so British’ with my spot of milk tea and fresh toasted bread and butter with marmalade all home-made. However, in Kashmir, morning rituals, served with a smile, and newspaper wrapped ‘TRADITION’ breads like TSOT / GIRDA are golden, doughy and slightly chewy, is BREAKFAST for all seasons. Morning or evening the flat breads are sacred. I have started toasting mine, with a lavish layer of butter and top it with cheese omelette.
Kandurs, Kandurs everywhere. They are supposed to be blessed by the saint Lal-Ded, who once happened to take refuge in one. I got blessed by a Kandur off Ameera Kadal and nosy foodie in me had a Kulcha-of-a-time.
All-day breads, like the fluffy, soft, doughnut-ty bread TSOCHWOR, are sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds (I call it the Kashmiri Bagel); sweet breads like the crumbly and round Kulchas come in flavours like pistachio and coconut. SHEERMAL (do I love that word and the Ghee smothered Irani mildly flavoured sweet bread, but no, Kashmiri Sheermal is just a poorer version of the Irani one). The intersecting names, the Kashmiri Pandit names for the same bakery fare and the Kashmiri Muslim names just leaves one dizzy.
Being a #FoodAdventurist, an annoying one at that, I zigzagged through Kashmir, thereafter, and lazed into lovely Gurez, ( yes, it’s the #Silk Route and gateway to the Tajikistan and the central Asian busybodies lending their cultural skills into the firewood ovens of Kasheer lands
Tying threads of traditional Kashmir Kandur/ Bakery with the world as all the names and tags are of my favourites from world over. Though most of all breads of Kashmir and the bakery goodies taste same.
Kashmiris love their freshly baked tsot / flat bread, the world may go topsy turvy, the pink Nun chai and the morning bread makes a Kashmiri’s day too. Due to severe climatic conditions isolation for over four months in winter, scarcity of utilities, perhaps, makes The KASHMIRI assorted breads, COMFORT FOOD here.
However, there are strict rules to abide by, as to how they can be or should be had, particularly when accompanied by tea, ouch! pardon my error, NUN CHAI. Break it, drop it in your Cup, soak it, scoop it, relish it. Rules of wooing a sweetheart, I mean one’s husband, would be to fetch that KANDUR baked golden beauty, early in the morn and let them just dip n do.
I have always loved bakeries. Bless all the foodies, it shall be safe to say, traditionally Kasheer bakery is all about breads and the ROATH/ Sponge cake. Which is an accompaniment with brides, festivities or over gossip. Yes, the cakes, now marbled and nutty, the plum and the sweetmeat drenched would be like the sacred Christmas cake but coarser in texture, why, because baked in a Tandoor not conventional electric oven. Shades of Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Kurdistan, a bit of Pakistani Katlama minus the spices and some Bangladesh in the BAKIRKHANI. We see them all in the 14 flat breads aka bakery. Kulchas are cooked in a traditional oven, but breads like the tsot and the puffy, flaky bread BAKIRKHANI (Cloud Breads) are cooked in fire-wood tandoors.
I must give credits to my friend Umar Rather of #Kashmirfoodgram, dear friends young at heart veterans from Islamabad, Baramulla, Pulwama and of course my Kashmiri Pandit friends who lovingly talked about Koshur food. Aarif mountaineer, my bestie when it comes to exploring every mountain, hamlet and culture street.
The smell of freshly baked cookies, breads and cakes is alluring. Confectionery set aside, it would be lovely to see some nutrition added to the Kashmiri style of baking. Why not? Inside Colaba, Mumbai, I happened across a Kashmiri bakery, small rustic traditional, with a number of add-ons; fresh fruit jellies, cheese, veggies roasted, egg washed and smoked chicken and meat, on kulchas, girdas, bakirkhanis.
My Intel brigade the sweet Ammis and grand ladies of Kashmir tell me NEDOUS was the pioneer of traditional and contemporary Kashmiri bakery. Of course “Ahdoos” has its regal history baked in golden, with all due respect. “Nedous”, next to Broadway on MA Road, Srinagar. The nankhatais and Macaroons and the assorted biscuits whether jam drop or chocolate smeared aren’t Kasheer at all so shall give them a miss as mention. However, KHANDGAZER, gets a traditional nostalgic AYE by most. Do you know about it? The Walnut pie, Tart or Torte, minced and baked is an all-time favourite loaded with taste and health. Khandkulcha evolved into a cookie, those who couldn’t handle the flake of the oven, dropped it on greased pans. Either way, it’s tasty and greets all foodies old and young.
My ‘ koshur food encyclopedia’ , Muzaffar, an eminent Srinagar restaurateur, reminisces the good old days when quality, pure butter, pure milk n cream, used to be tradition of Kashmir. Eid around the corner, happy to note bakery in Kasheer streets, elite and humble, does not burn a hole in pockets.
Greetings to all on Eid.