A day in a Kashmiri's life wouldn’t be complete without a cup of piping hot nun chai (salty pink tea) and a crisp, freshly baked bread from the kandur (the traditional baker).
While the entire Valley sleeps, the kandur remains awake preparing his tandoor to bake bread for the morning breakfast. The kandur forms an intrinsic part of the social life in Kashmir and every locality has their own local kandur from which the people purchase their daily quota of breads.
In Kashmir, the kandur shop isn’t just a place where one goes to buy the morning and evening breads, it is a social hub. A place where you get to listen to and participate in discussions that range from gossip to political discourses to moral lectures. It is the place where all local happenings are discussed.
All the breads, aroma, smell, appearance, colour, size, and overall texture are characteristics optimised by the kandurs over many years that they have spent mastering this art. The texture and quality of those breads are determined by the share of wheat protein, temperature and sort of flour present within the bread.
Here are 5 different varieties of breads you must try when in Kashmir:
Tsot or Girda is a medium-sized round everyday bread that is a must on every breakfast table in Kashmir. I always eat Tsot with a scoop of butter on it. It is one among the various things that Kashmiris miss when not in Kashmir.
Tsochwor or Tilvor
Kashmiri's have their own bagel, slightly hard bread with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. The baker prepares ‘tsochwor’ at noon to be enjoyed with the afternoon tea.
The sweet bread with a cake-like texture is topped with dry fruits. However, this one bread is made for grand occasions like weddings, child birth or engagements and served with Kahwa. The main ingredients that go into a roath are wheat, sugar and ghee along with black cardamom seeds and khas khas that adds a unique flavour to it.
Just like bagels, Kashmiris have their own naan-type bread. Lavasa may be a puffy level bread made up of maida. One can apply butter or jam before eating. Barbeques and traditional Kashmiri snacks like masale tchot are served wrapped with a soft lavasa.
These are crispy palm-sized mounds of flour. There are two types of kulchas: mith (sweet) and namkeen (savoury). I vividly remember how my grandmother used to break them into two, put lots of butter inside it and feed it to us.
For every single sort of these breads, the tandoor has got to be prepared differently. Best thing about living in New Delhi is that I found my kandur shop near my house. Now, I mostly enjoy my breakfast with these breads.