Zaeka-E-Kashmir: Delving into Kashmir’s Kandurwan

At Dal Lake in Kashmir or in central Srinagar, bakeries are elaborately laid out and bakers sell various types of bread, with golden crusts and intricate, complex textures. In most Kashmiri pundit and Muslim cuisine, the main part of the meal includes rice for dinner. Bread is not part of the meal; it is only eaten with tea in the morning or at night. But there is no escaping the fact that the aroma of freshly baked bread is very attractive. This smell of baked bread wafting from the bakery, or “kandurwan” as it is known in Kashmir, is a temptation hard to resist. These are some of the most popular and common breads in Kashmiri bakeries.

Girda is a morning bread or roti that is usually served with butter and is great as a breakfast option to start your day with that delicious taste. It is a tandoor-style flatbread made with three simple ingredients: wheat flour, water, and milk, and the dough is fermented overnight. Kashmiri artisans, or “Kandurs” as they are popularly known, are skilled cooks who do their job with dexterity, speed, and a playful smile on their faces.

Bakarkhani:

Bakarkhani has a special place in Kashmiri cuisine. It is similar to a round naan in appearance, but crisp, layered, and has a hint of sesame seeds. It is usually eaten hot during breakfast. Bakarkhani has a flaky texture due to its high fat content, something like flaky puff pastry. To achieve this texture, it is cooked in a tandoor at a high temperature with a lot of fat.

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Kulcha:

Kulcha is a favorite flatbread across India, and Kashmir is no different. Pair it with some butter chicken and you have the most delicious meal that hardly ever goes wrong! It is usually covered with poppy seeds and has a nice, even color with a crisp, hard but flaky texture. This is accomplished by first cooking it for a while at a high temperature, then gradually decreasing it to a lower temperature. This process is kept constant by adding wood inside the tandoor and slowly cooking the kulcha for almost an hour.

Shirmal/Transparent:

Shirmal is a slightly sweet naan made from maida or refined flour. Traditionally, it was made as a roti or chapatti. However, these days it is prepared like a naan, save for a few modifications to the recipe. The warm water in the naan recipe is replaced with warm milk sweetened with sugar and flavored with saffron and cardamom. It is then leavened or leavened with yeast and baked in a tandoor or oven. The final shirmal does not differ in part from a Danish pastry in appearance.

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Lavas or flatbread is the Kashmiri version of pita bread. The crunchy version of lavas can be eaten with chutneys or jams, and its softer cousin can be used to wrap meat or chickpeas, similar to a tortilla.x

Chochwor:

Chochwor is yeast-leavened bread sprinkled with white sesame seeds, usually with a hole in the middle. It is simply the local version of a bagel eaten during tea time called “Nun chai” or namkeen tea.

Road:

Roath is essentially bread baked on a flat baking sheet with dried fruit. It has the soft texture of a sponge cake. In addition to being a delicious delicacy, roath also has cultural significance. It is part of many festivities and celebrations, the most important being the announcement of the arrival of the “new girlfriend” in the neighborhood. It is presented as a gift from the bride’s side to the groom’s side. The wedding road is usually huge, usually a meter or more in length and width.

For someone interested in learning about the culture of Kashmir, or anywhere, food offers interesting starting points. Breads in Kashmir can be homemade, store-bought, or made in traditional bakeries. Having fresh bread on a cold winter morning with a cup of hot tea is just phenomenal, especially in the temperate location and climate of Kashmir. The earthy aroma and flavor of tawa baked bread are simply irreplaceable. Ultimately, however, it is the grace of the kandurs that add that special and magical touch to the food, making it extremely tempting and appetizing.

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