Baking Bread the Kashmiri Way
While all of Kashmir still sleeps, the lights flicker on in the neighbourhood kandurs (bakeries) that dot the streets at regular intervals. The large clay tandoor, built into the ground and deep enough to hold the average sized man is fired up in anticipation of the thousand or so loaves of bread that will be slapped onto its walls during the course of the day. By 5.30AM, the shutters on these bakeries are rolled up – baskets and wooden display shelves are filled with morning breads like Girda and Czochworu, their aroma wafting through the air. Male members of families make their way to kandurs at these early hours to get their share. The kandurs shut shop by around 8.30AM when their stocks deplete and catch up on some sleep till noon, when the tandoors are fired up again. The evening breads are rolled, layered, shaped and baked. By 4PM, every household in Kashmir sits down to tea with the family, sipping on Namkeen chai and Zaffrani Kehwa, sharing Bakarkhani and Roth, a Kashmiri cake, quite unlike anything we are used to, while catching up! No Kashmiri household is without its share of breads and never are these breads made at home.
Saba Bhat, the proprietor of Orzuv Hub, a Kashmiri café in Whitefield brings the experience of a kandur to Bengaluru. Housed in a bungalow, typical of old school Whitefield, the vast compound has an open air café and a customised clay tandoor, which doesn’t do 1000 breads at one go, but does enough to have your nose propel you past the gates. “Working in a kandur is a family profession and boys begin learning the ropes of the trade when they are in school,” says Saba who has just such a person manning the tandoor.
I was in time for brunch and savoured the best of morning and evening breads. I watch mesmerised as the first bread I was going to have was made. The Bakarkhani is a layered, bread which is rolled, stretched and interspersed with mewa and ghee. The Orzuv tandoor requires that 20 of them be made at one go to maintain the right temperatures. It is served at the table with thick slabs of butter and Nun Chai – the pink, salty tea.
Saba tears the bread down the center to show me the multiple layers, which look like soft layers of tissue piled over each other, and says I can just swipe some butter on a piece and pop it into my mouth. Or I can break the bread up, drop it into my Nun Chai, let it soak and eat it up. I did it both ways and I couldn’t decide which one I liked better!
The Czochworu was up next – a donut shaped, slightly hard bread with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Saba serves this with some coarsely ground almond chutney. Stuffed inside my Czochworu was some spicy Mutton Rista, which coupled with the chutney made for quite a filling dish.
The lovely, large, soft white Lavassa was up next. Placed in the center is a delicately hand-pounded Seekh-e-Tuji, a mutton seekh kebab that is moist and lightly spiced. Tear a piece of the Lavassa, add in some kebab, lace it with the carrot and radish in curd relish, add on some of the Gande Chzetin or onion chutney, and you have a mouthful that gives you so many textures and flavours in one go.
The making of the Girda is quite hypnotic. Rolls of dough are flattened out by hand and finger impressions are pressed into it, to give you lines that run down its length. I was happy with just some butter very generously spread over it. The Girda here is also paired with a slow overnight cooked Harissa tempered with butter and onions as well as Charwan, stir fried lamb’s liver with tamarind.
The Kashmiri Kulchas are not the stereotype you are used to. They are palm-sized mounds in mith (sweet) and namkeen (savoury) versions. With a sprinkling of poppy seeds on top – these are the crumbly breads that spell the beginning of a siesta especially when paired with Doodh Kehwa. Made with milk and cardamom, this milky Kehwa, for me, was like drinking warm ras from a bowl of Ras Malai.
The name Orzuv is a greeting which wishes for one’s wellbeing. With such breads and the traditional Kashmiri spread served at this café, the wellbeing of your soul is definitely guaranteed. Dal Lake may just take a backseat now!
Orzuv Hub, 17, Green Park Avenue, Opposite Yamaha Showroom, Whitefield, Bangalore 560 066; tel: +91 80 4965 2183
Tags : Bakarkhani, Bangalore Restaurants, Bread, Charwan, Czochworu, Gande Chzetin, Girda, Harissa, Indian Bakeries, Indian Breads, Indian Cuisine, Kandur, Kashimiri Bakery, Kashmir, Kashmiri Breads, Kashmiri Chai, Kashmiri Kulcha, Kulchas, Lavassa, Mith Kulcha, Namkeen Chai, Namkeen Kulcha, Nun Chai, Orzuv Hub, Roth, Ruth DSouza Prabhu, Saba Bhat