Early in the morning in Kashmir, people flock to the kandur (baker) to fetch fresh bread for breakfast. Here, a baker prepares a sheet of dough, mixed with ghee, to make ‘bakirkhani’ bread. (All photos by Sameer Mushtaq)
The breads differ, depending on what time of the day they’re meant for: the one consumed with breakfast is ‘lavaas’ — a thin, white-coloured bread that’s dotted with the golden brown spots that come from its time in the traditional oven. Seen here: The dough will be turned into the thin, naan-like ‘lavaas’.
Also had in the morning is the ‘girda’, a golden-coloured bread that bears the imprints of the baker’s fingers. In this photo: The ‘chochwor’ variety of bread is ready to go into the oven for baking.
The kandur starts his work at dawn, firing up his oven to prepare the ‘lavaas’. Here, the ‘lavaas’ is ready to be taken out from the oven and served hot for breakfast.
The ‘lavaas’ is usually served with honey, butter or jam and is specially had along with salt tea for breakfast. It is also used by street food vendors, to serve with hot barbecued meats and spicy chutney. Seen here: A customer wearing traditional ‘pheran’ waits for the baker to make ‘laavas’.
The first course ends at around 8.30-9 am in the morning, and then the kandur prepares for the next round of baking — this time for the bread that will be had with ‘kehwa’ (or the sugar tea that’s taken before noon in almost every household in Kashmir). In this photo: A baker makes imprints of his fingers on ‘girda’ bread.
The kandur also prepares ‘bakirkhani’, a golden multi-layered bread smaller than the ‘lavaas’, which is prepared with ghee. Here, ‘girda’ is prepared for customers. The bread will be taken hot from the oven, to serve with butter or jam.
Thick milk cream is applied on the ‘bakirkhani’, and sesame or poppy seeds are scattered over it for decoration. The bread is crisp and pairs well with sugar tea. Seen here: ‘Chochwor’ turns golden before it’s taken out from the oven. It takes around 30 minutes to bake a batch of ‘chochwor’.
From noon to early evening, it’s time for the baker to make ‘kulchas’ or ‘shermaal’, which are mostly eaten at gatherings like marriages or other small functions. In this photo: A baker with a batch of freshly prepared ‘chochwor’ in his shop in south Kashmir.
‘Kulcha’ is a small, thick bread garnished with poppy seeds, while ‘shermaal’ is a yellow-coloured bread. Here, a baker prepares the oven for another batch of bread. Seen here: A Kashmiri bakers’ shop.
Finally, for the evening, the baker prepares ‘chochwor’; this bread too is had with salt tea. In this photo: A baker’s shop is decorated with different kinds of Kashmiri bread, in Bijbehara town of south Kashmir.
A golden puffy bread, scattered with sesame seeds, ‘chochwor’ is perfectly complemented by pats of butter — and makes for the perfect evening nibble. Here: Kashmiri noon chai is served to guests, in a house in Anantnag district.
— All photos by Sameer Mushtaq