Kashmiris love to start their day with either a steaming hot cup of ‘kahwa‘ or with ‘noon chai‘ also called ‘sheer chai‘ along with a nicely baked bread fresh from the bakery. While ‘Lavasa‘ or ‘Girda’ are favourites, there are many more varieties to choose from. You can find the bakery round the corner selling three to four variations of bread, locally called as ‘choat’, varieties of puffed ‘bakerkhwani’, a ‘sheermaal’, and nearly a dozen species of sweet, salty or bland kulchas (by the way, they are nothing like the ones you consume with ‘chhole’ in the rest of North India). Look at the image below…this isn’t a bakery in the Middle East or even Europe, it’s in the beautiful Kashmir.
I was very lucky indeed, to have a lovely Kashmiri family as our neighbours since the age of four! We, especially my little sister literally ‘lived’ in their house and we very often helped ourselves to the very delicious food, cooked by our most adorable Aunty (and served in blue almost rectangular plates!). These little joys always seem to revolve around food for me and they do make the most beautiful memories. We are back in touch again (thanks to technology) and today we dedicate this post to one of the finest families we have ever known!
I am always on the lookout for something delicious to eat and something that brings back childhood memories, puts me in a happy state of mind straight away. Well, before I digress into ‘happy thoughts’ related to several ‘happy food occasions’, I must tell you that this post has been created with the help of another good Kashmiri friend, who happens to live nearby and treats me to the gorgeous Kashmiri delicacies very often. So, here I am, sharing my ‘food’ joys with you and hoping you will get to enjoy a special breakfast, the Kashmiri way, one day soon!
Kashmiri chai, as known to the rest of us, typically comes in two forms – the ‘Kahwa’ and the ‘Sheer Chai’. ‘Kahwa‘ is made from green tea leaves, cardamom and almonds, is packed full with goodness and not to forget the absolutely warmth and flavours that it brings. Oh! the joys…Having looked at a few different recipes of getting the best recipe for this chai, I believe that this one found on Koshur Saal is the best out there. Give it a go and you will be pleased you did!
Now, on to the very popular beverage that is often found at breakfast times in Kashmiri homes is the ‘Sheer Chai’ or the savoury, salty chai! Unusual and an acquired taste but a strong favourite with people who call Kashmir their home. Lovely, indeed! Here is a recipe for this ‘Sheer Chai’ from a brilliant Kashmiri food blog. Try it and let me advice you that it is best served with ‘Lavasa‘, straight from the bakers’ of course!
Do remember to serve it for breakfast with any of the large variety of delicious breads, Bakhwerkhani, Lavasa or Girda to name a few. Or you can even serve these breads with Kahwa…this is Kashmir, on a plate, indeed!
I understand that one way to identify a ‘real’ Kashmiri is to ask him/her about the various kinds of breads that are consumed there. If you get an answer greater than or equal to twenty, then you are clearly speaking to someone from the Valley! By the way, a north indian chapati doesn’t count! Now, that is clearly a lot of choice and sitting here, we thought Paris and Italy did the best breads! Well, we learn every single day…every day!
So, what do you think? Transport yourself to Kashmir...a cold, cold morning, you are sitting in the most beautiful place on this planet, surrounded by people who are as lovely as the place itself and to top it all, you are being served your favourite ‘kahwa’ or ‘sheer chai’ along with a warm bakery fresh ‘Tsot’ or bread of your choice – from the basic ‘girda’ or a ‘lavasa’ to the ‘bakerkhwani’ or ‘sheermal’…Pure bliss, pure Kashmir!
You get ‘Kashmiri kahwa’ tea bags too these days, but nothing beats the flavour of ‘Kahwa’ made using the authentic recipe. If you’re lazy to experiment this at home (though it is not complicated), try the Kahwa at one of the many tea houses these days. We spoke about ‘Çhaayos’ a couple of months back. They serve delicious ‘kahwa’ and call it ‘Pahaadi chai’.
The food from the valley is so stunning, that I will be back to write more about it very soon. Lovely people, lovely food, all from the most beautiful place on earth….As per history, the Mughal emperor Jahangir, while living in a houseboat on the Dal Lake, uttered the famous words: ‘Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, gamin sat’, which translates to: ‘if there is paradise anywhere on this earth, it is here, it is here, it is here‘ and I don’t even know what he said about the great Kashmiri breakfast, or did he completely miss that one?