Morning Bread in Kashmir

Thanks to a Google Photos memory today I was reminded of one of my favorite things from Kashmir – fresh morning bread from the bakery.

That’s what my family called it in English. The Kashmiri word for it was hard enough to pronounce so spelling it is even trickier. It would be something like tzot, czhot, or tchot.

Most neighborhoods had at least one nearby bakery where people would gather early in the morning to get their fresh, hot pieces of bread. The baker would be hard at work kneading out each new piece and then slapping it down on the side walls of a tandoor oven. Another helper would be sitting cross-legged near the opening of the oven holding a long rod with a small hooked end. He would use the rod to pull out the pieces once they were ready and then hand them off to whichever customer was next.

A Kashmiri baker kneading morning bread (tsot, tchot) next to the tandoor oven early in the morning

Some customers would only get 3-4 pieces while others would be buying for a large joint family with many members and would be getting 10 or more so the wait would take longer. I typically got 10 pieces on the days we would have it for breakfast. Our kids really liked it. Any leftover pieces my wife would have with chai later in the morning for her and our house helper.

After getting my piping hot 10 pieces I would bundle them up in a cloth bag, walk the 7 or so minutes back to our house and the bread would still be nice and warm when we served it for breakfast. We usually enjoyed it with an omelette that would we would place on top of the round bread or you could tear off pieces of bread and use that to pinch up some omelette. It was also tasty with a very American style topping of peanut butter and jam or honey.

A Kashmiri baker getting ready to stick a piece of morning bread (tsot, tchot) to the inside wall of his tandoor oven

During the month of Ramadan when all our Muslim neighbors would be fasting, the bakers would make this bread in the late afternoon rather than morning and people would buy it before the time of breaking the fast so they could enjoy it later in the evening. This Ramadan version of the bread was made a little different with extra ghee or something so it was softer and didn’t get as crisp. We would use occasionally this bread during Ramadan to make pizzas for dinner by adding tomato sauce, cheese, onions and bell peppers on top.

While Google Photos had the memory of one of my morning trips to the bakery two years ago, I didn’t take any photos that day specifically of just the bread. I’m sure I have an image somewhere among all my photos from life in Kashmir but that could take a while to find. If you’re curious I’m sure searching Google for Kashmiri bread would bring up plenty of images.

I miss those walks to the bazaar in the early mornings while it was still cold out. I miss enjoying the interactions between all the waiting customers. I miss the fresh taste of the bread with my omelette or peanut butter. Whenever the day comes that our family is able to visit Kashmir again I look forward to finding a nearby bakery to purchase some morning bread for breakfast.

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