The first thing that came to my head when my friend said that she was visiting her ancestral home in Kashmir was the scenic view. The beautiful landscape of the valley is well-known to one and all. Sitting in your wool-clad pashminas, enjoying the pleasant breeze gustling through your hair. What a picturesque view that would be, right? That’s exactly how I imagined my friend too. Now she was quite excited, not only because she would reunite with her cousins after two years of the pandemic, but also the food. 

From my fair knowledge of being in a metro city, Kashmiri food is everything fiery and spicy. From the flavourful Rogan Josh and Khatta Meat to the sweet Zarda Pulao and Gushtaba, you will find plenty of curries in this predominantly meaty cuisine. Wazwan refers to the traditional cooking style and is often used to interchangeably refer to the cuisine itself. 

Legend has it that the Central Asian and Persian settlers in the valley in the 14th century gave rise to a distinct cuisine and culture. Right from religious practices and language to the cooking techniques and spices, they left a mark in every aspect of life. In fact, the tradition of drinking tea was borrowed from the Chinese, which Kashmiris practice to this day. 

Coming back to the Kashmiri food my friend always used to get excited about, I wondered what these people had for breakfast. Lunch and dinner were quite a meat-based affair with luscious curries and rice, which was a staple, along with some vegetables like nadru (lotus stem). However, I wasn’t sure if they had a similar meal plan for the mornings too. Did you know a lot of Kashmiris have breakfast twice? 

With a basic bread and chai combo, Kashmiris satiate their morning appetite with a simple and light meal, I discovered. Here are some delectable breakfast items from the Kashmiri plate. 

1. Kahwa 

Saffron-flavoured beverage, Kahwa is a famous Kashmiri chai aka tea. Filled with the richness of cardamom, cinnamon and rose petals, what you get served on a cup is an aromatic tea. Often, sugar or honey is added to give the tea a hint of sweetness. 

2. Girda 

Source: Chef Amit Puri/Instagram

Here, in Delhi, it is usually chai-biscuit combination that works for a quick breakfast. In the valley, Girda is served along with tea to give you the required carbs for the day. It is a tandoori bread, with melted butter or jam floating on top of it. The crispy outer layer perfectly complements the soft bread on the inside. 

3. Chhir Chot 

You must have had plenty of pancakes from around the world but have you tried Chhir Chot yet? Yes, these are traditional pancakes which aren’t sweet but savoury. Made from a rice flour dough with hints of ajwain seeds, it is best enjoyed with a sip of Kahwa. 

4. Noon Chai 

Source: Smitha Vinod/Instagram

A pretty pink-coloured tea, served in a white cup and saucer is something that might take you by surprise. Green tea leaves are boiled along with milk and salt. Yes, you read that right, it is a salty tea. Baking soda is added to lend the beautiful pink hue which is brewed in a traditional samovar. 

5. Harisa 

Source: Kashmiri Zaika/Instagram

A delicious mutton curry that is relished during winters is a favourite among the Kashmiris. This is enjoyed during breakfast with a side of czot (savoury rice pancake). 

6. Bakarkhani 

Another tandoori bread on the Kashmiri platter is Bakarkhani. Layered with oodles of ghee and stretched before rolling into a shape, the Bakarkhani is a special type of bread that is paired with spicy curries. 

The Kashmiris believe that eating together is not merely an act of consuming food, but a way of maintaining communal ties with their fellow people. Now, all I can think of is sipping Noon Chai with a Bakarkhani in my hand, taking in the scenic beauty of the Kashmiri valley.