Srinagar: Lovers of tchut, tandoori chicken and kebabs have to wait in flood-affected areas as the tandoor on which such appetizing things are made got damaged during last month’s devastating floods while manufacturers are finding it hard to replace them in Kashmir.
Clay tandoor manufactures here are being pushed to limit by the bakers and restaurant owners with end number of orders for the traditional ovens after September floods destroyed large numbers of them. Destruction of this vital means of baking has put local tchut, tandoori chickens and kebabs on hold in the flood-affected areas.
The profession of oven making is alive since centuries at Rainawari in Srinagar, where few families still operate the manufacturing units with clients approaching them for this job.
Muhammad Amin Sheikh is one such traditional potter, who says that orders are piling up, forcing him not to take any further order as they cannot meet the demand in view of production being time consuming.
“We are now sending customers to villages, and most of the bakers who operate within the city hail from villages and they too are getting them manufactured at other places,” says Sheikh.
The manufacturing, according to Sheikh, is handmade as machines cannot do the job.
“It is not churning some plastic or iron buckets, it is time consuming job with each tandoor requiring at least 20 days to attain appropriate dryness and strength to be put to use,” he said.
Sheikh is also sceptical about the future of tandoor making in his family.
“The tradition of making this stuff is now limited to few in our family who operate individually and no new apprentice learns this back breaking job, that is why we can replace only a limited number of what is required after floods,” said Sheikh.
He said that it all begins with sieving of clay brought from different districts and ingredient it with right mixture of sand and clay which is then left to ferment after long process of mixing.
“The tandoor we make comprises of two parts, the lower portion and a top. Both are bonded together almost in the middle. To give it the requisite shape and size the unrefined tandoor is beaten continuously with wooden implements. Tandoors at other places are made in layers and do not have the strength we have here,” Sheikh said.
“Some of the tandoors manufactured here even survived the flood onslaught,” said Sheikh, adding, that they carried repairs on spot for many bakers as they can be still operative for few years.
“The downside of this traditional craft in the city allowed it to move to other places, that is why we have to ask customers to fetch them from other places, even though our clients are spread all over the Valley. We are even dispatching tandoors to Kargil and Ladakh,” said Sheikh.
Usually a tandoor has to be replaced after few years in use, but the floods have made them useless for many baker shops.
Mushtaq Ahmad Sofi who operates his bakery shop at Qamerwari told Kashmir Reader that until he gets the new tandoor his shop will remain non-operational.
“We are hoping to get a new one soon, and have placed order for it at Rainawari,” Sofi said.
Sheikh said that hotel and restaurant owners too are after them, as they want to operate their restaurants at the earliest.
“The one we make for the hotels is different one, but given the temperatures are low the drying process is slow and we cannot do anything,” he said, adding that they stop the manufacturing process during the months of December and January due to extreme cold weather.