New Delhi, India
June 12, 2012
While doing research for our trip, I’d discovered that the Ahdoo’s Bakery still exists—and is still considered a must-try when in Srinagar. So my husband and I, after we’d had lunch at the Ahdoo’s Restaurant upstairs, made our way down the stairs and stepped out into the parking lot of the Ahdoo’s Hotel. You can’t miss the bakery—it’s a room with glass windows, and two large and colourful signs that advertise the many goodies to be had inside.
Inside, three sides of the modest room are taken up by glass display counters. Above, on the walls, hang religious Islamic texts: the family tree of the Prophet Mohammad, a picture of Mecca, and so on. Below, spread out for the likes of those more interested in earthly delights, are the goodies Ahdoo’s has to offer.
On one side were the breads and puffs. These included basketfuls of local Kashmiri breads (the only ones we could identify were the scored golden-brown girda, very popular as breakfast). Alongside were more willow baskets, heaped with ‘patties’ (the nearest Western equivalent would be the British pasty—a puff pastry shell filled with a savoury mix of vegetables, or meat with vegetables. In India, the stuffing is usually pretty spicy, often resembling a dry curry). There were other breads and puffs: studded with sesame seeds, herbs, made into cheese straws—and, inside the display case, ‘cream horns’, hollow horns of puff pastry, baked and filled with sweetened whipped cream.
The other two cases housed biscuits: trays and trays of everything from coconut macaroons to walnut cookies to lightly salted biscuits studded with cumin seeds. We spent a good bit of time strolling around and figuring out what we wanted to buy to eat at teatime that evening. Finally, we settled on a selection of four types of biscuits: coconut macaroons, coconut-chocolate macaroons, walnut cookies, and poppy seed biscuits. Two of each, which meant we had eight pieces of biscuits—for a reasonable bill of Rs 80.
That evening, we had our Ahdoo’s biscuits with a large thermos full of kehwa tea. The difference between the coconut macaroons and the coconut-chocolate macaroons was just cosmetic: the latter had a minuscule amount of chocolate mixed in, just enough to tint them brown; and half a cashewnut had been put on top, to make it look pretty. Otherwise, both were the same: saucer-sized macaroons, melt-in-the-mouth moist and soft on the inside, slightly crunchy on the outside, and with an absolutely lovely flavour of good desiccated coconut, not the dry chalky stuff that passes for it in so many places.
Next up was the poppy seed biscuit. These were about the same size as the macaroons, but thinner, very ‘crumby’ biscuits—biting into one felt like you were eating a very well-made shortcrust—topped with a generous sprinkling of poppy seeds.
And, what proved to be our favourite: the walnut biscuits. We hadn’t intended to buy any of these (we hadn’t even noticed them), but the salesman who seemed to be single-handedly manning the counter had offered one to us to taste. My husband had taken one bite, and nearly swooned. This walnut biscuit was rather like a cross between a biscuit and a cupcake: soft and crumbly (because it was full of very finely chopped walnuts), yet just about holding its shape. We fell in love with the walnut biscuits, so much that we wished we’d skipped the poppy seed biscuits and opted for more of these instead.
All in all, a fantastic bakery (I believe their sponge cakes are extremely popular too, though we didn’t have any). We even bought a large box of our favourite biscuits—the macaroons and the walnut biscuits—to bring back home to share with family. And even the finickiest of our relatives have phoned back to say a very special thank you for the biscuits of Ahdoo’s.
From journal Three Days in Srinagar