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The Bakers of Kashgar 喀什的面包师

The first smell every morning in the streets of Kashgar is the smell of woodsmoke, followed a short time later by the comforting toasty smell of baking bread.

It’s six am and the bakers of Kashgar have already been at work for two hours, mixing and kneading dough, waiting for the first rising, and getting the waist-high outdoor tonur ovens ready.

Today I’m one of them. My apprenticeship begins at nine sharp and will be over by lunchtime, but today is the day I learn to make round crusty nan bread alongside Uyghur baker Abdrachma and his five fellow bakers. I’m unbelievably excited – my first job was in a bakery, and I feel very at home amongst the heat and the ovens, weaving between the banter and work rhythms of the bakers.

The Bayawan Bakery is down a long lane to the side of the Id Kah mosque, opposite a small Uyghur school. The lane is a busy with children walking to school hand in hand with their mothers, motorbikes ferrying boxes of goods and passengers, old men in embroidered green caps out for their morning stroll and young men and women rushing to work.

The laneway is lined with small businesses, the shops selling tea and medicines just beginning to open with sacks of spices, dried flowers, exotic plant resins and coiled dried snakes lining their entrances. As I walk past the sweet shop the plump shopkeeper is laying out deep rectangular tin buckets of rock crystal sugar and sweet biscuits, attracting small swarms of yellow wasps that he absent-mindedly bats away. Further down is a row of stalls selling dried figs, sultanas, almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Everywhere the air is faintly clouded with smoke from the bakery ovens.

每天清晨在喀什的街上最先闻到的气味是烧木材的烟味,随之而来的是一股令人欣慰温暖的烤面包香味。此刻是清晨6点,喀什的面包师已经工作了两个小时了,混合材料、揉制面粉,待户外齐腰高的烤箱准备好,等待第一次烘烤。今天我是他们中的一员。我的学徒生涯正式始于上午9点,并在午餐时间结束,今天我将和维吾尔族面包师Abdrachma和他的五位同伴学习制作圆形硬皮馕饼。

Bayawan面包店需要沿着一条长长的小巷走下去,在艾提尕尔清真寺的一边,小巷两边有一些小店经营,茶店和药房刚刚开张,他们在入口处摆放着成袋的香料,干花,外来植物树脂和盘绕起来的干蛇。当我走过那个糖果店,那个胖胖的店主正在整理深矩形锡桶装的水晶糖和甜点,吸引来了小群的黄蜂,他心不在焉地驱赶着。再往下走是一排小摊,卖干无花果,小葡萄干、杏仁、核桃和开心果。空气中每个地方都隐约笼罩在从面包店烤箱里飘散出的烟雾中。



Bread is the most important sustenance for Uyghur people, and eating bread marks each meal of the day. Bread is the first thing I noticed when I arrived in Xinjiang, bakeries on every street recognizable by the stacked rounds of bread on tables in front of the ovens. It’s very much part of life and cycle of each day.

There are round nan breads with beautiful patterns and raised edges, sprinkled with sweet dots of onion. There are smaller rounds of thicker bread, Turpan nan, with a thicker layer of onion and black nigella seeds on top. There are giant flat rounds, hemek nan, typical of Kashgar, and small fat bagels, gizhder, shining and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  The Uygher saying goes that ‘baking is a simple business, but you will never be out of work’ and bakers are considered as essential to Uyghur society as teachers and doctors.

面包是维吾尔族人最重要的食物,吃面包意味着一天的每一顿饭。当我来到新疆,面包是我注意到的第一样东西,每条街道的面包店都能通过面包炉前的桌上成堆叠置的圆形面包轻易识别。有一种漂亮花样、边缘上提的圆形馕面包,在上面点缀着甜甜的洋葱粒。有一种更小更厚的圆形面包,吐鲁番馕,在上面有厚层的洋葱和黑种草种子。还有一种巨大的扁平圆形面包,hemek,这是典型的喀什特色面包,还有小胖百吉饼,将芝麻洒在上面,gizhder而且亮丽。维吾尔谚语说的,“烘焙是一件简单的事情,但你永远不会失业,因为在维吾尔族社会里,面包师被认为与教师和医生一样重要。

Inside the Bayawan Bakery I meet Abdrachma, the owner, who will be my teacher for the morning, and I’m surprised to discover he is the younger of the two men standing in the doorway, rather than the older man next to him who turns out to be his father and also his newest apprentice.

Abdrachma is a childhood friend of our guide and translator Waheed, whose real talent is in Silk Road and mountaineering bespoke tours, but can arrange anything – last time I was in Kashgar he arranged for me to visit a local house and learn hand-pulled noodles, lady-style.


After spending three years as a baker’s apprentice learning the trade, Abdrachhma then worked for a succession of bakers before opening the Bayawan – his first bakery – only two months ago. He’s tall and lanky and has the same pale and sleepless look common to all the bakers I’ve ever made acquaintance with. It’s a tough profession working every day of the year from before sunrise until after sunset, and in Kashgar it’s probably tougher than most places – Abdrachhma and the other five bakers sleep in sets of bunk beds in the room at the back of the bakery.


He may be young but he has already developed a reputation amongst locals for the quality of his bread, each batch selling out before the next arrives. He makes six hundred loaves a day and rarely has any left over.

Bayawan面包店我遇到Abdrachma,面包店老板。早上谁会是我的老师?我惊讶地发现竟然是站在门口的两个人中年轻的那一个,而不是靠近他的那个年长的男人,后来才知道原来那个人是他的父亲而且也是他最新的学徒。经过三年作为面包学徒学习做买卖的生活,他开了他的第一个面包房Bayawan­。两个月之前,Abdrachhma还在接一个的面包师的工作。他又高又瘦,有着和我见过的其他面包师同样苍白的面色和失眠的相貌。这是一个艰难的职业,一年中的每一天,从日出之前工作到日落之后,在喀什可能比大多数地方更为的艰难——Abdrachhma和其他五位面包师睡在房间中有双层床的套间里,房间就在面包店后面。他虽然很年轻但在当地人中他凭借自己面包的高质量已经很有名气了,每批面包都能在下一批出炉前卖光。纵使他每天做六百块面包,也很少会有剩余。


Making Uyghur Nan

Inside the bakery the smell of yeast is strong. The workroom has two long wooden benches, one on either side of the room. On one, curved rounds of dough are proving under a light cotton sheet, and on the other two bakers are kneading and weighing dough into pieces. Out back is a dough-mixing machine in the combined bedroom/workroom (‘we used to do it all by hand, but the machine makes it easier’) and sacks of Xinjiang flour stacked all the way to the ceiling.

I watch one of the younger bakers make a nan. He takes a ball of dough, flattens it with his palms first then with a narrow rolling pin, before picking it up to make a raised edge using the thumb and forefinger of both hands. It looks easy but I know it won’t be when I try it later.

在面包店里酵母的气味是很浓的。我看到一个年轻的面包师做一个馕的过程。他拿出一个球形面团,先用手掌拍的略平,然后窄的擀面杖擀平,在拿起来之前用双手的拇指和食指做一个卷边。它看起来很容易,但当我试过之后发现并非如此。接下来,他用tukche将圆形图案印在面团上tukche是一个门把手形的装置配有直钉或鸡毛、鹅毛笔的圆形图案。然后我后面年轻的面包师拿起整张馕,在空气中熟练地旋转,像一个飞碟一样,降落烤箱工作台之外的正确的位置。这个烤箱,整体约和一个男人腰一样高度,有三个的蜂窝状的区域,按着长长的砌墙的顺序放置。狭小通道的上方火苗微闪,橙色光辉从深处而来。


Next he adds a pattern of concentric circles to the dough using a tukche – a doorknob-shaped device set with a circular pattern of blunt nails or chicken feather quills. The holes made by the tukche will allow the bread to cook more evenly without trapped bubbles of air.

Reaching behind me the young baker picks up the completed nan and spins it deftly through the air like a flying saucer, landing in exactly the right place on the oven workbench outside. The ovens, three beehive-shaped pits as high as a man’s waist, are set into a long tiled work counter. Heat shimmers above the narrow opening and an orange glow comes from deep within.

The oven baker takes the nan and smears the surface with juice from chopped white onions, then sprinkles a good handful of the onions mixed with tiny black nigella seeds and white sesame seeds. Then he spreads the nan on a curved cushion, upside down, and using the cushion reaches his arm in and sticks the nan to the side wall of the oven.

This rhythm cotinues for the whole batch – the inside baker presses and shapes the nan, then spins it to the outside baker who add toppings and bakes the bread.

Removing the bread ten minutes later is accomplished with long metal poles ending in small hooks. The baker fishes the bread out of the oven and onto the bench to cool.

While it’s still way too hot we all have a taste – there is really nothing on earth that beats the taste of bread fresh from the oven, scented with smoke, and tasting of sweet little roasted pips of onion and salt. The salt, sometimes seen as dark flakes on the back of the bread, comes from the layer of salt used to seal and line the oven before every baking. It’s one of the other secrets of Uyghur bread.

烤箱面包师拿着囊和将切碎白洋葱的汁水涂在囊的表面,然后撒上一把洋葱,混合着着微小的黑种草种子和白色的芝麻。然后他将馕铺展在弯曲的垫子,翻转过来,用垫子达到他的手臂,将馕撑在烤箱的侧壁。这一整批都按着这个节奏运作——在里面的面包师使馕成型并按压图案,然后将它旋转给外面的师傅,添加配料,烤制面包。十分钟后用尾部带有小钩的长金属将面包取出,正式出炉。面包师从烤箱中拿出来面包并放到长凳上冷却。
虽然它还太烫,但我们都品尝到这样一种味道——在地球上没有一种味道可以超越这种刚从烤炉中取出的新鲜面包的味道,闻着充满香气的烟雾,品尝着微甜的烤洋葱和椒盐的美味。




And This is the Bread Fiona Baked….

Then it’s my turn to make nan. Abdrachhmed watches patiently as I flatten and roll the dough, then make a complete balls-up of the edge, once, twice, three times. It’s much harder than it looks and involves an awkward knuckling of the left index finger I just can’t seem to get. 

As the dough stretches a gaping hole threatens so I resort to laying it down and heaping up an edge with my fingers. Not correct technique, but it works well enough.

I take the tukche and press a circular pattern with a light girl’s touch. ‘Harder! Harder!’ the young bakers tell me, until I’m punching holes like a ticket conductor.

On go the onions, and then straight into the glowing oven. I make another while the first cooks, nervously waiting to see how it turns out.

Not bad! says Abdrachhmed, ignoring the uneven crust and bubbles in my bread. I’m already grinning like an idiot. Nan! Me! Who would’ve thought? 

In my daydreams I own my own bakery, basking in the meditations of kneading dough and making bread, forgetting all about the sweat, the burns, the early nights and earlier mornings, the complete lack of a life outside baking….

I’m never going to be a great baker, and it would take me another three years to get even close to Abdrachhmed’s skill. But when I’m making a succulent roast Xinjiang-style lamb and want some flat bread to go with it, I can have a crack at making my own. 

Here’s a recipe should you want to have a go at it too. I think in place of building your own tonur in the back garden, you could use a very hot oven and a pizza stone!

然后轮到我做了。Abdrachhmed耐心地看我翻卷和压平面团,然后做一个糟糕的边缘,一次,两次,三次。这比看起来的要困难得多,左手食指处于一个尴尬的位置,我看起来很难做到。我拿起tukche并且好像一个女孩般的力度按下一个循环图案。“用力!用力!“年轻的面包师告诉我。撒上洋葱,然后直接进入发光的烤箱。在第一轮制作之后,我又做了另一个,焦急地等待着结果。还不坏!Abdrachhmed,忽略不均匀的外壳和我的面包里的气泡。我像个白痴露齿笑着。馕!我做的!谁能想到啊?I
我的美好梦想就是拥有我自己的面包店,沉浸在揉面和做面包甜美氛围中,忘却所有的汗水,伤痕,忘记的过早来临夜晚和更早光临的清晨,忘记烘培之外的不够完满的生活….我永远不会成为一个伟大的面包师,这将花费我三年时光接近Abdrachhmed的技能。但当我在做一个新疆风格的多汁的羊肉烤肉时,我想要一些平面包去搭配食用,我可以自己试一试。



Uyghur Nan Bread – A Recipe

Uyghur nan is made using a simple yeast dough recipe. Abdrachhma insists that the secret to the best bread is in the flour – he uses only unbleached local wheat flour.

Makes 2 nan

Ingredients

3 cups unbleached plain flour
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon dried yeast (Abdrachhma uses Turkish brand Pakmaya)
1 teaspoon salt
1 small white onion, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon nigella (kalonji) seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds


Method

Preheat oven to 200C 
Place a pizza stone place in oven to preheat

Add the yeast to warm water and allow to froth
Combine salt and flour in a bowl 
Add water and yeast to flour mixture, mix well
Turn onto a floured board to knead
Knead dough well (at least ten minutes) and separate into two balls
Cover dough balls with a dry cloth and leave to rise, about half an hour

Place finely chopped onion in a sieve over a bowl to collect onion juice
Set juice aside (there will only be a small amount)
Add nigella and sesame seeds to chopped onion, mix, set aside

Using a small rolling pin, roll balls of dough flat to a diameter of 20cm
Cover one round while you work on the other
Now lift dough by its edges and make the raised edge of the nan by grasping and pinch the edges, circling it round like passing a piece of rope through your hands. The nan will slowly stretch an increase in size to a diameter of 30cm

Using a tukche or fork, make concentric paterns of holes in the base of the nan, avoiding the edge
Be sure the holes go all the way through to the base

Spread the surface of the nan with fingers dipped in onion juice
Sprinkle over 3 teaspoons of onion mixture

Slide nan onto hot pizza stone and straight into oven
Bake for ten to fifteen minutes until nan is golden brown
Remove from oven and repeat for second nan

Completely and utterly delicious on its own, or serve with meat , soup or noodles.


If you would like to learn how to make Uyghur nan bread or other Uyghur foods while you are visiting Kashgar, contact Waheed at Silk Road Expedition for more information.

旅行的时候,如果你想学习如何制作维吾尔族馕或其他维吾尔族的食物,可以在丝绸之路探险联系Waheed获取更多信息。