Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Pahari commonly refers to the rich and diverse culinary traditions of Himachal Pradesh and neighboring Uttarakhand. But the umbrella term does little justice to the diversity in the food and eating habits of the region: Consider that within Himachal Pradesh, Kangra Valley eats very differently from Spiti Valley or the Kullu Valley; in Uttarakhand, the cuisines of the Garhwal and Kumaon regions are distinct in ways that belie their proximity.

Pahari food is a reflection of the climate, topography and lifestyle of the region, also a biodiversity hot spot. The cuisines of Himachal Pradesh beautifully showcase the region’s indigenous produce, use a host of unusual herbs and warm spices like fenugreek and coriander, mustard and mustard greens.the most famous dish is the bathue ka saag (lamb’s quarters), cooked with only turmeric and chilli and served with rice, and chha meat, mutton cooked in buttermilk with a host of warm aromatic spices.
Curd and chhaas (buttermilk), in fact, enjoy a special spot in the region’s culinary fabric: Buttermilk is used extensively, especially in dishes like madra, dried beans like chickpeas or red kidney beans, cooked in a spicy buttermilk curry; khoru, a thin spicy curry made with yogurt or buttermilk; and palda, potatoes simmered in buttermilk gravy. “During the cold winter months, jimikand, or purple yam, is cooked with curd, coconut and triphala (a mix of powdered amla, harard and baheda), and eaten to keep the body warm against the winter chill.

A singular feature of pahari cuisine is its seasonal diversity. “With every season, there is variation in the menu. For example, during spring, when flowers like the kachnar and rhododendron are in bloom, they make their way into various preparations. During the warm summer months, the cooling triphala is included in the diet while the monsoon sees the preparation of the delicious, warming surka, a drink made with takeera (soaked, pounded and dried wheat), almonds and cardamom.
We have explored and researched the vast repertoire of Uttarakhandi delicacies in depth, emphasizing the differences between the state’s two distinct regions, Garhwal and Kumaon. “Green leafy vegetables are used extensively in Garhwali food, whereas Kumaoni food uses more vegetables like potatoes and radish. Again, although both regions share their love for dal, Garhwalis are huge fans of urad dal, while Kumaonis have a soft spot for bhatt, a locally grown black soy bean, Bhatt ki chudkani, is, in fact, one of Kumaon’s iconic dishes.

Himachal also smokes meats. Dogri cooks, for example, add hot coals to a bowl of mustard oil and place the bowl inside the pot containing the cooked meat to allow the smoke to infuse the spice-laced meat. The flavour is evocatively described as dhuni.

Discussing about  festivities, one cannot but mention dham, the traditional Himachali wedding feast that usually includes dishes like madra, palda, a mustard-based raita and dal followed by meethe chawal, sweetened rice garnished with nuts and raisins, or mithdee, a sweet dish made with boondi and breadcrumbs. “The food is served in courses, on pattal or leaf plates, to guests usually seated on the ground. Uttarakhand’s answer to the Himachali meethe chawal is perhaps the jhangore ki kheer, a sweet millet pudding packed with dry fruits. And if that’s not enough, there are gulgule, sweet banana dumplings; bal mithai, a fudge-like confectionery made with mawa and covered in tiny sugar balls; and singori, a delicious Kumaoni sweet prepared with khoya, and served in cones made of maalu leaves.

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