Off the beaten path THE TRAVELLER’S FEAST
Despite most hotels cooks and service staff being drawn from the hills of Uttaranchal, the cuisine of this northern state has never received much attention. But now, as it slowly transforms itself into an enchanting tourist destination, visitors are becoming curious about local flavours. Here’s the lowdown on the tastes and aromas you’re likely to savour between treks up the hills and rafting down the streams.
UTTARANCHAL, CARVED OUT from the northern part of UP and almost at the foothills of the magnificent
Uttaranchal caters to most taste buds and you will find something to suit your palate in terms of food as well. There are a plethora of restaurants available, ranging from street food to the in-house restaurants at the various hotels. Even Dominoes and Pizza Hut make their presence felt in the capital city of
Pahari food should not be confused with Kashmiri or other high altitude regional cuisines of
distinct regional variations, sometimes in the style of preparation but mostly due to variations in locally available Ingredients. Eating out is not a norm among urban Garhwalis who prefer fresh, home-cooked food. The cuisine of both urban and rural Uttaranchal is unpretentious and based on easily obtained seasonal ingredients. Recipes are wholesome, effortlessly prepared and come to the table fresh of the flame, steaming hot and comforting.
Pahari people are very hard working. They work long hours in unsociable climates and their diet needs to be flavourful, filling, nutritious and easily prepared. In a rural Pahari kitchen the day will begin with a hurried meal of mandua (finger millet flour) rotis or bhari rotis (thick rotis usually stuffed with dal) eaten with ghee and/or lehsun ki chutney, (made by pounding green garlic shoots with salt in a mortar). Sometimes family members
might carry leftovers for the meal but more often than not, the next meal in the home will be at day’s end. The main meal of the day is usually made up of the Indian staple of rice and dal, supplemented by large quantities of leafy greens when in season. The meal could be enhanced with chutneys or pickles. In the winter, when fresh produce is not as easily available, preserved or dried foods stored in the seasons of plenty will complement the main meal. As one moves towards the cities, the meal compositions might change to encompass eclectic dishes and meals.
The Pahari cook’s repertoire is full of recipes for dals – that being the main form of protein in the diet. While better known dals like arhar (toor), malka (masoor or red lentil split and skinned) and channa are consumed here, there is a predominance of urad dal in Pahari cuisine, which is served in a phenomenal number of variations. Whole urad roasted and ground makes chainsoo, a textured puree to be eaten with rice.
Vegetables are prepared when time permits, but usually the most commonly eaten vegetables are leafy green vegetables. Paharis eat a wide variety of green leafy vegetables, colocasia, mustard, chawli and radish greens, indigenous spinach called Pahadi Palak and another indigenous fern called the Lingure, even kandalee (poison ivy). Leafy greens are usually cooked simply by stir frying the chopped leaves in smoking mustard oil that has been tempered with jakhiya, a mustard-like spice that has a nutty flavour and is indigenous to Garhwal. Pahari cuisine gets its starch from wheat flour, finger millet flour, various strains of rice and millets prominent among which is ihangora (barnyard millet).
The non vegetarian repertoire of the Garhwali housewife is small in terms of specific dishes despite meat being a large part of the diet. When big game hunting was allowed, most homes had their own standard curry recipes according to which the meat was cooked. Nothing of the animal was allowed to go to waste, leftover meat was pickled, trotters were made into a soup, and the intestines were made into Bhuttua, a version of blood pudding that was then fried in masala. The most notable traditional meat dish that you might encounter today is Kachmauli. For this, a whole animal (usually a goat nowadays) is smoked for hours over a fire of green leaves and tender twigs. When done, the meat is taken off the bone while still slightly underdone, tossed in raw mustard oil, salt, chili and turmeric and served up.
While there are several sweet preparations aside from kheer that a Pahari housewife will put on her table, some traditional ones are no longer made at home. Sweetshops are another gastronomic landmark of Uttaranchal. They usually have famous Pahari sweets
like, ‘chocolate’ and ‘Bal Mithai’, and occasionally stock ‘Singhori’ in season. ‘Chocolate’ is milk reduced to a solid form, set and cut into chunks while Bal Mithai is the same “chocolate” studded with sugar balls. Singhori is a sweetmeat molded in an indigenous leaf called a malla ke patta that results in little cones fragrant with an elusive scent of the leaf packaging.
We’ve also managed to garner some Uttaranchalli recipes – a blend of both Kumaoni and Garhwali – that can be easily cooked at home. While we have given separate recipes for the Ras and the Badil, Badil are usually made out of the cooked dals that are left after Ras is strained out. These leftover dals are cooked down to a pulp and the made into Badil.
SERVES 6 COOKING TIME: 1-1.5 HOURS
This is a very appetizing and highly nutritious dish from Kumaon. Made from a mixture of dals, usually in an iron Kadhai, it is typically eaten in winters along with steamed rice and bhang ki chutney but can be served as a soup.
½ cup gahat (horse gram)
¼ cup rajma
¼ cup lobia
¼ cup kala chana
¼ cup kabuli chana
¼ cup whole urad
½ cup bhatt (black soyabean)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp red chili powder
½ tsp garam masala
2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp cumin
½ tsp jambu – garhwali herb akin to
3-4 whole red chilies
salt to taste
Soak all the dals overnight. Boil them in plenty of water till soft. The proportion of water should be 5-7 times the quantity of dals. You can use a pressure cooker for this but ensure the water is plentiful.
When done, either mash or strain out the solids (reserve for Badil) or mash the dals well and blend and return to stock.
Save the stock. Put the stock on heat and keep boiling till it starts to thicken. Once the stock reaches a rolling boil add turmeric, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder garam Masala and salt to taste. When the Ras has a gravy-like consistency, take off the heat.
Heat ghee in a small kadai. Put in the whole red chilies, a pinch of asafetida, cumin, and jambu (if available). Allow to crackle and pour over ras.
Serve with lots of ghee and steamed rice.
MAKES ABOUT 24 PIECES COOKING TIME: 45 MINUTES-1 HOUR
Badil is a Kumaoni dish that can be served as a starter. This is usually served with a Bhang (hemp) seed chutney, but if Bhang seeds are unavailable then the following recipe for Til Chutney makes an equally delicious accompaniment.
1 cup whole black gram
2 cups mixed dal – equal portions of arhar or toor, moong and chana
½ cup oil or ghee
10 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2-cm piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp ajwain
3-4 green chilies
1 tsp cumin seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
2 cups of water
salt to taste
Soak the chana and the dals in water overnight. The next morning drain, rinse and set aside. In a blender, process the garlic, ginger and green chilies to a fine paste. Add the soaked, drained dals and process again to a textured paste.
To the ground dal, add all the dry masalas (coriander, red chili, turmeric) and salt to taste. Mix well.
Place an iron kadai on a moderate flame and pour in one teaspoon of oil. When the oil is hot, splutter first the cumin, then the ajwain and then the asafoetida. When the asafoetida emits its savory fragrance, add two cups water and bring to boil.
To the boiling water add the mixture of ground dals. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10-20 minutes on a moderate flame, stirring all the time.
As the dals cook, keep crushing and grinding the mix with a ladle to avoid lumps. Continue doing this till the pulses do not stick to the ladle anymore.
Now apply some oil on a thali and pour the cooked pulses mix on it. Spread uniformly, and allow to cool. On cooling and solidifying, cut into diamond shaped cakes called badil.
Fry these badils in the remaining oil on a steel tava and serve hot with chutney.
Tip: For best results, cook the dals on an iron kadai.
UDAD KI PAKORI
MAKES 8-12 COOKING TIME: 45 MINUTES-1 HOUR
This dish is made to mark any fortuitous day by both Garhwalis as well as Kumaonis.
1 cup split urad with skin on
1 inch piece ginger chopped coarse
1 green chili
2-3 pieces clove
½ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp asafoetida powder
salt to taste
1 bowl water
oil for frying
For the garnish tbsp sesame and cumin
Soak the dal overnight. Wash well the following morning. Rub to remove the skins and wash thoroughly.
In a blender, place dal with all the other ingredients and process to a grainy paste using the minimum amount of water required.
Remove to a bowl and using a fork beat the paste well to incorporate air into the mixture. To test whether the batter is light enough you can drop a little into water. If it is light enough it floats.
Shape the pakodis by putting a spoonful of the batter on a greased palm or piece of plastic. Shape into a flat disc with a hole in the center. Slide carefully into hot oil to fry. Alternatively you can just drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil.
When the pakodis are done remove, drain on absorbent paper and serve with Til Chutney.
SERVES 4 COOKING TIME: 45 MINUTES
Kafuli is a thick green curry (for want of a better word) made from green leafy vegetables, served as an accompaniment to steamed rice or rotis. In Pahari cooking it is made with pahadi palak or mustard greens. However a lot of Paharis have moved away from their home ground to areas where Pahadi palak and Rai are not so easily available. They have adapted the recipe to normal spinach.
2 bunches spinach /mustard greens
½ bunch fenugreek leaves (optional)
4-5 green chilies
2 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
4-5 cloves garlic
3-cm piece of ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp rice powder or rice paste
2 tbsp yogurt (optional)
1-2 cups water
salt to taste
Wash spinach and fenugreek under running water.
Chop and boil both vegetables along with the green chilies in a little water till tender. (A pressure cooker or microwave can be used here).
When cooked smash it against the walls of the utensil it has been cooked in. The result should be a coarse puree. (Do not use a blender as that will result in a smooth puree and the dish will lose its texture).
Finely pound ginger and garlic. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add garlic and ginger. When the garlic and ginger are browned, add the cumin seeds and asafetida. Add spinach and fenugreek puree, turmeric powder, coriander powder and salt.
Add required amount of water to kafuli and bring to boil. Now add rice paste or rice powder dissolved in water to thicken.
Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes on a slow fire till the gravy is thick. If dry, add some water and boil.
Garnish with pure ghee and serve hot with roti or steamed rice.
To add sourness, we usually add a tomato or two into greens in the first step in which case we omit the curd.
TIL/BHANG KI CHUTNEY
YIELD 1-1.5 CUPS COOKING TIME: 30-45 MINUTES
This chutney is mainly prepared during winters and is great with toor dal and steamed rice or with Gahat Ke Paranthe. It can also be used as a dip for various snacks. If you do not have access to hemp or bhang seeds, substitute the same with sesame. Bhang chutney is made in Kumaon and Til chutney is more common in Garhwal. It can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
200 gm hemp seeds or sesame seeds a handful of coriander leaves
2-3 garlic cloves (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger
2-3 green chilies
juice of 1 bada nimbu or big lemon or ¾ cup juice of small lemons
½ tsp sugar (optional)
a handful of mint leaves
1 tsp roasted cumin (optional)
salt to taste
Dry roast hemp or sesame seeds in a pan on a moderate flame for 4-5 minutes. Take care not to overdo it. Once done place in a grinder with coriander leaves, garlic cloves and green chilies.
Add lemon juice and grind to a fine paste. Adjust salt and sugar.
A variation of this recipe is the Mooli and Til Chutney. Cut a couple of moolis into finger-length sticks and leave them under a fan to dry for a couple of hours.
Then add them to the chutney with chillies cut in half-lengthwise.
This chutney is usually made with “bade nimbu” large lemons that people normally have growing in their kitchen garden. They are quite huge, so one is generally enough, but can be substituted by the other normal ones.
JHANGORA KI KHEER
A sweet preparation, usually served as a dessert.
500 gm jhangora (barnyard millet)
200 gm sugar
2 lt milk
50 gm cashew nuts
50 gm raisins
100 gm chironji
kewra essence to taste
Bring milk to a boil in a thick bottom pan. Once the milk begins to boil, add Jhangora and cook well, stirring to avoid lumps.
Add sugar and cook until the sugar is fully dissolved. When done, take off the flame.
Add kewra essence and stir in well. Garnish with chopped dry fruits. Serve hot or cold.
This is a dish high in calories that is a specialty prepared during festivals. It is local sweet snack.
2 cups semolina
1 cup yogurt, well churned
250 gm ghee
50 gm sugar, ground to a fine powder
1 banana, smashed to a pulp
In a large bowl, mix the semolina with 50 gm of ghee and the banana pulp to a uniform consistency. Set aside.
In another bowl mix the yogurt and sugar powder. Now soak the semolina mix in curd mix for about 10-20 minutes, depending upon the ambient temperature.
Place a kadai on a moderate flame. Pour in the remaining ghee.
When the ghee gets moderately hot drop thick jalebis of the semolina paste in. cook for about 5- 0 minutes, turning repeatedly till reddish brown.
When both sides are evenly cooked remove the singhals.
Serve hot garnished with cardamom powder.
BY RUSHINA MUNSHAW-GHILDIYAL