Thursday, January 14, 2016

An Exploration of Garhwali Daals

 From left to right: Kulith or Gehat Daal. types of Navrangi Daal. types of Bhatt Daal, Pahari red rice, Types of Rajma, Pahari Sabut Masoor, Bhaang, Pahari Urad, Tor ki Daal, Jhangora millet. 

Above is a representation of just some of the Daals eaten in Garhwali cuisine. Summer, winter, monsoon, whatever the season, there is nothing like sitting down to a meal of steaming aromatic Basmati rice mounded on a thaali, with hot daal laddled over and a dollop of danedar, ghar ka ghee melting into glistening rivulets down the sides!

Not too many people are aware that I have been researching and writing a book on Garhwali Food for a while now. You see my husband, Shekhar is Garhwali. And years ago, when I married and discovered this relatively unknown cuisine, I was fascinated. One of my favourite things to do is culinary profiles, and writing this book has been a labour of love as well as a journey of discovery. With time, as I learned to cook it, discovered the nuances of the indigenous ingredients, and traditional practices of the culinary culture, I decided to document it. Last year, my book got into another snag in a line of many that arrested its publication. I was disappointed, but soon on the heels of that dejection came the realisation that I do not have to wait for a book to talk about the food. I can cook it for people to give them a taste of it. 

So since then, every January I carry back ingredients from Uttaranchal after our annual trip home to Dehra Dun and cook up a meal based on what ingredients I can get my hands on. Many things are not easily found so one has to go to different people and sources for them. Last year I cooked winter specials. This year, I was only able to finalise the menu the day I was travelling back, based on ingredients available little Garhwal stalls that spring up on fringes of craft melas in Dehra Dun. Yesterday I served up my latest one, titled An exploration of Garhwali Daals. 

To give you a small gist of its background, Garhwali food is the food of the Garhwali people of Uttarakhand, in North India.. Garhwalis also call themselves Paharis and their cuisine is also comonly referred to as Pahari food. However it is distinctly different from other high altitude regional cuisines of India such as Kashmiri or Himachali cuisines. Garhwali or Pahari food is not exotic, glamorous or rich. In fact it is in fact one of the simplest I have ever come accross! The ingredients of most of the dishes can be counted on both hands. Traditionally life in the hills is a hard one, so the cuisine has evolved to be quick to cook, but offers optimum nutrition, satisfaction and flavor. It is unpretentious, based on easily obtained seasonal ingredients and has distinct menus for summer and winter. At every meal food comes to the table freshly cooked, aromatic and tempting. Based on staples like Rice, indigenous millets, flat breads made of wheat flour and millet flour, that are eaten with a variety of Daals and Daal preparations that are the primary source of protein, accompanied by seasonal vegetables dishes.

Pahari food splits into two dialects — Garhwali food from the Garhwal region and Kumaoni food from the Kumaon region. Each of these community cuisines stem from the same roots and have many common dishes but with distinct regional variations, sometimes in the style of preparation but mostly based on locally available ingredients. For example while both cuisines depend on a variety of pulses for protein, Garwali cuisine leans heavily toward recipes based on Urad dal and celebrates Tor and Gehat whereas Kumaoni cuisine leans toward a predominance of Bhatt or Soya dal

This year, I realized that I had bought many daals. And it struck me then, that daals are the mainstay in Garhwali cuisine, so I decided to curate my menu around signature Garhwali Daals  (I have saved Kumaoni for another day.) that had been sourced from the higher reaches of the hills. Here is a small showcase of the ingredients and what I cooked yesterday though; 
Pinni ka Soup with Lehsun Ka namak ~ a Sesame broth inspired by Nani, spiked with pahadi green garlic salt.
Pinni Soup
Pahadi Namak
This is not a traditional recipe butsomething I created inspired by family stories of a Pinni ka Saag that Shehar’s Nani used to make. According to my Ma-in-law, in the old days, sesame was pressed for oil. Nani would use some of the leftover oil cake (comprising solid bits of sesame and husks) and make a saag or gravy of it that she served up with steamed basmati rice. I have never tasted this dish, but it fascinate me and I thought a thinned out version would be ideal as a shot of soup to kickstart my meal. Pahari Namak, is a flavoured salt – we use a lot of flavoured salts in Pahari food – is something we serve up with Jhangora (millet) porridge. It made the perfect topping.

Patudi with Ma's Hing ka Achar ~ griddle cakes of leafy greens with asafoetida mango pickle
Patudi are a quintessentially Uttarakhandi dish that are ubiquitous at our table when really good greens fresh from the garden are available. And the winters in Doon are perfect for this when the garden is a bounty of greens, with rye (mustard greens), fenugreek, white raddish leaves, spinach available. But they can be made at any time, really, being so quickly done. Especially good with the traditional accompaniment of Heeng ka achar (green mangoes pickled in asafeotida salt and red chillies). And I like to wash them down with Hot Chai!  

Til walle Aloo ~ Spicy tangy sesame potatoesThis is a dish Rekha Mami, Shekhar’s aunt makes for every celbratory occaision. I have been in love with it ever since the first time I had it. Potatoes tossed with Sesame paste, chillies and yogurt, it is addictive both as a chaat or a subzi.

Chawlai ki Subzi - Amaranth tempered with Jakhiya and red chillies is a popular vegetable dish. Cooked so that the onions stay crunchy. Ideal with Rotis or daal rice. 

Pahari Mooli Ki Thichwani ~ Bruised Mountain Radish and potatoes cooked with sesame
Thechwani is traditionally made using Pahari Mooli (White Radish), which is round in shape or potatoes or a combination of both. I have had this just once when one of my husbands relatives from higher up in the hills came a visiting and brought these Moolis with them. Normal Mooli or White Raddish can also be substituted. The preparation is called by this name as the radish root or potato is never cut, but crushed (thinchao) into pieces.

Pahari Tor ki dal ~ Winter special Dal of pigeon peas smoked with jambu herbs.Tor Daal is relished to the point of obsession in our family during the winter. Pidgeaon pea, this is a relative of the tur dal eaten all over the south and western parts of India, but is dried whole wiht the skin on. See how any Pahari's eyes light up at the mention of Tor Daal. 

Gehat ka phanu
~ Winter special preparation of pounded horsegram
 dal. Phanu is also made of daal like Chainsoo, but in this case the Daal is soaked in water for about 4 to 6 hours before its use. Different daals like Gahat, Arhar or green Mung can be used to prepare Phanu.

Jhangora Ki Kheeer
Bal Mithai

This event was part of the #APBCCulinaryLegacy series of events that celebrate the diversity of Indian cuisine through its home cooks.  THe series was created by Me at APB Cook Studio to preserve and propagate regional Indian cuisines that are slowly being forgotten. These events feature authentic ingredients and recipes often sourced directly from that particular region and showcased by #CulinaryHeroes/Sheroes, that are passionate ambassadors of their regional culture and cuisine. For more information please click through to

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