Food from Himachal is highly influenced by that of its neighbouring states. Though a lot of it is animal based cuisine, there thankfully are a lot of vegetable and fruit based dishes too…I mean, why won’t they be there? Himachal is known to supply the whole of India with delicious apples, apricots and lots of earthy vegetables and fruits!
In fact, every place on this planet has dishes that the world talks about when hungry and greedy. Himachal isn’t any different! Heard of the famous ‘Sidu‘? The most delicious slow-cooked (is this why it is so delicious?) bread eaten smothered with ghee and as an accompaniment to dal for us vegetarians. From the water starved region of Lahaul-Spiti valley, comes the delicious buckwheat and wheat mix cakes called ‘aktori’.
I am told that preparing authentic Himachali cuisine is no child’s play! It is rather difficult to get the flavours right and if that wasn’t bad enough, it invariably takes very long to prepare. If my sources are to be believed, some dishes can take up to 12 hours! This just made me want to learn and explore more about this ‘not for the faint hearted‘ cuisine. I learnt that the original creators of the ‘Pahari’ cuisine were a group of Brahman cooks, who were also known as ‘Botis’ and were very secretive about their recipes. Even today, every village has its own ‘Boti’, who is entrusted with preparing a very, very special meal called the ‘Dham‘ on really special occasions. How interesting!
Another dish that is a favourite amongst the people of this region is the mighty ‘Madra’. This is made with large amounts of yoghurt/curd though still managing to maintain its spiciness and is usually cooked in rather liberal amounts of ghee. The story goes that one Raja Maru was so in awe of the Kashmiri cuisine that he head hunted some of the best and wisest cooks from Kashmir and placed them in the local Chamba region. This was indeed the basis for the creation of the ‘Madra’…the local harvest of delicious fruits and vegetables and the combination of Kashmir and the Chamba region…Infact today, ‘Madra’ often referred to as the technique of cooking. Anything cooked in yoghurt is now loosely referred to as ‘Madra’.
I think it’s time to stop talking and start looking and maybe planning to cook or taste some pretty looking dishes….Enjoy!
How hungry are you at this moment? Very, I would reckon…so, am I. Did you know that the Oberoi Group of hotels in Shimla and Delhi have recently added the Himachali cuisine to their menu? I have also been told that ‘Botis’ are actually involved in the cooking in the hotel restaurants too…So, if you happen to be around these at this moment, then pop in and taste the magic…if not, then there is always your kitchen, the recipes here and some fresh ingredients…create your own magic…