Uttarakhand cuisine: food fit for gods
The land of captivating hills, glistening rivers and clear sky offers a smorgasbord of delightful flavours. The exquisite pahadi food from the regions of Kumaun and Garhwal in Uttarakhand has drawn inspiration from myriad culture and cuisines. “The state border is connected with Tibet, Nepal, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. From the Sikhs to the British, it was home to many and every community left an impact on the state’s cuisine,” says Pawan Bisht, corporate chef, One8 Commune, who recently did an Uttarakhand food pop up.
The produce in the lush green hills of Uttarakhand are free from adulteration. Food is made with ingredients either grown locally or found in the wild ,and freshness makes the food nutritious. “The region with its clean air and unexploited farm land, irrigated with clean unpolluted water produce plenty of millets, herbs, organic lentils and vegetables that are beautifully incorporated in the cuisine,” says Sidharth Sharma, corporate chef, Moonshine Food Ventures.
The abundance of herbs, therapeutic spices, wild fruits and vegetables makes Uttarakhand food one of the healthiest cuisines. “Organic consumption directly from the kitchen gardens makes the food rich in antioxidants that help in reducing oxidative stress. The green vegetable punarnava popularly eaten in the state (which literally means ‘something that replenishes the body’) is believed to cure insomnia and many other diseases,” says Bisht who belongs to Chhoi, a village in Nainital district.
There is limited use of spices in pahadi cuisine. Hence the natural flavours of the food are retained. “The unique grains and lentils and the simple rustic peasant like approach towards the cuisine sets it apart. Ingredients such as amaranth (cholai) along with sorghum are used with young ginger and molasses,” says Shanti Prasad, chef in JW Marriott, New Delhi.
The cooking techniques are also simple, focusing on retaining the natural juices and flavours of food. Food is braised and boiled rather than fried. “Choru (Angelica glauca) is used to make a stew-like mutton dish with crushed red chili, turmeric and seasoning, where the pot is put on fire in the morning and left to cook slowly,” says Sharma.
Earlier, people used desi chulha, khadd cooking (pit roast), bhatti, and gobar gas to cook vegetarian and non vegetarian food. “Traditionally, Bhaddu (a vessel made of alloy with a narrow neck and heavy bottom) was used to cook lentils or meats which has now been replaced by pressure cookers. Using the old methods brings out the most delightful flavours,” says Sharma.
Mountains provide different ingredients in different seasons, giving vivid flavours to the inhabitants. “Winter is famous for dried products especially for dishes made of dried bitter gourd, Kulth ki dal, Gainthi ki sabzi, kakri ki badi and dried meat ‘Suksa’. Spring brings plenty of fresh vegetables and summer is all about linguda-a type of fern, leafy vegetables like rai saag and palak (spinach),” says Sharma.
Phaanu is another popular dish. It’s made of soaked and grounded black bean tempered with faran leaves. Locals have it with rice or roti. Another interesting dish is Rus. It’s different kind of lentils grown together to save time and effort. It includes bhatt (black soya bean), gahat/kulath and chana. Kafuli is yet another traditional dish, a kind of kadhi made with grounded barnyard millet, curd and radish leaves. Chainsoo curry, made of soaked split black dal, tempered with ghee and jakhya seeds, thickened with whole wheat flour is also a popular dish.
The meals are paired with tangy chutneys. Bhang is grown in abundance in this region and the hemp seeds are used to make the traditional chutney. “Til ki chutney made from roasted sesame seeds and green chilies is also very popular,” says Bhagwad Singh, chef in JW Marriott. Makoy ( berries) ki chutney, Bhatt (black soya bean) ki chutney and Galgal (Hill lemon) chutney are also flavourful accompaniments to the meal.
CHAUNKIYA MATAR AUR AKHROT KE SIDDU
Whole wheat flour: 500 gms
Dry yeast: ½ tsp
Salt: To taste
Sugar: 5 gms
Fresh green peas: 100 gms
Walnuts: 100 gms
Jeera: 1 tsp
Haldi: ½ tsp
Desi ghee: 100 gms
Ginger: 20 gms
Fresh coriander: 1 tbsp
Green chili: 2 no.s
1. Add salt to flour and sieve it.
2. In a bowl mix dry yeast and sugar with little water. Add this to the flour and prepare a dough by
adding more water, as desired. Knead well and keep aside for proving.
3. In a pan, temper the green peas in the ghee and spices. Add crushed walnuts and season.
4. Create small balls of the dough and fill with the pea and walnut stuffing. Allow these stuffed
dough balls to rest for 15 minutes.
5. Grease the base of steamer and place stuffed balls carefully. Ensure that there is enough space
in between each ball.
6. Steam for about 20 minutes. Once ready pour desi ghee on top and serve with your favourite
7. You can customise with your favourite stuffing.
By Atul Upadhyay, Executive Sous Chef, Taj Palace, New Delhi
Author tweets @ruchikagarg271