Homely and Wholesome: Rediscovering Garhwali Cuisine

Homely and Wholesome: Rediscovering Garhwali Cuisine
Food being in a traditional kitchen in a house in Uttarakhand, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

When will the vibrant textures and flavours of the hills have their moment?

Prannay Pathak
September 04 , 2020
16 Min Read

The first mention of ‘comfort food’ anywhere takes me back to the time my uproarious cousins and I would get together at my nani’s and the thick aroma of aloo ki sabzi tempered in jakhiya would overpower our mirth. Even as the others got up by turns to wheedle our grandmother into giving them a special serving of the anticipation of sweet, cardamom-laced kheer, I would wait lecherously for the bhaang chutney that formed one of the weirdest crazes of my adolescence. The quick accompaniments the dear old woman would rustle up to go with parathas laced with white butter would include chanchhya and the earthy bhatt (soybean) ki chutney. I remember as I would tuck into the thing, the soft filling of the leftover gahat melted slowly in my mouth.

Over the years, I have turned into quite a champion of the simplicity Garhwali food offers. Truth be told – it lacks the regal trappings of Rajasthani fare or Kashmiri wazwan and doesn’t aspire to the fanfare of north Indian traditions. Nevertheless, with its promise of wholesome and homely dishes cooked using grains and herbs—are now gaining prominence as organic ingredients thanks to social media—Uttarakhand’s flavours are truly inimitable.


Read: Remembering Lansdowne, My Adopted Hometown

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Something extremely close to my heart. Welcome to a humble Pahadi homemade meal. Chainsu (à¤Âšà¥Âˆसà¥Â) : A curry made from roasted and crushed black lentils, Kode ki Roti (à¤Â•à¥Â‹दा): Ragi chapatis, Patyud (पतयà¥Â‚ड): A savoury snack made from Colocasia leaves, Til ki chutney (तिल) : sesame sauce, Mandjoli (मà¤Â‚डà¤ÂÂÂœà¥Â‹लà¥Â€) : spiced curd and starch, Bhaat (भात) : sticky rice & the very famous Baal Mithai (बाल मिठाà¤Âˆ) : A local sweet. What better than homegrown Lemons, Bitter gourd & pumpkin flowers as props (which my father plucked specially for me). . There is no concept of cutlery in an authentic Pahadi household and we often enjoy our meals with bare hands, sitting on the floor. Miss the simplicity of my culture, but no matter where I go, its always in my heart :) . A BIG thanks and infinite love to my darling Mom for preparing this full meal right from the scratch. If only I could be half as creative and hardworking as her. Proud to be her daughter and a Garhwali. . . . Tag your pahadi friends :) . . . . . . . #garhwalicuisine#garhwal#garhwaliculture#garhwalifood#uttarakhand#uttaranchal#garhwali#dehradun#devbhoomi#authentic#homemade#homemademeals#pahadi#pahadifood#indianfood#regionalfood#indianculture#madeinindia#india#beautifulcuisines#foodie#foodgasm

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Today, you could ask for fresh bathua saag and thick amaranth rotis at the same dhabas that would limit themselves to instant noodles and momos, a combo that did much disservice to Uttarakhandi cuisine in the past. The grub in these parts is composed majorly of lentils and leafy greens and grains for breads and the tempering is done either with fresh ghee or the pungent sarson, which also happens to be my favourite. Mustard oil complements the nutty flavour of the multifarious leafy vegetables—spinach, radish, mustard greens—while ghee is more suited to the dals.

Gahat or kulath (horse gram) is probably the best-known among the lentil soups, followed by bhatt. A robust dal, a bowl of which keeps one going for half a day, the gahat is also known to aid in kidney function and keep cholesterol in check. Most Garhwali dal preparations don’t use too many spices save for asafoetida and cumin, and the necessary, hallowed jakhiya, which is basically mustard’s more pungent Himalayan counterpart.

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#knowyouringredients I remember my mother using these seeds. Younger me used to get confused between all the small black seeds and never paid attention. She used this typically for Pahadi dishes and sometimes even in dal. The name then got registered in my brain- Jakhiya. JAKHIYA is the seed of plant Cleome viscosa. They are grown in Terai regions of Nepal and India. Indo-Mongoloid Bhutia tribes usually collect them. These are rarely used as commercial produce since it is highly used in local cuisine. A good way to describe it's use is jeera. A typical pahadi, rather a Garhwali person would use it without any hesitation in most of the dishes. They use it to temper the Hara saag like lai, chaulai, raddish leaves, etc, all sorts of daal, sometimes even raita. It is also called wild mustard since it resembles it and use is also quite same. However it is much less pungent and has a earthy flavor and the nutty bite really sets it apart. It's leaves are eaten as saag in local area. All parts of the plants are used for treating diseases. It's oil is used for great mental disorders, leaves are used to cure skin ailments, ulcers, etc. A very popular dish called as aloo Gutke is also prepared using jakhiya. In some places they use rai however jakhiya is more regional. (Recipe is in the feed) So next time anyone visits Uttarakhand, make sure to ask them to get you this wonderful seed. You're sure to get addicted to it's taste. @doodlefoodle__ @doodlefoodle__ . . #doodlefoodle #uttarakhandcuisine #uttarakhandrecipes #indianspices #indianherbs #regionalcuisine #regionalfood #indiancuisine #indianrecipes #indinfood #kumaoniculture #kumaonifood #garhwali #devbhoomi #spices #herbs #foodphotography #foodstyling #jakhiya #jakhiyaseeds #spicesofindia #herbsofindia #himalayancuisine #himalayanfood #himalayanspice #foodiaries #knowyourspices #ingredients #wildherbs

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The dal takes on a thick, savoury texture with the Chainsu, a staple soupy preparation that is ladled on top of sticky, short-grained bhaat (usually red rice). Urad dal (black gram) is dry-roasted, ground and finally cooked with tomato-garlic paste and tempered with ghee. Urad enjoys a special status within the Garhwali culinary pantheon, and is also used to make flavourful fritters when it rains and on important occasions. Phaanu is another take on the lentil preparation, and is usually made with chana (Bengal gram) or gahat dal.

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Abundance of flavour, nutrients and colour; much like the land & the people of Uttarakhand where it belongs to. This is called Kandali ka Saag in local language & Yes, it is as rich in taste as it looks. Tastes better when served with curd & chilly on the top. ðŸÂÂÂŒ¶ï¸Â #saag #homemade #indianfood #spinach #foodie #uttrakhandfoodies #homemadefood #indian #foodphotography #kandalikasaag #fooddiary #sarson #foodblogger #foodfood #theflavours #foodforfoodies #foodporn #healthyfood #uttrakhandfood #tasteofhome #foodisfuel #foodaddict #qualityfood # #homemadecooking #kitchen #loveforfood #foodlover #uttrakhand_dairies #bhfyp

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I am yet to enjoy the thrill of savouring kandalee ka saag, which is made from the stinging nettle, or the even more vicious-sounding bichchhu ghaas, and is in a way reminiscent of the experience of eating dangerous-if-not-cooked right foods such as cassava or fugu. The leaves are made innocuous by boiling it and turning it into a pulp. The sabzi is cooked in an iron cauldron—Garhwalis love their lohe ki kadhais, which are believed to pass on added iron content to food—with mustard oil, dry red chillis, and jakhiya. Like kandalee, a lot of special Garhwali dishes are made from foraged items such as lingde (fiddlehead fern) and bedu, a type of wild fig that is also the subject of a hugely popular Kumaoni folk song.

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à¤Â‰तà¥Âतराà¤Â–à¤Â‚ड मà¥Â‡à¤Â‚ à¤Â†लà¥Â‚ सà¥Â‡ सà¥Â‹ना नहà¥Â€à¤Â‚ थिà¤Âšवाणि बनतà¥Â€ हà¥ÂˆðŸ˜„ . . . @uttrakhand535 @uttrakhand535 @uttrakhand535 . . p.s: à¤ÂÂÂ…पनà¥Â€ सà¤Â‚सà¥Âà¤Â•à¥Âƒति à¤Â•à¥Â‹ à¤ÂÂÂœरà¥Â‚र à¤ÂÂÂœानà¥Â‡ ताà¤Â•ि à¤Â†प à¤Â‰सà¥Â‡ à¤Â†à¤Â—à¥Â‡ भà¥Â€ बढ़ातà¥Â‡ रहà¥Â‡à¤Â‚। . . #paurigarhwal #uttrakhand_rocks #indiaphotography #garhwalifood #tradionalfood #garwalifood #garwalifood #uttrakashi #garhwalhimalyas #uttrakhandheaven #uttrakhamdtourism #dhanolti #massorie #dharchula #uttarkashicity #almora #nainital #food #uttrakhandifood #pithoragarh

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Talking of Garhwali food, the thinchwani deserves a special mention. Versions of it are still made in my own house, and the sour, radish-y taste that it gives off, is to die for. Mountain radish and potatoes are pounded—theenchna being a process where the vegetable is pounded in a sil-batta (traditional mortar-pestle)—and cooked in mustard oil with the regular jakhiya and tomato paste. Scoop it up with thick mandua (also famously called koda) rotis slathered in dollops of butter. The aroma and flavour of wild veggies, bursting with potency, can’t get any stronger than this.

Read: Decoding Dham: Himachal's Festive Flavours

Coming to the sides, the bhatt ki chutney is quite unlike any other of its chutney peers in the rest of the country. I have bittersweet memories of having to make do on a couple of occasions with roasted bhatt, which even without having been cooked can give roadside gram or peanuts, a run for their money. Pisyun loon, which translates to ground salt, is a combination of different Himalayan salts (loons), a riot of flavours that can outdo the best of seasonings. The combination salt—made moister than regular salt texture because of the presence of coriander, garlic, ginger, cumin and mustard—can be sprinkled over a gahat ka parantha before you roll it up and gobble it down.

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So many traditions in this picture... Nostalgic at the end of a fab day making pahadi pisyun loon/noon (pisa/ground salts of three kinds... for 'Salt To Taste' at @xfoodfestival tomorrow . SPECIAL thanks to @sassyfork for the gift of the Silbatta or Mortar Pestle. . #silbattalove #heirloom #tradition #foodhistory #chroniclingfood #documentingfood #garhwalifood #pahadinamak #noon #loon

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When it comes to the much-maligned sweet tooth, the Garhwali palate goes beyond the sweet, milky chai that is drunk and served liberally all over the state. Who hasn’t heard of the rustically sinful, fudge-style bal mithai, whose irresistibility is only heightened by the little sugar balls stuck on the top? One grows up on the festive-special, deep-fried arsay that I never particularly liked, but with age, comes better judgement. The crisp roat, made from jaggery, ghee fennel and cardamom, is a personal favourite of mine, but I came to know of the exquisite, nut-studded jhangore ki kheer only recently. Also known as jhungriyal here, barnyard millet is also used to prepare a savoury porridge.

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