If you only remember the endless plates of momos and Thukpas you had in Dharamshala and Manali, let me tell you that you need to visit Himachal again to relish the pahadi cuisine. Here are some of the dishes you must try:
Siddu is a signature Himachali dish and is extremely popular. It is a local bread made from wheat. The wheat flour is kept for 4-5 hours for the yeast to settle down. Later, the dough is filled with fat and put on the direct flame to get the half-cooked dough. This partly cooked dough is then steamed to keep the taste and nutrients of the ingredients intact. Siddu is usually considered a side dish which greatly complements the main course of mutton or some vegetables. But it can also be eaten as a standalone snack. Add dollops of ghee or butter on top and dig in.
Aktori is a kind of Himachali version of a pancake which is made by using buckwheat. The recipe originated from Lahaul-Spiti valley and has spread across the state today. Each region has its own local twist to this yummy dish so that you get a new flavor whenever you travel.
Himachal has added a unique twist to popular Kachoris of North India. Babru is flat bread which is prepared with the stuffing of black gram paste. The black gram or urad dal is soaked overnight and is ground to a course mix, before stuffing it into the Kachoris and deep fried in oil. The scrumptious taste of these crispy kachoris won’t let you stop at one. Pair them up with tamarind chutney and enjoy.
Trout fish is found in abundance in the rivers of Kullu region, and is always on top of the list of “must-eat”. The fish is marinated and then lightly cooked in mustard oil. A limited amount of spices and condiments are used in the preparations to retain the original flavor of the trout. This dish is also known for being healthy and is served with some boiled veggies.
If you are a hardcore non vegetarian then nothing can serve you better than Chha Gosht. Another Himachali delicacy, Chha Gosht is a dish that is made with marinated lamb meat cooked in a gravy of gram flour, yoghurt and spices such as cardamom, red chilli powder, coriander powder, bay leaf, asafoetida and ginger-garlic paste. The aroma of Chha Ghosht will make you want to taste it as soon as you see it in your plate.
Madra is a yogurt based dish which mainly consists of “Kabuli Chana” or white chickpeas. It is cooked in a curry with a heap of pahadi flavors, onions, garlic, and ginger. Madra is one of the most common dishes you will find in the state. Every restaurant, every home and every occasion will have Madra offered to you with utmost love.
It is authentic pulao of Himachal Pradesh that Pahadi people cook in their own style. The dish is cooked with indian spices with an extra add up of lentils, potatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and yogurt. Tudkiya Bath is complemented with mash dal and few drops of lime juice. Imagine a winter afternoon in Himachal, sun shining brightly and you enjoying a plate of Tudkiya Bhath in the lawn. Bliss!
Bhey is an exceptional dish, which is made using the stems of the lotus blossom The stems are first cut in thin slices and washed. It is then bubbled and pan-seared with garlic, onions, ginger-garlic glue, and gram flour. Some gram flour is added for extra flavours. A lot of careful cooking is required but the efforts are totally worth it.
True to its name, Mittha is the sweet dish of Himachal Pradesh prepared on special occasions. It has sweetened rice made in ghee, mixed with a heavy dose of dry fruits such as raisins, cashews, almonds, and a dollop of heady sweetness to satiate the sweet tooth. A little saffron is mixed to it for imparting that beautiful colour.
Its not possible to talk about Himachali cuisine without talking about Dham. This is not a dish but a community feast prepared and served on each happy occasion or festival in the family. Legend has it that once the king of Himachal was so impressed with the Kashmiri Wazwan that he requested his cooks to set up a comparable dinner without utilizing meat. And that’s how Dham was created. The dish includes dal, rajma, rice, curd, boor ki Kadi and is very well complemented with gur (jaggery). Visit Himachal during the festivals to get the authentic taste of Dham.