Chaisu To Kachmouli, The Rustic Flavour Of Uttarakhand Cuisine
Image Credit: Uttarakhand thali

Uttarakhand, or aka Devbhoomi, the "Land of Gods," is widely known for its rustic charm when we talk of its cuisine. The cuisine of Uttarakhand is closely linked to the region's geography and climate. And it is largely influenced by the traditional lifestyle of the people. Known for its simple yet delicious flavours, the cuisine boasts many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that use some local and regional herbs and spices. From 'Kafuli', made with spinach and fenugreek leaves, to the sweet 'Bal mithai', Uttarakhand's food is a treat for the taste buds. One of the specialties of the region is the use of locally grown ingredients like black soybeans, horsegram lentils, and green leafy vegetables, which add a unique twist to traditional Indian dishes. And yes, many may not know that the cuisine is divided into Garhwali and Kumaoni.

Recently on a trip to Uttarakhand, I was treated to one of the heartiest thalis from Uttarakhand at Barefoot Bungalow - Buranshkhanda, a tastefully done homestay bungalow that’s located 5 kilometres before Dhanaulti. Wrapped in the warmth of the woodfire, the Barefoot is a fine example of sumptuous interiors with a modern look and wood accents that invite you in. A warm welcome was extended with Garhwali topi and garam chai. Being a sucker for local and regional cuisine, it was beginning to seem like a feast. Chef Arjun Adhikari and his team crafted a much more elaborate Uttarakhand meal. From Chainsoo (dish made by gridding and roasting black gramme daal (Urad dal) and is much nutritious with a lot of protein), to Kachmoli (something similar to a salad made with Malta tossed with some raw mustard oil, red chilli powder, salt and some times people add fresh coriander leaves or pahadi lun (pahadi namak made on sil batta), to Mandue ki roti (Ragi flour roti), Laal bhaat (unpolished red rice from the hills), Bakre ka shikar (robust and rustic mutton dish that sees the fresh blend of spices), Naal badi (Pahadi badi that are sun dried and then made into a curry), Pahadi raita (this is not the usual raita but sees the tampering of jhakhiya, Jkakhiya aloo (a simple aloo dish) and the star being Uttarakhand, Bhaang ki chutney that is eaten with rice or roti as a condiment. 

For the uninitiated in Uttarakhand, bhaang ki chutney makes for a great side dish, not to mention the fact that it doesn’t carry any properties of the plant and is absolutely safe. Chef Arjun further adds, "This cuisine from the hills is the healthiest food you will ever eat. Using fresh, locally grown ingredients is always advantageous for those of us who live in the hills, whether for taste or health reasons. Two of his favourite non-vegetarian meals from his hillside home are shared.

Not to miss that, Jhakhiya; the wild mustard makes for a staple in the majority of the meals that you will get to taste. The little black seeds add vitality to the dish. The majority of Garhwalis choose jhakhiya over cumin and mustard seed for tempering because of its potent pungency and distinct crunch.

So next time you are visiting Garhwal, stop by a Barefoot Bungalow – Buranshkhanda and don’t miss to indulge in the some local flavours.