Madra- The Himachali Dham Delight
Image Credit: Himachali Thali- Ayandrali Dutta

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas lies Himachal Pradesh, and this state make for that perfect destination when you are looking to escape city life. No travel is complete without having try the local regional food and same goes for this place. In Himachal the Himachali Dham holds a very special place as it’s almost synonymous with Himachali’s life.

One of the most prominent dishes in Dham happens to be Madra, a chickpea-based dish which is sattvic in nature and is simple, yet packed with earthy flavors of Himachal. Nitika Kuthiala, a home chef who specializes in Himachali food says “Madra is the main highlight dish of Himachali dham and Dham is simply incomplete without its assortments of Madras. The richness and taste reflect the efforts and labour involved in making Madras. Different regions of Himachal have different type of Madra. The famous ones are Rajma madra of Chamba, Aloo channa Madra and Dry Fruit Madra of Kangra, Sepu badi madra of Mandi, dry fruit madra etc. According to folklore, Dham is pure vegetarian and satvik food and inspired by Wazwan and Madra is first dish served in dham. A Dham is usually evaluated based on the number of Madras being served and their taste”.

Going back in history there’s a reference of a kingdom called Madra that saw it’s borders from Punjab and extended up to the Himalayas and a large part of this region is now in Kangra in Himachal and it’s said that Madra the novel dish is a celebration of this rich past. This celebratory festive meal that made either of chana or rajma is cooked in ghee/oil and yougurt, sees a unique flavour and taste of its own. Even the use of multiple spices don’t overlap with one another.  Hours of slow simmering makes this dish an absolute delight. This curry sees a good use of basic elements of Himachali cuisine all put together. It’s said that khatta helps remove the fats from the madra, which is prepared in pure ghee.

In the words of Executive Chef Rajnish Malkoti of Welcomhotel by ITC Hotels Shimla adds “Madra, the main dish of Chambiyali and Kangri Dham represents the food culture of Himachal Pradesh. Dham was earlier a temple feast reserved for royalty, but with passing years, it began to be prepared during weddings and special occasions for commoners too. Madra mainly consists of yogurt gravy, few whole spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and turmeric powder. Chana Madra, Mutter Paneer ka Madra or Rajmah ka Madra are different forms of Madra.”

Apart from the mythological past, the locals believe that madra originated earlier in time when brides from Chamba were married into Kangri families and they took the recipe with them. This vegetarian dish which is an important part of Himachali cuisine goes best with a serving of hot steam rice. Cooking it in the all-organic way helps to retain all it’s nutrients too. 

Looking to taste an authentic madra, this makes for a good excuse for you to head to the hills.