I had no expectations in terms of my food explorations in Uttarakhand as I was more interested in exploring the natural beauty and the beauty named as Uttarakhand. However, a new state kept my curosity levels high throughout the tour and this is an attempt to summarise the memories of the food that I had. In the end I can say that I have become a fan of Garhwali food and would like to explore more.
Delhi to Uttarakhand via road and the gems around
Just like the buses from Mumbai to Pune and vice versa there will be food courts where the buses/ vehicles will take a mandatory pit stop and the passengers would grab a quick bite at Cheetal Grand Motels and one cannot expect an over the top experience in a place which needs to attend to travellers on a pit stop. We had lunch twice here, on our way and on the return and both the times the there was a wide range of orders placed – from Dosas to paneer sabzee, sandwiches and not to forget high non veg protein rich chicken tikka masala to chicken do pyaza and fee more. Freshly prepared and quick service makes this place a coveted one and none of the dishes were off note. What else do you need when you are sitting for a meal whether excited on your way to your destination or on your way back to home?
I did a facebook live of the food which you can find here – https://www.facebook.com/pikturenama/videos/621765601499635/
The surprise was on the way coming back. I have never heard about Jain Shikanji till fellow blogger Upendra Swamy recommended the same to us. Situated at Vikas Nagar, Kadrabad, Modinagar the signboards keep floating up almost 1 km ahead of the actual store. The reason for the multiple signboards is since the brand name became famous everyone around that place started using the brand name and the original one is the last one that comes in the way. An eatery which also serves meal the Soda Shikanji is a star attraction but its one time try.
The meals over 4 days – an journey in exploring Garhwali food
We stayed in 4 different places for next 4 days and each meal was special on its own but here are the highlights which I cannot miss to share with all of you. Some new dishes, some exotic locations, happy faces and bagful of meal momories. Looking back I can safely say that as much as the natural resources have filled the memories as did the food. Who said Uttarakhand was supposed to make memories only through its beautiful landscape and not Garhwali food.
Day 1 – dinner at Ganga Resort.
We reached around 8 PM after a day long travel from Delhi and any freshly cooked food presented in front of us would have tasted heaven but this was different. The dining room of this place reminded me of Guest House dining rooms, where unlike a posh hotel , you need not be pretentious and can catch up a conversation with the neighbourhood table. We had roti, rice, daal makhni, mixed sabzi, Bhindi Bhaaji and kheer as dessert. Fresh Green salad adorned the table as we wiped our plates clean in no time. Highlight – Was definitely daal Makhni and the smoky flavour, with slightly brown colour and cream on top was a complete package. Yes I did ask for 4 helpings. We had to leave early morning next day so I restrained. Missed – The local two favourites – Bhatt ki Daal and Gehat ki Daal
Day 2 – dinner at Syanachatti
The much coveted dip in temperature was finally experienced here as we reached around 9 after covering – Kempty falls, Narad falls and other tourist spots on the way. The recently renovated Syanachatti GMVN guest House had us as the first guests and the manager Joshi ji made us feel as if we are visiting some relative. While the rooms were sorted out, along with few other fellow travellers the request was to make us taste local food. The wish was command for the entire team at GMVN guest house and in no time a proper Garhwali staple was served. The welcome drink was Buransh (the local name for Rhododendron juice) . If last night I wished to taste Gehat ki daal – little did I know that within 24 hours the wish will be fulfilled. The puri s are called swala or Sewala – and looking almost like the size of our Radha Bollobhi or the Bature of Chole Bature this had a feeling of Gehat ki Daal inside. Gahat ki Dal or horse gram is basically kulath ki daal and rich in proteins and irons and locally its trusted as a kidney stone eliminator. Since it was used as a filling with coriander leaves, I didnt find any distinguishing difference in taste. Swala or the Sewala is not a staple diet but being made occasionally – can we confrm this as the Garhwali cousin of Radha Bollovi please ? The bengali roots and sentiments got touched upon with Aloo ki Thechauni/ thechawni – which is suspiciously similar to our Alur torkari. At times, out of sheer guilt of loving aloo so much, I wonder – whether we Bengalis consume the maximum aloo in India ? What do you think ? Notun aloo or the baby sized potatos, boiled and then smashed a ilttle bit with turmeric and what else can be a perfect folly to Swala ?
For the first time in life I had the same pulses for the main course as well as for the dessert. Jhangora or burnyard millet which is almost like a Sabudana and small granular , slightly sticky and filling too. Dessert was Jhangora ki Kheer with almonds and Kishmish on top.
Day 4 lunch at Harsil – The instagram worthy garhwali food amidst nature
Day 3 was all spent in exploring Yamunotri and exhausted we retired at Uttar Kashi Guest house without much scope of focussing on the food. One of the best lunch happened the next day at Harsil. We were at Harsil for a pit stop at the Tourist Rest House for lunch on our way to Saat Tal trekking and then Gangotri. The weather was perfect for an outdoor lunch and while the rest of the gang had lunch inside, I preferred to enjoy my piping hot lunch and a typical Garhwali food frame Binod Rana singh , Prem Bhallab Semwal the manager was kind enough to explain to me in details. Janghora ka kheer made re appearance , matar paneer, freshly made yellow daal and bhindi ki bhaaji. This was for the fourth time, I tasted bhindi bhaaji – no it didnt get repetitive and everyitme the cooking process was different. The new inclusion this time was Mandua ki roti. Mandua is Ragi ( finger millet). Little brownish with dollops of butter was the way this was presented. Its black in color and as Mr. Semwal confirmed – since this gets ground in the village and not in any Mixer Grinder the taste gets enhanced.
We all know the benefits of Mandua but still I was reconfirmed that whosoever will have Mandua and Jhangora can never catch Diabetes. In Dehradoon Mandua chocolates are also being sold. I didnt find any different taste for Mandua but what I will remember is the brown colour and was reassured of the fact that a beautiful natural setting with freshly cooked food is second to none. Simplest of the tastes like paneer ( I am a person who can rarely be associated with paneer) , freshly made daal – all play to their strengths
Day 4 dinner – Raithal Dinner or early breakfast ? The best Garhwali food ever
Few of us had gone ahead to Gangotri and remaining few went back to the Raithal GMVN guest House. When we reached it was almost midnight but my repeated requests earlier to Mr. Prakash Khatri the District Tourism officer who patiently accompanied us throughout the tour made me taste the first non veg of the entire tour. This meal had some of the best local produces possible and we started with Gehat ki daal ki soup – the best thing that could have happened after a day long journey. There was Mandua ki roti once again and I was told that these rotis were not offered to the guests earlier as these were considered as food of lower income strata of society. Lingda ki Sabzi was a part of the local produce which is boiled, chopped, fried and then served. There was a certain grainy texturous feeling with this sabzi. Later I realised that Lingda is fiddlehead ferns and who would have ever thought I will have fiddlehead ferns as a part of the meal. I havent tasted a homecooked mutton from any Garhwali home so wont be able to say what we had that dinner was an Authentic Garhwali mutton but can say as much that use of spices, bayleaves made it tasty but this was one miss in the entire meal as I had better expectations. I also tasted red rice here which was slightly course and we were told that these fill you up easily.
The bichhu part of Garhwali food
The kafuli or bicchu ghas (stinging nettle) which is widely grown in jungle and taller than the normal bicchu ghas was on my table. As the manager of the TRH – Mr. Bikramjit Pawar explained the process of cooking I was intrigued. They pluck the leaves , burn them in fire for a while, then another local favourite – red rice starch is used and add tadka and dolan ki kafuli is ready . This is not a smooth paste and I can keep on having this again and again. This sounded very easy ? I was later told that these are poisonous and extreme care is needed while harvesting. picking up, and even blanching .
We often seem to produce all information without much effort , but at midnight when Mr. Bikramjit Pawar the manager , Mr. Dinesh Bhatt the local social worker and all employees and support staff stay awake and patiently supply you with all information then they deserve to be mentioned here.
In the end my takeaway on Garhwali food
I missed bhang ki chutney, I missed Balmithai (searched crazily for it in Dehradoon also) , I missed eating fish – yes much to the contrary belief Garhwali food also has some options of fish, I nearly missed Garhwali mutton and I will liked to taste it once again. Was Garhwali food that I tasted was all out and out miss ? No, it reinforced my love for pulses ( some best of the daals that i have ever had) , red rice , millets – who can forget Mandua or Jhangora and the simple spices, I got introduced to Nettles and I can never forget the light feeling after every meal – no matter how much quantity I had. For the next tour. I wanna eat home cooked food, explore new cooking techniques and speak more to locals to understand the food more. I carried a piece of Garhwal with me in form of a packet of Red rice which shall soon adorn the dinner table.
P.S. – I went to Uttarakhand on behalf of Uttarakhand tourism board under Bloggersbus 1.0 . All my stays were at TRH or Tourist Rest Houses of GMVN