Smells stimulate my memories. Certain smells trigger off memories of people, places, experiences… I should have expected many memories to come alive at Haritima, since I’m Uttarakhandi on my mum’s side. But I was completely unprepared that an innocuous sesame sauce would bring alive an abiding memory of my nani, standing at her kitchen counter and rustling up the most delicious til and hari mirch chutneys on her flat stone grinder.
Slow food with local flavour picks up speed in the swiftly expanding capital city of Dehra Dun. Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi checks out Uttarakhand’s first organic hot spot
The dishes that these sides went with in nani’s meal plans—in winter, deep-fried, sesame-coated lentil fritters with heartwarming til chutney; in summer, pristine white and refreshing chancha (rice cooked in chaach or buttermilk) with piquant hari mirch chutney—don’t make it to the organic eatery Haritima’s menu. Like a khichdi won’t make it to a Mughlai restaurant.
Though chancha-less, Haritima’s menu is a traditionalist’s delight nevertheless. Launched in June 2012, it symbolizes the Uttarakhand government’s commitment to sustainable farming. All the cereals, lentils, vegetables, spices and herbs used in the menu are sourced from certified organic farms across the state. Meats and eggs coming up soon. And the team of Garhwali/Kumaoni chefs does justice to the recipes handed down through generations of pastoral, proto-organic living.
Our rustic chomp-romp begins on a sweet (and sour) note, with Shaheed-i-Kaphal (Rs 50), the signature beverage. For those who haven’t tasted kaphal, it’s a deep red wild berry, sweet-sour-sublime to taste. If you visit a hill station in spring, you can buy paper cones filled with salted kaphal from street hawkers. At Haritima, they make a killer drink out of it, intensifying its sourness with lime and adding chilli for an unforgettable bite. It overwhelms the other drinks such as Smokey Chilled Buransh (rhododendron squash, smoked lemon peel, Rs 85) and Sour Apple (juice of hill apples, naturally tangy, Rs 85). Quite a kickstart!
Next up, snacks and condiments. The Tofu Kebab (Rs 165) is a bland blend of tofu and potatoes but the spiciness of the accompanying Bhangjeera Chutney (Rs 50) elevates it to a decent starter. The Rajmah Kebab is a letdown, over-pasty and under-spiced. Finger Millet Kathi Rolls (Rs 115) are quite nice, owing to the contrast of textures between the crunchy carrot-capsicum-cabbage mix and crumb-fried matrix of finger millet (ragi) flour. But it’s in Navrangi Kebab (Rs 155) that the textural interplay really delights us. The base, a silken paste of pahadi dals like gehet (horse gram), is studded with crunchy nuts and served on a bed of caramelized cabbage. The kebabs pair gorgeously with Pyaaz Ki Chutney (onions, yoghurt, syah zeera; Rs 50) and Tomato Chutney (roasted tomatoes, cumin, mint; Rs 50) though my eternal favourite is the saucy sesame relish called Til Ki Chutney (Rs 50).
Haritima, literally meaning ‘greenery’, is simply but tastefully done up, with traditional aipan artwork on walls made of woven bamboo strips. The placemats, printed with interesting information on organic ingredients, are good souvenirs; don’t spill food on to yours!
Some souvenirs you take away will be less tangible though. Like the slightest hint of a crunch that roasted jakhya seeds impart to Thechwani (Rs 110), a dish of bullet potatoes grown under snow and cooked, with their jackets on, in a pasty heeng-seasoned gravy. Jakhya, a wild hill weed, was not always a preferred ingredient. In olden days, people in the hills would curse their enemies: “May jakhya grow in your fields”! Now it’s sought after for its delicate flavour. Haritima’s thechwani is just right, with the potatoes slightly smashed to let the flavours seep in, and goes very well with ragi-wheat Lesu Roti (Rs 30) stuffed with veggies.
The highlight of our lunch is the lyrically named Bugyali Kofta Curry (Rs 165). In Garhwali, bugyal is a lush meadow, dotted with flowering shrubs and rare wildlife. In the dish, the fennel-laced creamy gravy is dotted with delightfully spongy bottle gourd and tofu balls wrapped in mint. The flavours are delicate, like memories of meadows, and smoothly balanced. We love it with Jhangora Pulao (Rs 120), a quintessentially regional dish made with hand-pounded barnyard millet and seasonal vegetables. Protein-packed and gluten-free, the nutritious jhangora can knock imports like quinoa off menus.
Perhaps the near-perfectness of this combination works against the dishes that follow. The Hariyal Tofu (Rs 125), with tofu slices dunked in a spinach and sour tomato gravy, is unimpressive and makes me wish we’d asked for Khatti Arbi (tangy yam marinated in hung curd and tempered with jakhya, Rs 125) with Buckwheat Chillas (Rs 40).
Our tummies are bursting but we cannot miss Chainsoo (Rs 115) and Phaanu (Rs 115), classic lentil gravies. Chainsoo, made with roasted kali urad (black gram) is coarse textured and spiced with red chillies and garlic. My nani used to make a variant called bhatwani, using kali bhat, a kind of soybean. Phaanu is a lighter gravy of mung (green gram) or arhar (red gram), pre-soaked for five to six hours, and laced with spinach and coriander. Both dishes are well made.
The menu has much more on offer, like the intoxicatingly named Bhanga Methi (fenugreek flavoured with hemp milk, Rs 125), but we move on to the desserts. It’s too hot for either Gulguley (wheat-jaggery fritters, Rs 60) or Chaulai Ka Halwa (amaranth seeds, jaggery, roasted nuts, Rs 65) so we settle on Lal Chawal Ki Kheer (Rs 75). Made with unpolished red rice and cooked in milk with jaggery, it’s subtly sweet with hints of roasted nuts and rhododendron bits. The perfect finish to a delicious, down-to-earth meal.
Haritima is expanding its menu to include dishes from outside Uttarakhand but within the organic ambit. Going by their insistence on authentic flavours and freshness, I’m sure Haritima will attract good food lovers and make its place in Dehra Dun’s must-visit spots.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 4.0 | Ambience: 3.5 | Service: 4.0 |Overall: 4.0
Meal for Two: Rs 1,000 | Alcohol: No | Credit Card: Yes | Timing: 11 am–11 pm
Address: Tera Gaon, Near IT Park, Sahastradhara Road, Dehra Dun 248001 | Phone: 09412058735