Have you ever wondered what exactly Himalayan cuisine is all about? Well, for us till before we tried the authentic and real food of the Himalayas, we had the impression that momos and Chinese is what mostly the locals of Garhwal and surrounding areas savour. However, our confusion got cleared when we visited Indyaki for the Himalayan Food Feast. The restaurant is a good option for fine dining and homely food. The Shepherd’s Table curated by noted food writer Madhulika Dash and organized by the restaurant took us deep into the history of Himalayan cooking techniques through its ingredients and styles. Typical comfort food that included lentils, legumes, grains and cereals and some meat hunted in the Himalayan belts. The most common form of meat is lamb, mutton or fish. The signature foods consist of Kulath ki Daal, Jakhiya Seeds or black sesame seeds, Colocasia Leaves, Black Soyabean, Mandwe ka Aata, Millets, Bhangjeera, and Rhododendrum tree flowers.
For us, the dining experience began with the Burans ka Juice or the juice made from the Rhododendron tree flower. The flavour was sweet in the beginning and turned a tad bit tangy in the end. However, it would have been better if the flower could be organically sourced from the Himalayas itself. Next, we tried the Malte ka Juice, a citrus fruit of the orange family and a local Uttaranchal fruit. The juice was refreshing punch to the palate and also made one feel rejuvenated.
As it is said, in the Himalayas, a meal begins with a dessert, so we began our food with the Jhangore ki Kheer — a decadent barnyard milk pudding infused with dried fruits and nuts. It was a great beginning to a meal, I would say. Next was the delicious Chawal ke Arse — the local delicacy savoured on festivals made from jaggery and rice flour.
Then started the round of snacks with Aloo ke Guthke — a Kumaoni snack and a North Indian favourite dry vegetable of potatoes tempered with turmeric, wild mustard or Jakhiya and whole roasted red chillies. The Urad Dal ki Pakori was one of their best items of the fare and was repeated by most of the people. These were similar to South Indian vadas in taste, although thinner and crispier, garnished with black sesame seeds. Patyud was the next starter in the row made from colocasia leaves, tempered with Jakhiya seeds and pan fried. Until this time, we realized that one could even enjoy a nice vegetarian meal that too if it is well prepared. However, we were informed that there was non vegetarian in the next courses of the meal.
Next started the round of soups with the Gahat ki Dal ka Soup and Kharode ka Soup. Gahat is a staple legume grown and eaten in Garhwal also called Kulath Pulse. It was creamy soup tempered with garam masala. The flavour was so mild and pure that it could actually cure someone suffering from flu or cold. Starting with non vegetarian, Kharode ka Soup was also a delicious rich clear soup of lamb trotters. The lamb was tender and spices were low allowing the authentic flavour of the meat to reach the palate as it is.
We were already starting to feel full when the main course was announced to us. The dishes of the main course included Kafuli, Bhadu ki Daal, Tari wala Shikaar, Gahat ke Paranthe and Jhangora. Kafuli is a comforting thick curry of fresh green leafy vegetable resembling sarson ka saag made of spinach and rye leaves. Bhadu ki Daal is a mix daal preparation that is cooked for hours in a heavy bottom narrow necked pot called Bhadu. The Tari wala shikaar was lamb meat cooked the traditional way and simmered slowly. All the vegetables tasted great with the Gahat ke paranthe and Jhangora or Barnyard millet.
Now we thought that the meal is finally over, and another final round of desserts had arrived. Almora ki Bal Mithaai and Tehri ki Singori were the remaining two desserts that came to our tables. Bal Mithaai is a local sweet from Almora made of roasted khoa or mawa coated with tiny sugar pearls. Tehri is a town near Garhwal where this sweet Tehri ki Singori is made. It is prepared from khoa and is wrapped in Malu tree leaves.
To our surprise, as we thought that we were free from eating and drinking, we were asked to keep sitting for another final round of main course. Their explanation was that the last meal should also always be savoury. So, the main course resumed with Bhatwaani, Thetchwaani, Maache ka Jhol, Mandua ki Roti and Pahari Bhaat. Bhatwaani is ground black soya bean pulses cooked for hours and tempered with green chillies and asafoetida. It was gladly enjoyed with the Pahari Bhaat or the local red rice from the hills. Maache ka Jhol was trout, their local fish, cooked in tomato onion and coriander gravy savoured with the Mandua ki Roti.
Finally, I can say that it was one memorable fare and kudos to Indyaki Radisson Blu to have arranged and hosted such a meal for us. This festival unfortunately was only for their select guests. I do hope they make it an event that can give others an opportunity to try it too.
Address: Radisson Blu, District Centre, Outer Ring Road, Paschim Vihar, New Delhi, 110063 | Phone: 011 3399 9610