Remember my trip to Manali and Kasol in 2021? First of all, please show that post some love since it was truly one of my favorite trips. Living for so long in the mountains is a dream come true for me, and I cannot be more thankful that this pandemic allowed us to do that.
Now, onto the topic for today, I had this post sitting in my drafts since long from the time I was reminiscing about all the good food I ate on that trip. A disclaimer though – all the dishes mentioned below except one are not specific to Himachal Pradesh. They are popular in the rest of North India as well, but I am specifically going to talk about the Himachali versions today.
Let’s get started:
Siddu: This is the only one on the list which is a pure Himachal based dish. Siddu is basically a dumpling made of flour (it didn’t seem like wheat flour or all purpose to me but I Google-d and it is in fact wheat flour only) and its filled with spicy pastes, like the regular North Indian Spices, salt, pepper, red pepper, coriander powder etc, but the real deal is poppy seeds paste. It seriously changes the game. It’s usually served with, well, again some spicy chutneys (dips) and loads of ghee (clarified butter) on top. I think its the kind of dish which either you would love a lot or hate a lot. For me, its the former. I would kill to eat a nice Siddu plate right now, but its a very traditional Himachali dish. Honestly, I have started appreciating foods that are only available at certain locations a lot more as I realize that everything being available everywhere just takes the charm away.
Rajma Madra: Rajma is red kidney beans and though rajma curry is the most popular North Indian dish, but “Rajma Madra” is specific to Himachal. It is basically Rajma curry but in a very thin and spicy gravy. Its almost like a thin consistency, spicy soup and despite the thinness, goes well with rice. Personally, I am not as much of a rajma lover as North Indians usually are, but I love this Himachali version a lot. I also read up just now that its probably different because the gravy is yogurt-based. Yumm!
Kadhi Pakora: Funny thing, as a kid, I used to hate Kadhi and never understood how can it be someone’s favorite food. As a grown up, I have nothing but respect for this yogurt curry. I was once out with few colleagues in Ljubljana, Slovenia to an Indian restaurant and a foodie colleague of mine ordered Kadhi (which was served under the soup section there). I didn’t expect him to like it because its a very distinct taste. He fell in love with it. Anyhow, coming back to the Himachali Kadhi. Now, the thing is that Kadhi is made in many variations across India, or at least in the states above the peninsula. 😀 Rajasthan has a very thin soup-like Kadhi and Gujarat ones have some sweet and sour thing going on but the Kadhi in Punjab, or higher up North, like Himachal, is super thick and rich, and is always served with Pakoras (fritters) dipped in it. What I especially liked in the Kadhi in Himachal was that it was not supremely thick like the ones you get in restaurants, which are nothing but killjoys really. It was just the right consistency, thick but not chokingly. 😀
Bun Chole: I don’t know which North Indian state this street/fast food belongs to but in recent times, I have most commonly seen them in Himachal. Basically, a super spicy Chole (white chickpeas) dish is made and served stuffed inside buns like a hamburger, along side green chillies and raw onions. My spice-loving a*s loves it and misses it now.
I know, I know. My list is very generic and I haven’t even touched upon very traditional cuisines. I really hope I get to taste more of Himalayan cuisines. In fact, on that note, I recalled that I love this restaurant in Delhi – Yeti, the Himalayan Kitchen – I think its Nepali and Tibetan food. I have only been there once but I wholeheartedly recommend it IF AND ONLY IF your spice tolerance is high.