Situated in Northern India and nestled between Tibet and Punjab, Himachal Pradesh is a state renowned for its natural beauty. Its landscape is sculpted by hills and mountains, from the Shivalik Range in the south to the Himalayas in the east and north.
- The cuisine of Himachal Pradesh resembles that of other northern states. Daily meals comprise of dal-chawal-suzi-roti, meaning an assortment of rice, lentil broth, vegetables and bread. Ghee is a significant ingredient in Himachali cooking, along with cloves, cardamom, red chillies and bay leaves. Cinnamon is also a popular spice used in the majority of Himachali dishes to enhance the flavour.
- In many homes across Himachal Pradesh, rice is eaten with maahni, which is urad dal (black lentils) prepared with dried mangoes, which provides a perfect balance of sweet and savoury. Madra, which is lentils mixed with yoghurt, is also a popular accompaniment to meals. In Chamba, a district in Himachal Pradesh, madra is made by mixing Rajma (kidney beans in thick gravy) with around twenty spices. This mix is cooked in yoghurt and ghee and then slow-fired before being served. If you visit Himachal Pradesh you’ll no doubt come across Sattu, a mixture of cereals and ground pulses. Sattu is nutritious as it has a high iron content. Due to this, many of the locals eat it every day.
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- Most Himachali dishes are prepared with some form of meat. Up until recently, turnips and potatoes were the only vegetables used for cooking, but now the locals have started to include green vegetables in their diet too.
- The state has a cool climate particularly during winter months. A favourite winter-warmer is Luchi-Poti, which is a dish consisting of lamb intestines. Chaah Meat is also another popular dish. The curry contains boneless mutton which is cooked in Chaah, the whey that is left over from churning butter.
- One popular vegetarian dish is Dal Makhani, which contains rajma (kidney beans) and urad (black lentil). Preparing this dish can be time-consuming, taking anywhere up to one day to complete.
- The state also boasts a number of speciality dishes which are served mainly during festivals. Dham -meaning the lunchtime meal – is given great significance during festival time, with the meals being both elaborate and mouth-watering. These meals are prepared only by Botis, which are specialist Brahmin chefs with years of experience. The chefs start preparing for the Dham meals at least one day before the meal is served.
- People normally sit together on the floor to eat the Dham meal, which is served on plates made from leaves. The Dham meal includes rice, curry, a curd-based dish, pulses, breads and sweets.
The best time to sample delicacies of Himachal Pradesh is by travelling to the state during one of the many festivals. However, if you want flavourful, mouth-watering dishes similar to those of Himachal Pradesh you really don’t have to travel half way around the world. A simple trip to one of London’s Indian brasseries will allow you to sample authentic Indian food in a unique atmosphere.