Himachali cuisine is one of the most diverse cuisines in the country that is dominated by fresh seasonal stuff. Along with a wide variety of rotis and breads, made with flours like wheat, rice, barley, buckwheat and millets, rice too is a daily affair. These are and are accompanied with lentils and vegetables based gravies, most popular among which is the madra. The curries are mostly slow cooked and are mildly spiced usually with aromatic spices. Hence the cuisine is enchanting and pristine as the picturesque terrains.
The yearning for some quintessential Himachali delicacies and urge to learn more about the cuisine here in and around Delhi led us to the kitchen of our gracious host Nitika Kuthiyala, a Himachali home chef based in Noida. She runs a home kitchen service named Pahadi Patal.
Over a combination of babru, pickle and malai and tea, Nitika gave us an overview of the Himachali cuisine. Then we moved on to the menu preparation. She started with a very rustic and simple mutton dish called rada mutton. This slightly chewy yet delicious mutton curry was whipped up with very basic ingredients.
Next she made the pakodu which were essentially chickpea flour based pan fried patties. Since the jimikand ka madra and meetha would have entailed a lot of time for preparation, Nitika had already prepared them in advance.
Then she quickly prepared the rice and readied the platter, which looked absolutely inviting. At her recommendation we started with the meetha which was nuts and sugar syrup based sweet dish. Nitika informed us how in their community, a meal spread is started with sweets. It perfectly complemented the plain rice that it was mixed with. Next we had the jimikand ka madra which was tangy, flavourful, sweet and rich. Finally we moved to rada mutton which had very neat flavours due to minimal use of ingredients. The meat was a little chewy because that's how it is supposed to be. The gravy was thin but full of flavours and meat fat.
Nitika also shared many fascinating details about the dham which is the highlight of Himachali cuisine and other popular delicacies. While recounting her childhood food memories she mentioned how she missed fiddlehead fern and patod.