After an amusing street food tour of Nainital with our young and dynamic hosts Aishwarya Bisht and Aparajita Kotlia, founders of Nainital’s first cloud kitchen named Ashtrogastronomy, the following day we were invited to their home to relish some Kumaoni delicacies included in their menu.
On reaching there we were greeted in the traditional manner by Ashwarya's mother Vinita Ji. Then we joined the rest of the family for a chat. We got to know a few things about the demography and general lifestyle of this famous hill station.
Soon after we landed at the kitchen with Ashwarya who, being a passionate chef, took the charge to introduce us to some Kumaoni culinary essentials and a few delicacies. For our convenience he had written down the menu on a blackboard placed at one corner of the kitchen.
He took us through the delightful menu among which most of the stuff was prepared beforehand because of time constraints. After checking some Kumaoni essentials like gehat ki dal or horse gram lentil, jakhiya or wild mustard, bhang ke beej or hemp seeds and bhangira or perilla seeds we moved on to pan fry the gehat ke kebab.
It was fascinating to learn Ashtrogastronomy's hot selling item is something that was born out of an inadvertent slip when Ashwarya's cook soaked horse gram dal instead of soyabean. To utilize the huge quantity of soaked horse gram, Ashwarya boiled and ground them and turned them into crisp, spicy and robust kebabs. Paired with some traditional chutneys, till date this recipe has won many hearts.
After the crisp brown kebabs were ready, we joined Ashwarya's uncle over chang, the traditional alcoholic drink belonging to the bhutia community who are a substantial part of the population over here. He shared some insights about the drink and we moved on to have the food. First there was jakhiya aalu with Kumaoni raita and bangire ki chutney.
Next was the turn of gehat the kebab with bhangira ki chutney. It was crisp on the outside and soft and dense inside. The chutney added a refreshing touch to the unique taste of the kebabs.
The final dish that we tried, the sana nimbu, was also a stunner. This winter time treat made with sweet native lemons, yogurt and bhang flavoured salt was creamy, zesty and refreshing. We polished it off in no time.
The food experience ended with a cup of unsweetened tea and jaggery. That's how the locals prefer it.
We had an amazing time with the family learning about the Kumaoni food traditions.