The cuisine from the picturesque mountainous region of Kumaon is as unique as its culture and traditions. It is is simple, wholesome, rustic and robust. It depicts the region’s indigenous produce and uses a host of native herbs.
To discover its quintessential attributes, we had made a trip to this part of Uttarakhand last year. The exploration led us to some beautiful villages, towns and cities that sat prettily in the lap of bountiful nature.
We started the Kumaoni Food Expedition from the scenic mountain dotted village of Khurpatal. Here we joined one of Uttarakhand's renowned cultural ambassador Mr. Hemant Bisht and his family at their quaint homestay called JJS Village Eco Resort. Mr. Bisht is a retired lecturer and writer who has penned the state song of Uttarakhand.
His calm, genial, spirited, gracious and sagacious presence filled us with great excitement and eagerness. First he showed us the beautiful Khurpatal lake from his terrace and introduced us to its fabled presence. This included the stories and some rational observations behind its various titles like mysterious lake and colour changing lake.
Then he briefed us about the history of the village, like how it transformed into a somewhat popular place from a secluded hamlet. After that he took us to his organic farm situated within the property. The gravel rich dark soil was blooming with cabbage, carrots, cucumber, fenugreek, corn etc. All the vegetables consumed in the homestay comes from this bountiful farm.
Soon after it was time to join the womenfolk to witness the dinner preparation. Hemant ji whole family had come together to join us in this experience and we couldn't have asked for more warm interaction. The open space outside the common lounge was bustling with different culinary activities. At one place kakdi ki badi ki sabzi was taking shape while at the other, singhal was bubbling dancing in the oil. These were followed by the making of patode, maas ke vade, bhaang ki chutney, kumaoni raita and bedu roti. Everyone including Hemant ji and the kids were enthusiastically executing some or the other tasks.
After a substantial part of the dinner was completed we joined Hemant ji for a tea and snack break. Over crisp and hot maas ke vade and patode we got know about some interesting and amusing food traditions and beliefs. He then showed us his collection of indigenous artefacts and shared some anecdotes about them.
Soon the dinner was laid and we joined Hemant ji, his son and daughter in law for the meal. The inviting platter had all the above dishes along with rice. We loved the dense texture of bedu roti with ghee. Rice and badi ki sabzi made for a winning combination. The bhaang ki chutney was a great condiment. We ended with singhal that reminded us of the grainy textured luscious pua.
Along with the gustatory delight the gratifying meal presented us with so much insights. Our first day at Kumaon was a promising start to the full journey.