On a recent visit to Landsdowne, the writer discovers Garhwali food, tucks into gehat ki dal, munduwa ki roti and jhangora ki kheer

I love the Garhwal hills. But while my visits to Landour and Lansdowne can lead to a thick volume, I had never had a close encounter with the food of the region. In fact, for long years, I was under the impression that Maggie noodles and waffles (served in Char Dukan in Landour) were a part of Garhwali cuisine.

I am now older and wiser — and have had a great date with Garhwali food. This happened a few days ago when I was in Lansdowne with a small group of 22 friends. We stayed — as we always do — with Ashok Khandelwal in his lovely cottage called Fairy Dale. Every day, his boys cooked all kinds of excellent dishes for us. While the usual mutton curries and butter chickens were finger-licking good (to say nothing of the hot, home-cooked gulab jamuns), the cooks had all kinds of surprises for us too.

One day, for instance, the meal was Rajasthani, because the family has roots in the western State. The meal included my favourites — gattey ki sabzi and patorey ki sabzi. The latter is an incredible dish of soft, melt-in-the-mouth besan bits in thickened gravy.

But what really wowed me was the Garhwali table. Garhwali food, I find, has many links with the cuisine of other hilly regions. The gehat ki dal that we had, for instance, is eaten in the Kumaon hills, as well as in far-away Darjeeling district. Gehat or kulath is said to be good for the health. If you drink the water the dal is soaked in, it helps your liver as well as deal with any stones that may be lurking suspiciously in your system.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to drink the water. Instead, we were given a very nice dal (tempered I think with asafoetida and cumin seeds, and then flavoured with ghee), which we ate with munduwa ki roti.

I love this roti, which is also eaten in the Kumaon Hills and elsewhere. The grain is a kind of millet, and the rotis come out dark and a bit thick. Wholesome and delicious, these rotis are also full of fibre, and, subsequently, good for the health.

The good bit about the shared history of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand is the urad dal. I grew up in western Uttar Pradesh on urad dal, which was eaten with every meal. But the urad dal that I had at Lansdowne was different — and delicious. The dal had been roasted, ground into a paste and then cooked with oodles of ghee. It is called chainsa. I loved it, and also enjoyed the bhatt ki chatni, which was a spicy and tangy chutney prepared with a type of black bean.

We ended our meal with another Uttarkhandi speciality — jhangora ki kheer. The millet pudding was delicious — cooked as it had been with thickened milk, sugar and nuts.

All in all, it was a great feast. The holiday was superb, and the days were wonderfully warm. And if that was not enough, the food helped in warming the cockles of our heart.

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