Here is the world's highest pop-up restaurant!

Chennai-based Soundararajan P, Corporate Executive Chef at Mahindra Resorts and Holidays, India, and Sanjay Thakur, Chef at Etihad Airways, called their mission Project Triyagyoni (which translates to organic Nature in Sanskrit) and it was was certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s highest pop-up restaurant at 5,585 metres, the first record of its kind. Set up on May 30, the pop-up was certified by the Guinness authorities on June 2. An aerial survey was done by the representatives of the Guinness World Records to assess the pop-up and its height.

“Sanjay Thakur, had already done an 80-kilometre trek up the Himalayas, and when we met at one of the Club Mahindra Resorts at Naldehra in Shimla, we took Thakur’s idea of cooking on the highest altitude on earth a step further, and Project Triyagyoni came into being,” says Soundararajan.

The pop-up was set up at Imja Tse (popularly known as Island Peak), tucked away up the Chukkung valley, flanked by the stupendous Lhotse/Nuptse South Wall to the north and Baruntse to the south, making it seem like an actual island amid the gigantic mountains. At a temperature between three and five degrees centigrade, it took the team all of eight hours to set up, and three hours to cook. The meal was served to trekkers who were scaling the Himalayas to get to Imja Tse and the higher peaks.

They reached there after a choppy and nerve-racking helicopter flight from Lukla to Kathmandu, before proceeding to climb. The chefs and their team of seven foraged the scattered Himalayan flora and fauna on their way to their destination to supplement what they had bought at Namche Bazaar, a small town in Solukhumbu district. They collected mint, oregano, small green chillies, green onions, yak cheese and Rhododendron flowers amongst other things. The fresh unadulterated ingredients heightened their experience of cooking in the Himalayas. The team ensured that it was a zero-trash project, and kept the meal, the cooking, the dining area and even the furniture eco-friendly and left nothing behind on the mountains.

Their menu included traditional Indian recipes as well as dishes borrowed from Nepalese cuisine. “We cooked a total of seven dishes, including shisno mousse with mushrooms that we had foraged locally, and basa fish with wild spinach,” says Soundararajan. They also made daal bhat arancini stuffed with nak cheese, which is made from yak’s milk. The cheese is pressed to get rid of the water and then dried over a wood fire which gives it its smoky taste. The dish is served with herbal lemon tea. And on the menu for dessert was yak milk panna cotta.

Soundararajan says he worked hard on his physical fitness before the mission. He had been practising pranayama, and also began to walk 10 kilometres a day. The pranayama helped him with his breathing in the high altitude.

Even so, he says he doesn’t clearly remember a lot of the trip, as people get forgetful, thanks to the drop in oxygen supply to the brain. It also made the cooking process more challenging: the food took longer than usual to cook.

Nepalese lore has it, that sometime in the 90s, there was once a famished Australian, by the name of James Scott, who had to wait for 43 days — lost in the Nepalese Himalayas — to be found and fed. Wouldn’t stumbling upon a pop-up like this have been heavenly for the poor man?

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 1:34:38 PM |

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