Breads of the hills

Tastes like homeThe State has a variety of breads inherent to the cuisinespecial arrangement

Tastes like homeThe State has a variety of breads inherent to the cuisinespecial arrangement  

Siddu and babru are the two main breads from Himachal; siddu is probably the most loved,” says Sherry Malhotra, North West Frontier and Himachali food expert and founder of A Girl from the Hills. Also a home-chef, caterer, and Director of host relations at Indian Food Trail, Sherry gushes when asked about the annual and seasonal breads of her home state. “They can be both sweet and savoury, based on the stuffing that has been used,” she adds over a phone call from Kolkata, where she is currently based. The twelve districts of Himachal have foods that differ widely.

While some infuse Tibetian, Rajasthani or Punjabi influence, others can be very local. “When you look at the Himalayan belt, you will see a lot of similarity in the way communities cook or prepare their dishes.

For example, Tibet’s steamed momos are famous throughout the world and served with a hot chutney and thukpa . Similarly, siddus are steamed and served with chutney and a lentil broth,” she explains.

Siddu , prepared by fermenting a dough of wheat flour, is prevalent in Kullu, Mandi, Manali, Rohru and Shimla. It uses yeast and the dough needs to rest for at least four-five hours, or overnight when it’s extremely cold.

The sweet siddus are stuffed with tiny balls of jaggery and poppy seed paste and served hot with ghee poured over. The savoury ones, on the other hand, have stuffings ranging from lentils, poppy seeds, coriander and fenugreek.

The other predominant Himachali favourite is the babru , also called baturu or bedwan , hailing mainly from Mandi, Kangra and Chamba. “It’s quite similar to the puri or bhatura that we see in North India.

What makes it different from other breads is the fermentation process,” informs Malhotra.

The preparation for the babru has to start a night before. For the sweet babru , wheat flour, jaggery syrup, oil, and yeast are combined to form the dough, which is the kept covered overnight. “Sometimes, we even have to cover it in a blanket due to the cold temperature,” quips Malhotra. “Making babru is an art in itself, as the dough is so soft that rolling pins cannot be used to shape them. They are shaped with hands and then deep-fried like puris , and should be served hot,” she says.

The savoury babru is made from a plain dough of wheat, salt and yeast and stuffed with soaked urad dal , and is popularly eaten with alu palda , kaddu ka khatta , or channa madra , all different spicy curries from the hills.

From where Chef Kunal Bharadwaj hails, it is a tradition to make it seasonally, at the time of Shivratri. There it is called basi, as it is eaten cold, the next day. “It’s also called the Shivrarti Tori, and we distribute it to our near and dear ones,” explains the executive chef of Club Mahindra Kandaghat Resort, adding quickly that in Himachali, tori means roti .

Bharadwaj also speaks about a variety of smaller breads like maalpude and bhaale . “ Maalpude could be either sweet or savoury, but bhale is always made of chana dal .” He remembers his childhood favourite, the badi . “The very famous badi is made up of atta boiled in a syrup of gur until it turns brown. It is also eaten with a lot of ghee,” he reminisces. It’s also called gulgule and is a must during festivals. Sherry has a hard time digesting bhaale or maalpude as breads.

That’s what the diversity in the different regions of the State does to your food identity. Malhotra indicates how varied the food from the hills could be. The Himachali makki ki roti is made with a dough of boiled and mashed colocasia and makki ki aata .

“The Himachali breads are as varied and diverse as the people living there,” said Bharadwaj, between demonstrating the recipe for siddu . In his kitchen, he keeps innovating his traditional cuisine, and this, thinks Malhotra, can make Himachali food popular again.

The twelve districts of Himachal have foods that differ widely

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