Siddu is one of the most enjoyable local cuisines of Tirthan Valley to be had with pudina chutney or the local desi ghee. The recipe has been passed down for centuries and It is delicious piping hot, drenched in ghee and dipped in the homemade apple chutney but really came into its own later in the evening when we used it to mop up the sauce from the Rara Chicken and Paneer. This SIDU is good for health if there is a proper balance of spices which anybody in the Tirthan Household will be familiar with .
Ask your host to cook the fabulous Kullu Dham. It’s a seven course meal untouched by onion or garlic, the recipes for which have percolated through generations of Kulluites without any dilution . Since Tirthan is a part of the larger Kullu Valley, the same is as popular here in the Tirthan. In case you want to taste this you will have to give your host at least one days notice as the Dham is only made on public occasions. Himachali food is typically cooked in mustard oil, and most of the dishes served at a dham, are prepared with yoghurt. A traditional dham is usually served on the floor and that too on pattals or plates made of leaves. The highlight of the Kullu dham was Maah (black lentils), Madra (a chickpea preparation), Mahni (sour gravy) and Meetha (sweet gravy). This can also have other variations like Sepu Wadi Ka Madra. Kadi & Meetha Bhat along with raita made out of dates & other dry fruits are a unique delicacy.
The Rhododendron characterizes the Himalayas like no other flower. The higher slopes of the Tirthan valley are full with the beautiful flower which is harvested for its medicinal properties. With this are made a variety of squashes, juices & preserves but the best to be had with your local food would be – The Rhododendron Chutney. A handful of flowers, about five or six fresh red rhododendrons, crushed into a paste with a clove of garlic, a tomato, and its sweet-sour balance refined by the addition of pomegranate juice or molasses and mango powder, depending on individual preference. The sight of the red paste, not fiery but almost erotic, brings a flood of greedy saliva to the mouth. The chutney also goes well with Sidu’s , Momo’s and even the regular staple diet of Rajmah Chawal or Kadi Chawal. There is an amusing folktale about the rhododendron proposing marriage to the alder tree in winter and being rebuffed for its ugliness. But when spring arrived with new clothes for the rhododendron, the alder changed his mind. The rhododendron, wounded from the insult about its ugliness, reminded the alder of his words. The alder was so embarrassed that it jumped off the cliff. And so, the Himalayan folktale reminds us, the rhododendron grows at the top of mountains and the alder on the face of cliffs.
Stinging Nettle Soup :
The stinging nettle is fairly common in the Tirthan Valley growing along with the hemp plant. While Stinging nettles sound intimidating, but there’s no need to fear eating them. It’s easy to take the sting out of the nettles – just cook them! Nettles have a long, delicious history as an edible wild green and are one of the first wild plants to appear each spring. Treat yourself to some delicious & nutritious wild nettles by making this vividly green spring soup in the Tirthan Valley. One may also ask for stinging nettle chutney which goes well with Sidu’s and Momo ( steamed dumplings) Nettle soup is a traditional and is eaten mainly during spring and early summer, when young nettle buds are collected.
Lingri Sabji & lingri Ka Achaar
Lingri is the only edible wild fern which grows in the whole of the Tirthan Valley. In English they are called fiddleheads and are popular in all over the world where they grow. In Tirthan they are eaten in two ways – One by making Lingri vegetable and secondly by preserving it as a pickle or achaar as its called in the local language. It is usually harvested when young and then washed properly and cooked with oil.F iddlehead fern (lengdi) are strange-looking plants the unraveling leaves of which resemble more than anything else the twisted head of a violin. Fiddlehead fern is commonly found in watery or damp environments especially in the Tirthan Wild Life Sanctuary. In the west its called a crozier, after the curved staff used by bishops, which has its origins in the shepherd’s crook. Fiddlehead’s ornamental value makes these very expensive in temperate regions where these are not in abundance. The fiddleheads of certain ferns are eaten as a cooked leaf vegetable by locals.
This is also one of the specialties of the Tirthan Region though they are fairly common all over the Himalayas. Stuffed Bhatura, a filling breakfast or snack, can also be enjoyed as a meal. These soft and tasty bhaturas are loved by all and are also easy to cook. Usually the stuffing is of crushed lentils , but poppy seeds etc can also be used just like sidu. The dough is fermented and the bhuturus can be had fried or just cooked on fire ( dry) like Chapati’s ! This is a modified form of Bhaturu as these are stuffed with spices mixed paste of dal (black gram), opium seeds or walnut. These are either simply baked or deep-fried. These are taken as breakfast or snack food with tea.
Chilada ( local Pancake)
Chilra, is more or less like ‘Dosa’ but differs from it in terms of ingredients and shape, major ingredients being wheat/barley and buckwheat flour. Inoculum used for its preparation is called ‘Treh’ (previously fermented and left over wheat flour slurry). The traditional bucket shaped wooden vessel, used for fermentation is called ‘Lwarenza’. Chilra is served with coriander chutney, potato in the Tirthan Valley where it forms a staple food of the people and is a popular snack/staple food of the people in Lahaul. It is also prepared during marriage ceremonies and local festivals.
Wheat grains are soaked in water for 2-3 days so as to allow fermentation to occur by natural microflora. After 2-3 days the grains are ground, steeping is done to allow the starch grains and some proteins to settle down and then bran is separated. Starch and proteins are removed, sundried and is called ‘Seera’. The dried material is made in to slurry by soaking in water; which is then poured in to hot ghee, sugar is added, cooked, and served as sweet dish/snack. Seera is considered to be nutritious, easily digestible and fast snack food. Seera is prepared occasionally or offered to the guests as a sweet dish in the Tirthan Valley.
Local Makki with Sarson ka Saag & homemade butter
This may sound like a Punjabi delicacy but the cold pressed flour from the watermills and some homemade butter from cows eating organic food has a totally different taste to it then our food from Punjab. Infact the Makki ka Atta from the flour mills is also packed by the tourists in great number to be taken as a souveniegr.
Bee the Change
The upper villages of the Tirthan valley have bee hives in almost all the houses. These result in production of
Organic Mutton & Baked Tirthan Trout are two of the non vegetarian dishes which the valley is very famous for. Also the people of Tirthan Valley make wine from barley and red rice in their houses, which is known as ‘Chakti’ and ‘Lugri’ respectively.
This post was originally published on 'Tirthan Valley - Paradise Unexplored'.