Food from the northern hills of India by the beautiful Miss Shimla runner up Chef Sherry Mehta.
I am a big advocate of the fact the new exotic food is the homestyle regional food.
This time it was from the northern hills of India, by chef Sherry Mehta
What I liked about the food was the richness and simplicity of flavours, each dish had an unique flavours and a story to tell.
This marriage of Punjabi and kashmiri food for me was purely made in heaven. The Dham ( festive food of Himachal Pradesh) curated by chef Sherry had very minimal spices I tasted the real flavour of every ingredient/ produce used and that for me is real good food.
Adraki panje(Lamb ribs with fat, milk, whole spices, and ginger)
Chamba Chukh Chicken Tikka (Tangy spicy Himachali chilli marinated chicken tikkas grilled to perfection in Tandoor)
The soft Matara Kulcha with stuffed tikki gave a run for a sour dough bread, I am sure we discovered sour dough much before anyone did!
Siddu, the traditional fermented stuffed steamed bread was another favourite of mine. This is available with lamb stuffing, vegetable stuffing and sweet ( coconut jaggery) stuffing.
A special mention for the most famous Himalayan trout that was absolutely fresh and cooked to perfection. This sure was a treat for us in Chennai!
Some of my favourite main course dishes were the Chaa Gosht (One of the most popular dishes from Himachal cooked in buttermilk and roasted gram flour based gravy)
Channa Paneer Madra (Chickpeas slow cooked in a yoghurt based gravy along with cottage cheese and nuts, a star of any Himachali dhaam)
Gobi Ka Palda(Cauliflower cooked in yoghurt-based gravy thickened with rice flour)
Seb Aur Bhein Ki Sabji(Local vegetable dish made with apples and lotus stem)
Kale Chane Ki Maahni (Dried raw mangoes from the hills are cooked with black grams to create this unique Himachali dish)
Sepu Wadi(Urad daal fritters cooked in a luscious spinach gravy was once a humble rural dish and now am ambassador of mandiyali dhaam)
The finale is always sweet with the most simple yet rich food and lovely people around! Budane Ka Meetha With Rabri it was! (Any dhaam is incomplete without this sweet dish which kick starts any dhaam experience)
It was a very unplanned trip, we were in Coimbatore thinking if we should or shouldn’t go for the tharavad festival, keeping my mother in law’s health condition in mind. It was the once in a year tharavad ( family temple) Pooja and we are just 3hrs away by train, the night before we decided with loads of prayers in our hearts to make the decision to go.
4.30am out alarm rings and we started getting ready to hop into the cab to take the intercity train at 6am from Coimbatore station. We decided not to carry breakfast with us since we have had breakfast at shoranur station before and it was always so good. 7am and we were at palakkad and we couldn’t resist the call from the station outside ” vada, parapu Vada, pazham pori” our eyes widened and we ran outside to get one pack of it. Disappointed, the parapu vada was rock solid, the pazham pori was full of thick soda mixed batter with a thin slice of nendra pazham ( Banana) that barely had any taste or flavour and the medu vada was just like there! We took some pictures cause well they looked good and it went straight to the bin after one bite. Now we were waiting for Shoranur for the most awaited breakfast that we have always had few years ago. 8am Shoranur and we are ready to get off the train to get a pack of the breakfast with chaya. I excitedly open the pack and see 3 beautiful looking idlys with one vada. Hungry and happy next I open the sambar pack that smelt good, poured it next to the idly, next opened the chutney pack and ohh it was just plain sour green water with some salt and there started our disappointment, the whole packet of 3 idlis, Vada, sambar and chutney after one bite goes to the bin, I really feel bad to waste food, but this tasted off and couldn’t help but trashing it the tea was equally bad. Our memories of Shoranur station breakfast just shattered. Our plan was to get off at Calicut station and try out some nice breakfast near the station, but our cousin had other plans for us, he surprised us at the station and droves us straight to his house for the soulful appam and payar curry, our search for good breakfast ended at 10am at beypore, Calicut.
It was the tharavad festival and we headed to the temple soon after the breakfast. The Pooja had started a day before and it was a typical small town fare that I really love and miss most of the time. I was visiting the temple after a long time, the last time I was here, there was nothing only a few deities and stones. Must say my mother in law and husband have been instrumental in getting the temple into shape by supporting them with whatever they really needed each time, like few years back they wanted a well to be dug and they happily did it and ofcourse monetarily supported every initiative. We were glad we could atleast be there for a day to witness this splendid Pooja, wait as it unfolds.
The afternoon started with women chanting Amma narayana, Lakshmi Narayana and ended with various gods and goddesses showcasing their presence and blessings till wee hours of the morning, 6am to be precise. The community lunch was vegetarian Kerala food made using wood fire need not mention anything further it was divine.
The next morning after few hours of sleep and a sumptuous breakfast at home we decided to visit pappan ( our uncle, father in-laws younger brother) who due to his health couldn’t attend the temple festivities. We stopped buy a local bakery to pick up some goodies for pappan and I really wanted to eat it all, but resisted since I had a Big break of ottappam and chicken stew at home.
On our way back from visiting uncle/ pappan we stopped by a very small place that makes pappadam, this is so different from appalam made in tamilnadu and papad made in rest of India, this one puffs up like poori and is so delicious when fried using coconut oil. Spent sometime with the person making these and to my surprise they don’t individually roll them they take a big pile and pat it till thin like paper, ingredients used urad dal, salt, papad soda also know as papad khar and tapioca flour to pat it. Watching the process of making the papadam and packing it was soul touching. Special mention to the packing part the papadam were put into a plastic cover and sealed using candle flame and packed again in a newspaper. Life is so simple yet we make it complicated.
On our way back we also stopped by to buy some special kaima rice from a store I assume it’s the same as jeera samba but this one I hear is grown in the Malabar region. Hence wanted to try kaima rice from its birth place.
Came home to the flavours of Malabar briyani in the back yard. Our cousins had decided to surprise us with wood fire Malabar biryani. We surely were running out of time and did not know if we had the time to relish this one and hence decided to pack it for our train journey. We felt so bad that they took so much efforts to make the biryani with so much love for us and we were like why all this trouble after a sleepless night, they said “this is our way of showering love to the people we love the most” and that for me was definitely the highlight of this beautiful one day trip to Calicut/ Kozhikode!
Grateful that we could make the best of these 24hrs that was gifted to us! We are thankful to every person we encountered during the best 24hrs is Calicut/ Kozhikode! Looking forward to spend a few more days to really enjoy so much more that “God’s own country” has to offer us!
When I look back on this 24hrs round trip Chennai to Dharamsala and back that I did on 1st December of 2014, loads of memories flash in front of my eyes!
First, how the hell did I even do it! But they say “where there is a will there is a way” so when my mother was going through her treatment a friend of mine recommended that I meet a Tibetan doctor in Dharamshala. I didn’t even blink an eyelid and packed my bags to take the next flight to Dharamsala. 6am flight to Delhi, 11am flight from delhi to Kangra, 2pm we were in the cab towards Dharamsala. My sister who stays in mumbai was a little worried about me going to an unknown place alone and insisted she would join me.
They say when your intentions are right and your heart is pure and above all if you are going to do something good for your parents, you will be guided on every step you take. That’s exactly what happened to us, we found a very good car and driver who is an ex-armyman who was our guide and driver for the next 24hrs. As we started chatting we told him our purpose of visit and also that we are going to be around only for 24hrs. The moment he understood that it was our first trip and that too a very short one, he insisted that we do a small tour of this beautiful hill station.
First he took us to a very small dabba after checking our food preferences to enjoy the best ever mutton curry, steamed rice and Radish salad. I must admit I have never ever in my entire life tasted a mutton dish like that, it had very basic masala and that is what enhanced the flavour and taste of the mutton. The mutton pieces were huge but tender and juicy. Secret of the meat, they graze on the Himalayan mountains and have fresh Himalayan grass and herbs. This lunch was such a perfect welcome Dharamsala.
Next the driver stopped the car on every beautiful view point on our ride uphill, he let us take pictures and kept explaining about the significance of each place.
We reached our hotel around 5pm. Since it was December the driver told us if we wanted to see a few more places we just had to drop our bags and continue our sight seeing else it would get dark and we might not be able to see much and so we just went with the experts suggetion. He showed us a few more places before sunset and we also got to witness the beautiful sunset.
It was dinner time and knowing me I wanted to try every local food there and so we headed to McLeod Ganj, boy oh boy the place was brimming with people, food, light and music. We walked through the streets looking around and finally settled at Tibetan kitchen to have a hot Bowl of tukpa and momos. Walked through the streets just enjoying the vibe before we called it a day.
We had an early morning appointment with the doctor and the driver picked us up from the hotel and we were in time for our appointment. Again we experienced something very special at the doctor’s place, although we had spoken to someone about the appointment we were not sure if we could go in on time, since there was a very long queue that went in circles and we found people from all around the world who had come to meet the doctor, when I saw the queue my heart sank, since we had a flight to take at 2pm. I walked in with lots of gratitude and prayers in my heart NMRK! The moment I met the person at the counter and handed him my moms urine sample, they just let me in without any questions asked. The doctor came out checked the urine sample ( thats how they do their diagnosis) and immediately called me inside for a discussion, I couldn’t believe that all this was really happening. Another 20mins of discussion, medicines and we were out in 30mins. Our driver couldn’t believe what happened because he has never ever seen someone come out in 30 Mins, he said we were blessed and lucky.
But guess what, I think everything has a purpose in life and we had a bigger purpose and hence all that 30mins appointment happened for us. Since we were done with our purpose of visit the driver told us, that he can show us a few more places as it was 9am and our flight was at 2pm. So we hopped into the car and started wondering around, as a matter of fact he asked us if we wanted to visit the Dalai Lama temple/ office in McLeod Ganj, but he told us that Dalai Lama might not be there since he does not do too much public appearances. We agreed and we started our journey towards the temple( well I have no pictures of that place since photography is not allowed) we went in, it was quite and did not find too much movement of people, but there too much security checks. We left our hand bags and started walking towards the temple and we could hear faint voices and saw a few people around, we climbed up the stairs and oh my god whom do I see in front of my eyes, tears started rolling from my eyes for a minute I thought I was dreaming ” Dalai Lama” looked at us showed his hand in blessing gesture and smiled. That day I understood the purpose of this trip and why this 24hrs of my trip worked out the way it did! We took our flight back to Delhi and than to Chennai and was back home the next day!
My heart was full of gratitude to everyone who made me do this trip first my mother, the doctor, our driver, Dalai Lama and the entire universe came together to conspire this trip! Name’s of the actors who conspired this trip: My mother – Hemalata Uchil Dr. Yeshi Dhonen ( he was the personal physician of Dalai Lama from 1960 to 1980) Driver – Rajkumar My sister – Neeta Uchil. Above all faith in my prayers ( NMRK) and the intention of finding the best medication for my mother. They say if you take care of your parents with all your heart that is the biggest gratitude one can pay to them. My mother, the universe and my karma gave me an opportunity to pay my debt of gratitude to my mother! I could ask for nothing more!