Exploring the culinary landscape of Uttarakhand

What makes food special? Spices, ingredients, region or nostalgia? We like a particular cuisine because we have grown up eating it, is in vogue, is healthy and because it tastes so well that it is simply irresistible!

Any food made with love and care becomes special, this is precisely the reason why all of us love the food cooked by our moms. And this also explains why we get bored with restaurant food, as it is cooked on a commercial scale mindlessly and unthoughtfully.

But this time when I went to a restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised because what I was offered was not food but a wholesome experience. I have rarely seen so much love and precision poured into food. At the Exotic Uttarakhand food festival held at Hilton Garden Inn Gurgaon Baani Square, I was mesmerized as much at the variety as at the uniqueness of the delicacies offered. Curated by Maneesh Srivastava and Vickrham Vicky, popular bloggers and food enthusiasts along with Chef Manoj Rawat, this food festival brought the best of the authentic delicacies of the state.

I have known Maneesh since long and his enthusiasm for food is infectious. With his roots in Bihar, I was quite sceptical about his quest for bringing the authentic recipes from Uttarakhand on the tables of Hilton. But Maneesh takes his work seriously. Along with Vicky and Chef Rawat, he went on a month-long journey to the villages of Uttarakhand, exploring local food and regional ingredients. They also brought a lot of local spices and ingredients from there to ensure that the food is cooked exactly the way it is cooked in the homes of Uttarakhand.

My knowledge of the state’s food was confined to a few popular items like Gahat ki daal, Bhang ki Chutney, Mandwa ki Roti, Bal Mithai and Singhori. But I was exposed to a variety that was enchanting. While sharing the table with eminent food historian Pushpesh Pant I was first made to explore and recognize the local ingredients that were brought in a tray. It became easier to understand the food after this small thoughtful step.

Maneesh who helps curate culinary experiences like food trips, exclusive pre-plated dinners and food festivals has also organised other regional festivals like #purvaiya – a first of it’s kind food festival promoting food of Bihar and #undividedbengal which showcased the street food of Bengal province. He now wants to take regional India food beyond borders. His partner Vickrham agrees with him “It is important because the world is aware of only a handful of dishes from India. Imagine what would happen when we open to them this golden mine of deliciousness-our regional food vault! What a variety of taste we would be offering to the world!”

“The whole idea behind this food promotion is to highlight the regional food of our country”, adds Maneesh Srivastava. He further says “Our aim is to promote the different regional cuisines which are not so popular’.

The menu includes a range of authentic dishes like Gehat ka Phanu, Bhaddu Dal, Pahadi Meat, Mandwa Roti, Bhat ki Churkani & Bal Mithai. Fusion dishes like Jhakhya Chicken Tikka Bhaang ka Paneer, Bhutwa Mandwa Pav, Buransh Kheer are worth trying.

If you are a non-vegetarian you should not miss the Pahadi Chicken preparation and Fish Tikka and if you are a vegetarian you would regret missing the Saag, the Ragi Khichri, Kaddu ki Subzee prepared in milk and the magical Gahat ki Dal.

Starting on 22nd April it is a 10-day event is full of Music, traditional as well as fusion food from Uttarakhand.