Besides the picturesque charm, what compels visitors to visit Manali is its local cuisine, which offers a fascinating blend of traditions and flavours. The region's harsh climatic conditions have influenced its cuisine, leading to hearty ingredients that provide warmth and nourishment. From Siddu, Chha Gosht to lip-smacking Dham, Manali's cuisine is a delight for foodies and proof of the region's rich culinary heritage. Here are five popular traditional dishes you can try in and around Manali.
Dham is a traditional feast served on special occasions like weddings and festivals. It consists of rice, kidney beans, and lentils cooked in curd and spices. The dish is served on a leaf and is a staple in the local cuisine. The origins of Himachali Dham date back more than a thousand years to King Jaistambh of Chamba. According to folklore, inspired by the Wazwan feast of Kashmir, Jaistambh asked his cooks to prepare a similar course without meat. Thus, the Dham was born, a meal consisting of seven to eight dishes made without onion or garlic, served on a leaf plate. Initially a temple food, it has now become a part of celebratory banquets and tables.
Aktori is a traditional and festive dish in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. The dish is made by cooking buckwheat leaves in wheat flour. Although it is a local delicacy in Spiti, it is enjoyed across the state during special occasions and festivals. The unique cooking method involves mixing the buckwheat leaves with wheat flour and other ingredients to create a dough that is flattened and cooked on a grill.
Siddu is steamed bread stuffed with potatoes or radishes and is a popular breakfast item in Manali. The local cuisine is believed to have been introduced by the nomadic tribe Gaddis. The preparation of Siddu involves using a fermented dough made from wheat flour, yeast, and sugar. The dough is then stuffed with mashed potatoes or grated radish and steamed for about 20-25 minutes. It is served hot with ghee or chutney.
One of Manali's famous culinary delights is Babru. A traditional breakfast recipe, Babru is easy to prepare and is packed with flavour. Like poori (fried bread), Babru is stuffed with soaked black gram dal and whole wheat dough infused with salt and baking powder. The result is a lip-smacking dish that can satiate your appetite quickly. Pair it with your favourite vegetable gravy and tamarind chutney or ketchup, and you have a delicious meal to share with your loved ones.
Chha Gosht is a Himachali recipe that's fit for a royal feast. This exotic dish features slow-cooked marinated mutton pieces in a flavorful mixture of gram flour, yoghurt, and aromatic spices. It is believed to have been introduced by the Gaddi tribe of the Dhauladhar mountain range. With the opening of trade routes, the dish was influenced by Mughlai and Dogri cuisines and was transformed into curdled bright yellow gravy with the addition of whole spices like cardamom.
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