Priti Singh, Dr L K Sharma
“Food is our tradition, is something holy. It is not about nutrients and calories, it is about sharing. It is about honesty. It is about identity” – Justifiably aforementioned by the Dutch scientist, Louise Fresco.
As one and all is aware that India is the solid ground and diversity may it be in food, clothes, cultures or languages. Personified as the diverse state, India is quite widely known for its poly culinary art which is the reminiscent of ‘Unity is Diversity’. On being verbalized about food, Indian food shows its diverseness in accordance to the country’s directions i.e. east, west and north and south. It is the north- Indian food that incessantly strikes on the mind and peculiarly Punjabi cuisines grab the higher pedestal eclipsing the other state’s cuisines in the northern India. For that matter, Jammu and Himachal Pradesh variety of cuisines are majorly the underestimated ones.
Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost UT of India. It is a mountainous region of the northern Himalayas with sweeping valleys, stunning lakes and snow- capped scenery dotted with temples. It follows Himalayan and Dogri culture as in Jammu division.
With a name that translates to ‘abode of snow’, Himachal Pradesh is a state in north- western India with opportunities for experiencing the Himalaya mountain range. Visitors usually come to the region to experience the mountain scenery, engage in Tibetian culture and learn about the region’s ancient past. Himachal Pradesh in general, follows a Pahadi culture where Gaddis, Bakarwals, Rajputs and many more live together and have much simpler food habits then other states of the country. The culinary art of Jammu and Himachal Pradesh is mutually incompatible in variants of cuisines but interchangeable in terms of their ingredients and nomenclature in one or the other way.
Firstly, a few sparks of light should twinkle on the variety of food prepared in Jammu. The illustrious dishes of Jammu culture are Ambal, Rajma Chawal, Kachalu Kulcha, Patisa, Kaladi Kulcha, Maa da madra, Kulthein di Dal and Chaap. Ambal is an originated dish of Jammu region solely. It offers the amalgamated taste of pumpkin, tamarind, jaggery, fenugreek seeds and red chillies. This is usually made in a cast iron utensil on ‘Chulha’ with the wooden flames that appends the smoky flavour to the dish. It is unremarkably served during ‘Dhavats’ vernacularly known as ‘Taam’ along with chana and maah dal. One of the best rajmas (red kidney beans) are said to be grown in Doda- kishtwar- Ramban belt of Jammu region. Peerah, a small village in Ramban district, on the Jammu- Srinagar National highway is very famous for Rajma- Chawal that come doused in pure desi ghee. Rajma chawal is served alongwith a tangy anardana chutney. The rajmas grown in Doda district are smaller in size than most rajma grown in plains.
Taste buds are ignited on hearing the word ‘Street food’. The street food in Jammu is not so humungous but admits altogether variant such like kalhadi kulcha which is given a personification of a burger that includes bread, morzerella like cheese made from goat or cow milk and cooked vegetables. This dish owes its origin to Udhampur of Jammu. Another grand snack is kachalu chaat, which offers a combined taste of lemon, red chiliflakes, black eyed beans and tamarind in the best way possible. Coming to Chaap, is a king of mock meat or vegetarian/ vegan meat prepared with soyabean chunks and flour. Malai chaap is usually preferred over other chaap vegetables like tandoori chaap, malai tikka chap, afghani malai chaap and many more.
No meal can complete its existence without a luscious dessert. ‘Always save room for a dessert’ is being said invariantly. The inhouse dessert of Jammutees is ‘Patisa’ which is a close cuisine of the more commonly known as ‘Soan papdi’. This is being prepared by the legendary Prem Sweets of Qud, Jammu.
Outrightly uttering of Himachal Pradesh cuisines, red meat and wheat bread dominates this category traditionally. Thick and rich gravy, with aromatic spices, is used in abundance as the base of many dishes. ‘Dham’ is the traditional food served in marriages or other functions. It is a complete food which is ayurvedic and nutritional harmonizing. The ethnic foods include rajmah madra, kadi, Khatta, sepu badi and so forth, exhibit a treasure of food heritage and are an integral component of the diet of the people in the state. Khatta chana is one of the most popular dishes from Himachal that is an integral part of traditional thali called ‘Dham’.
Another cuisine offering gustatory sensation is ‘Madra’ which is an original delicacy that belongs to the ‘Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh’. The dish mainly consists of the soaked chickpea (chana) or vegetables cooked well in the oil and various spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander powder and turmeric powder enhance the taste of this dish. The street food made from wheat flour, ‘Siddu’ is a local side dish of Himachal Pradesh which greatly compliments the main course of some vegetables. Its formulation is difficult and time consuming, but for the taste that it renders every minute of preparation is worth it. The afters include ‘Mittha’ which is prepared in special occasions. It has sweetened rice mixed with dry fruits and raisins.
Northern India grows a lot of wheat, so bread such as naan and roti are common which rice and lentils dominates in other cuisines. These north Indian cuisines are low in their calorific value, thus insisting our bodies to be fit automatically. Precisely, the cuisines of Jammu and Himachal Pradesh are similar in ingredients but depict a slight deviation in the terminology and the way these are being prepared. Their day- to- day food shows bit of a similarity with the other North Indian states. They too have lentil broth, rice, vegetables and bread.
There has been an era when Himachali women would wake up at four to prepare some authentic cuisines such as siddu for their families. But what has been changed over a decade that the whole situation has been dynamically metamorphosed. Folks are so busy in their daily chores that they are wholly solely dependent on instant food, but ‘food’ is an experience to be explored and enjoyed by the rich and the poor.
Life is just like ‘Indian foods’ different spices are mixed together to make the food tastier just like that: – love, happy, sad, trouble are there in life to make life more interesting. – Bismayee Barik.
(The author are Ph.D Scholar, SKUAST- Jammu and Associate Professor, SKUAST, Jammu)
Priti Singh, Dr L K Sharma