Let’s Talk About Garhwali Food From Mussoorie
The air starts to feel lighter, fresher, and more fragrant when you’re passing through the 35 kilometres between Mussoorie and Dehradun, its nearest airport. The region is home to Garhwali Himalayan range, and presents many unique flora and fauna to those visiting.
This non-agricultural region also approaches food differently, and we’ll be talking about much of the local food eaten in Mussoorie through this piece.
The Plates of Garhwal
The local fare is heavy on wheat and pulses, which are significant sources of nutrition for the region. Pulses, in particular, are an important part of the diet for inexpensive, wholesome, and tasty protein. A breakfast at any Garhwali home will offer a mix of textures, ranging from light, pastry-like coverings made from Jhangori and Rice atta before being stuffed with sweet fillings to small, crisp Urad Dal Vadas prepared from heat on one side and steam on the other.
The stuffing in a typical dish at home is found in the land around, especially the lighter, more delicate flavours in the rajma of the region. The Parathas stuffed with them are best had with white butter and some yellow-green apricot chutney with a curiously addictive sour and tangy flavour, and the rice papads are traditionally made for Baisakhi.
Grander meals here consist of meat and more delicate spicing, rather than richness as we often associate with popular North Indian food. Meat or chicken are often served on the bone in gravies that encourage second helpings for the light spices and a gentle texture.
Here too, a meal is dominated by pulses like kidney beans, greens, and a light-handed approach in the kitchen, which lets the ingredients shine without much masking of its inherent flavour.
The food isn’t limited only to traditional fare, as you can also eat an Asian meal Teppan, the Asian restaurant at JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa. With an experienced teppanyaki chef behind the steaming iron counter, the food here can be as much performance art as it is wholesome, satisfying, and remarkably tasty.
Serving Japanese, Thai, and Chinese food, Teppan is an elegant and discreet place to order everything from a stunningly well-executed and aromatic Thai Red Curry, clinically proportioned sushi, to hearty, familiar Chinese dishes served in a more authentic style.
As we experienced in a gourmet meal during our stay at the resort, Garhwali ingredients have a vast amount of potential. Currently only used in homes and to prepare a Garhwali Thali served on the premises, there has been no effort to see them in a sophisticated, gourmet-led style.
However, without any spoilers on an experimental menu that is also a work in progress, there’s enough promise here to see some truly unique, fresh ingredients prepared in a manner we’re more used to seeing in hotels, like this dessert of Dragon fruit, lychee, poached figd, and buranz dust.
The culinary landscape in Mussoorie is currently largely simple and rustic. Much of the produce around these hills is unique and even familiar flavours like kidney beans taste cleaner and subtler than they would two towns away.
With some guidance and experimentation, the region could offer some remarkable food at a higher level than where it stands, which is a simple, homely, and light approach to nutritious food, although with an emphasis on being frugal.
How Do Mussoorie Locals Eat Meat?
With Kempty river in the neighbourhood, Mussoorie makes a pleasant spot to eat some freshwater fish. The locals like their catch coated in millet and fried to a crust. Best enjoyed by itself, like anything in the area, this too is improved by apricot chutney.
Although hunting for game is no longer legal, there isn’t any lack of meat, especially for special occasions. Take, for example, Mutton Kachmoli, typically a whole sheep cooked over a fire. We got a sense of its preparation and nuanced masala, although it would have been a treat to see a full-sized animal rotate over a fire.
Mussoorie Even Has Its Own Infused Alcohol
With some geographical indication tag help, India could be sitting on a treasure of an alcohol from this part. Named Kachi, this local country liquor is smoothest with some lemon to dilute it. The aftertaste is of a gentle citrus, although it can be infused with anything. Another version we tried was infused with peach, which warmed us up immediately, although there was no distinct aftertaste in this version.
The most common feeling on this trip is one of wonder at fresh, rustic flavours that are proving trickier to find in cities every day. We were also impressed with the results of simplicity applied to fresh ingredients from nearby, which is clearly a force no amount of imported produce can quite compete with.