Yesterday I visited my brother who lives in the outskirts of Haldwani, some 8-9 kms from my house.
I spent almost 5 hours with him and in between took lunch. In the evening his wife prepared “Patyur” for us which she served with tea. My God! What a dish…it was so tasty. So today’s post is about our traditional food.
Food defines the character of a place. The cuisine from the Shaukas is as unique as its impressive culture and vibrant tradition. In Johar, the men in every family used to eat first, and then the children and women at last. Now it has changed and whole family eat together.
My memory about food starts from the days we started living in Kanoli after 1962. I was young and learning to understand things. Our day would start with morning tea served in a brass tumbler along with a piece of ‘gud’ (jaggery) or ‘misri’ for sweetening the tea as sugar was scarcely available. In breakfast mostly ‘madua’ (a kind of Finger millet) ‘rotis’, ‘dwangcha’ (a kind of chutney paste) and ‘Jyaa’ (butter tea) was served. Sometimes ‘aalu’(potato) ‘gutkas’were also given.
I was surprised to find out that the potato was not known in India before the nineteenth century, and now it is an essential part of our diet not in hills only but all over the country. Researchers say that the potato was introduced by two Irishmen, Captain Young of Dehradun and Mussoorie and Captain Kennedy of Shimla in the 1820s. Probably the crop best suited to the stony terraced fields of hilly areas. That is why ‘Pahari-Aloo’ (Hill-potato) is so tasty and famous.
I do not know when Shauka started drinking ‘Jyaa’, though ‘Jyaa’ is the traditional drink of Tibetans. I had already posted my write-up on Jya some time back. All I can say is that Jya is a hot drink and a part of staple food of Shauka. Since the climatic condition of Johar-Munsyar was extremely cold, Jyaa being hot beverage suited Shaukas.
As far ‘Dwangcha’, it is a kind of chutney. It is a paste of chilly (red or green), salt and ‘tyamur’ (a kind of herb found in our valleys). If tyamur is not available, coriander, garlic shoots is used. It is very hot. ‘Madua ki roti’ with ‘tyamur ka dwangcha’ followed by ‘Jyaa’ is luxury.
Another dish for breakfast is ‘Kukla’. It looks like noodles but its strips are thick as compared to the strips of noodles. ‘Kukla’ are made from wheat dough which is stretched, rolled into shapes of strips. It is then cooked in boiling water; then fried in mustard oil with salt, chilly and masalas and served hot.
The food of Shaukas is incomplete without ‘Daal-bhaat’. In lunch ‘Daal-Bhaat’ (rice-daal) and tupkya (any seasonal vegetable) with ‘bhang (hash seeds) ki chutney’ is common dish for Shaukas. If meat was available, it used to be the best lunch, a sumptuous feast.
In the kitchen of Shaukas a wide range of pulses is used to make mouth watering recipes which are mostly taken with ‘bhaat’. ‘Bhaat’ is essential item for lunch. If ‘bhaat’ is not served and in its place ‘roti’ was served, Shauka would complain that he has not taken the lunch. Roti is never an item for lunch.
Shaukas have a soft spot for ‘bhatt’, a locally grown black soya bean. Bhatt blended with rice paste to make ‘Churkyani’ bestowed with a great many essential nutrients. Some time ‘Gehat’, a kind of local pulse is also used for making daal or Churkyani.
One very traditional Shauka recipe is ‘Dubuka’ which is made of either bhatt or gehat which are boiled and later separated from the stock. The stock is converted into a fine paste by adding rice paste and some spices and cooked in slow fire allowing it to simmer for a long time. ‘Dubuka’ is one of my favourite dishes.
Without ‘Bhang ki chutney’, the Shaukas’ lunch looks incomplete. It is made from bhang seeds, garlic shoots, tamarind, salt, chilly (red or green) and lemon. This incredibly aromatic chutney is prepared in a stone mortar (sil-butta).
But there was one more dish I was very fond of. It was ‘Jeola’ made of rice and curd. This special dish used to be prepared by my Thulima (Tai ji) once in a week. I still remember that I would always shut my eyes while the ‘Jeola’ was being poured out into my plate, with the hope that when I opened my eyes I would be surprised to see how much I had got. When I opened my eyes I would tip the plate in one direction to another, so as to make the ‘Jeola’ spread all over it, in the full belief that there would be more of it and that it would last longer if spread out in this way. Moreover, it was one way of allowing it to cool down.
These are some of the dishes I like most.
See you soon with a new post. Take care.