Forget dalgona coffee, dishwashing and home-gardening, among the many trends that unfolded during phase one of the pandemic, the shining resurgence of Garhwali cuisine—so far the lacklustre child of that chunky body of eating practices that together constitute Himalayan cuisine—stood out. This mini-revolution materialised alongside endless doom-scrolling sessions on social media, as creators, cooks, food stylists and home chefs converged on online forums to talk about Uttarakhand’s food beyond kafuli.
It came partly from the urgent need to eat clean and fortify the constitution with ingredients anointed by nature as pure, and partly from the nostalgia for the hills and one’s home far away. Chef Thomas Zacharias (The Bombay Canteen) famously took two weeks off to eat through the state and discover under-represented cooking and eating practices in Uttarakhand. Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal, culinary chronicler and prominent champion of Uttarakhand food, moved briefly to her husband’s home town in the state. Bengaluru-based food photographer and stylist Sanskriti Bist, too, returned to her native Dehradun, as did Chef Pawan Bisht of One8Commune.
Traditionally, food from these parts has been synonymous with names such as chainsoo and aloo ke gutke,or even bal mithai to the completely uninitiated. Corporate food festivals at five-star hotels and high-end diners often end up with absurd ingredient pairings and recipes that disregard the culinary profile of the region. The pandemic, however, saw the rise of pop-ups and cloud kitchens featuring pahadi menus by home chefs. With its impressive variety of ingredients, produce and spartan cooking techniques, the state’s gastronomy deserves a more educated and sustainable approach for it to stay front and centre of our conversations around food.
This feature appeared in the print edition of National Geographic Traveller India May-June 2021.
Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.