Himachal Pradesh is one of those cities in India that serve as the epitome of natural beauty. Being a part of the western Himalayas, the state boasts of a large number of hill stations making up its towns and cities. This is one of the reasons why it is visited by a large number of tourists in summers as well as winters. While a trip to Himachal Pradesh in the summers serves as the perfect respite from the scorching heat of the plains, a winter trip lets you witness the sight of houses covered with the white cloak of snow.
Apart from its natural beauty, Himachal Pradesh is also known for dishing out one of the most delicious cuisines of India. Though Himachali cuisine, as it is commonly known, is not as varied as other Indian cuisines, it does have a distinctive taste of its own. Irrespective of the regional differences in the cuisine of the state, non-vegetarian food, with liberal use of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and red chilies, is common. In the house of a Himachali, you will usually find meat, lentil and cereal preparations.
In the routine days, the cuisine of Himachal Pradesh resembles that of the other states of North India to quite an extent. People enjoy eating rice, paddy and maize. The most common dishes of the state include rice, with maahni (urad dal prepared with dried mangoes) or madra (lentils made with yoghurt). Another popular dish is the one made from Salayara and Kodra, an iron rich cereal. You will also find people eating Sattu on a regular basis.
Non-vegetarian dishes, cooked with generous doses of spices and ghee, are very much preferred by the Himachalis. In fact, some time back, the only vegetables that were eaten by them comprised of potatoes and turnips. With time, green vegetables are being made a part of the usual diet. The people of Himachal Pradesh drink tea generously, that too made as per numerous different recipes. They also give importance to milk and other dairy products.
In case of festivals and other significant occasions, the dishes prepared vary from the usual ones. During this time, the traditional meal of Dham is given importance. This particular meal can be prepared only by botis i.e. Brahmin chefs who have been in the profession for generations. For the purpose, copper utensils are made use of and the preparation starts at least a night before. Dham is usually served in courses, to people sitting on floor.
For the purpose of serving the meal, epattalsi, or leaf plates, are required. The dishes that form the ‘Dham’ meal include rice, a curd based dish, curry, mustard-based raita, pulses and sweets. Other dishes that are prepared in case of festive occasions include ankalos, a dish made of rice flour, and aktori, a cake prepared by mixing leaves of buckwheat with wheat flour. Patande, a type of pancake dish, also forms a part of festivals.