Have you tried these lesser-known regional dishes?

Ask your grandma. There’s nothing as precious as her recipes. The most astounding tastes are to be found in family cooking techniques, and old spice cupboards and mortar-pestles have their own culinary stories to tell. With India being so diverse, each region has its own way to lure the tastebuds. There is a huge variety of such fare that is untapped and still unknown. A few home chefs got cooking and shared their secrets of what makes for delightful food, from the far corners of the country…

Unexplored territory, huge potential


Our country is immensely soaked in various cultures and with it comes the distinctive array of cuisines associated with each region of India. Thus there is so much that can be done with it, feels food stylist . “These cuisines include a variety of comfort foods, which often go unexplored. It’s no longer just dal chawal, but so many equally satisfying foods from different parts of the country that fit the bill,” he says.
Geography plays a crucial role when it comes to the fare, adds chef . “For instance, comfort food in Kashmir is noon chai or kahwa . In Himachal, the popular dish is madra char gosht . While Punjabis love sarson da saag with makki di roti , in Haryana, this is served with bajri ki roti . The gatte ki curry is known, but what about jungli or safed maas or even the lesser-known rasgulle and gulab-jamun ki sabzi ? So, there’s a whole journey that needs to be covered,” he says.

Treasures from the home

A whole repertoire of authentic taste awaits when it comes to homestyle cooking, believes , who organised a conference for home chefs in Mumbai, recently. “These are folks who are quietly creating a food revolution through their culinary passion. I envisage that they are going to bring lesser known recipes to the fore; it’s time we readied for it,” he says.

A FEW HOME CHEFS GET COOKING

Oriya fare

Oriya cuisine has its own distinct taste. “It is still relatively unknown to other parts of India and is very rustic, very down-to-earth and tasty,” says foodie . “One of the favourites is phokal bhato or fermented rice, which is so popular there. I add a little Bengali gondhoraaj leboo to it, which takes the dish to another level. You also have slow-cooked chicken bati bosha , chinguri bata — a prawn chutney, the dalma gravy — a temple food, dahi baigana , which is a raita -like dish where you fry brinjal then add dahi on top and for dessert, chenna podo made of paneer,” she says.

North-Eastern style tribal delight



Many are unaware of North Eastern tribal cuisine, but it’s delicious. “I hope it comes onto restaurant menus here,” smiles Assamese food evangelist . “I did a pop-up in and it was sold out.” This food uses locally-grown herbs like maan dhoniya (coriander). Dishes include pork with bamboo shoot which is had at weddings, kolkolia maas or fish in black sesame and aaitar . “This translates into grandma’s dessert, though in the North East we have no concept of dessert after meals. Instead, you get tea and pitha (rice cakes),” she says.

Himachali fare



The next time you try a pop up, opt for Himachali cuisine. Says home chef from Shimla, Sherry Malhotra, who has been dishing it up. “The food has influences of Kashmir, and Tibet, so you will see a lot of yoghurt, dairy and lentils in it.” One of the most popular dishes includes chana madra , prepared during feasts. “This is a yoghurt gravy with chickpeas, jackfruit and spices. Other popular comfort foods includes sepu vadi — a spinach-based gravy eaten with babru — a fermented roti and turkiya bhaat , which is in essence, the Himachali pulao . “You must also try the char meat , a smoked preparation, prepared in a chulha in villages. The meals end with khus khus-makhane (lotus flowers) ki kheer ,” she informs.

Bengali bhoj



If what you know about Bengali food is just alu posto and chingri malai , take your tastebuds down another lane. There are a host of other comfort foods, says food blogger who prepares them. “You have the alu phulkopi dalna which is made on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she informs. There is also shorshe chingri or mustard prawns. “People use only mustard paste, but I added poppy seeds and coconut paste to it too as well as kalonji , which is how it is made traditionally in East Bengal,” she informs. A great meal-ender is gokul pithe , made during Janmashtami and . “It’s one of the most forgotten dishes, the new generation no longer makes it. Time we brought these recipes out,” she says.

Fave regional bites from across India

  • Bhajias: The crispy snack is not just a monsoon fave in Mumbai, but also enjoyed all-year-through with a cup of steaming chai .
  • Dhoklas: A popular dish from , fermented dhoklas are also had as a breakfast dish, with tangy mint chutney.
  • Dal makhni: Originating from Punjab, this dish has whole black lentils cooked with kidney beans, butter and cream.
  • Ragda/chole puri: The hot chickpea snack with bhatura or pattice is a must have in the north.
  • Curd rice: Relished in South India, soothing curd rice is almost a meal staple.

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