Exploring the quaint cafes and local Himachali food in Manali

GASTRONOMY, TRAVEL

By Nivi Shrivastava

Some of the most memorable aspects of a good holiday are the food you eat and local joints that you explore by chance. During my recent trip to Manali in February, I discovered some amazing food options that one must try while spending a vacation in this beautiful resort town. I stayed with the Renest River Country Resort Manali and got a chance to try out some awesome Indian, Continental and local dishes at the hotel in my cozy cottage overlooking the Himalayas. Try the creamy pasta, noodles or delicious mutton biryani at the hotel with fresh plum and apple juice.

There are all kinds of popular cuisines and street bites available in Manali, a must-try on your list has to be the wood oven pizza and siddu from Renest River Country Resort Manali. We were delighted to try out the local food with Neter Singh, Executive Chef at Renest Manali, and he even gave us some cool lessons to make the pizza in the wood oven. Speaking about the Himachali favourite Siddu, he told us, “Siddu* is a popular dish in Himachal Pradesh and it is often consumed during winters with ghee throughout the state to keep the body warm and to provide energy. It is a dish made during celebrations and special occasions in our homes. It’s served with pudina chutney or lentil broth (dal) more often. ”

(*A classic siddu recepie shared by chef at the end of the story)

Cafés in Manali: There are some amazing cafes and outlets to try Tibet-inspired cuisines like Thupka, dumplings, momos, and noodle soups etc – one of my lucky find during the trip was a cozy little café called the Green Olive Café, on the Gurudwara Road, which serves some hearty homemade dishes from the hills. For those who like to binge on soft cones, chaats, cream rolls and spicy street food, head to the Mall Road and explore the delicious options on your way up hill. Another recommendation is Café 1947, located at the outskirts of the main town, and it happens to be a buzzing joint that serves yummy shakes and cocktails.  

While travelling to differernt tourist destinations in Manali, try hill specialities like the chocolate cake and coffee or peppermint tea at the little earty in Roerich Art Gallery while you enjoy the view of the Himalayan range and the valley from top. Go for the local thaali with red rice, jawar roti, dal and local green veggies at the Maniram dhaba near the waterfall. And, don’t forget the khulad chai and pahadi maggi at the popular peaks and camp sites, while you enjoy the beautiful sunset in peace.

For those who wish to make Siddu at home, here’s a recipe shared by Chef Neter Singh.

Ingredients used in preparation:-

½ cup – Urad Dal without skin / Potato / Walnut / Dalia

2 cup – Wheat flour

1 tsp – Active dry yeast

½ tsp and ½ tsp – Salt

2 tsp – Ghee

½ tsp- Red chilli powder

1 inch – Ginger, grated

2 – Green chilli, chopped

¼ tsp – Turmeric powder

½ pinch- Asafoetida

1 tsp – Coriander powder

Coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method of preparation:

Step one: Clean the dal with water, then soak it in water for two hours. In a large mixing basin, combine the flour and a small amount of ghee. Toss in some yeast and a pinch of salt.

Step two: Knead the dough in a bowl with lukewarm water until the dough is soft. Once the dough is ready, rest it for about two hours.

Step three: Drain any excess water from the dal. Coarsely grind it. On a dish, spread the dal paste. Season it with salt, then red chilli powder, ginger, and green chilli. Turmeric powder, asafoetida, coriander powder, and a few coriander leaves are all good additions. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the dal. Set aside for some time.

Step four: Make little chunks out of the dough. With your hands, fold it into a circular shape. Now roll one of these pieces of dough into a circular shape, keeping it thick. Place a small amount of the stuffing on the dough. Fold the dough in half-moon shape from the top to cover the stuffing. You can either press or fold the edges. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Step five: In a pan, add 2-2.5 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil. Using ghee or oil, grease a strainer pan. Carefully set the strainer pan on top of the water-filled pan. Siddus should be placed in the strainer pan. Steam the siddus for 18-20 minutes on medium to high heat, covered. Remove the strainer pan from the stove after 20 minutes and allow the siddus to cool. Serve it with ghee and mint chutney.

 (Food and experience courtesy:  Renest Hotels & Resorts)

(The writer is a Delhi-based blogger, and you can reach her at newspeakwork@gmail.com)

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