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Food for the Soul..

It’s impossible to remember a dish without recalling the memory attached to it. I often say that the simplest dishes are the best in flavours and difficult to recreate too. Perhaps the USP is the people who made it? The place? The ingredients?

Speaking of simplicity, a cuisine that I have begun to crave now and find quite difficult to replicate, is the Pahadi cuisine. I’ll tell you why.
A trip to Ladakh in general and Turtuk in particular few years ago, changed my life and palate forever.

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A major factor that drew me to Turtuk, apart from its geography was Balti food. Turtuk is one of the few Indian regions where one can find Balti culture and cuisine.

One of the most fascinating dishes I experienced here was Kissir, a rustic pancake made with buckwheat flour, served with Tsemik.

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Tsemik is a yogurt-based dip or accompaniment, made with a Himalayan herb of the same name, that has sharp Basil-like flavours. It’s a must try.
The dish is a classic example of resourcefulness; Buckwheat or Kuttu, that mostly emerges during the Vrat time in metro cultures, grows here aplenty. The hardy grain is naturally gluten free, is easily digestible, especially in the colder climes and is super rich in dietary fibre.

Oh, did I mention Turtuk is famous for its apricots too? One can spot the (if in season) tender apricots, teasingly hanging from the trees during a jaunt through the village. I still recall the fruity aroma of the homemade Khubani ka Tel used in the households here.

Moving further up to Spiti, a place the nomad me visits often, it gave me another dish memory for life.
Halting at a monastery here, I was lured into the kitchen (couldnt help it!) by the warm aromas wafting from it. I caught up with a monk preparing the evening meal (isn’t food the perfect conversation starter!).

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I have tasted the Thukpa often in street stalls and restaurants, but nothing could have prepared me for the version I sampled here. The gentleman had a simple Mise en place with seasonal ingredients and minimalistic spice box.

Perhaps, it was the vibration in the holy kitchen and around him that brought out the Malang in me.
The monk’s commentary while cooking, the aroma of the Thukpa and of course, the resultant appetite were making me quite heady, in a good way!
Finally the moment arrived as we all sat down to dinner after the prayers. One sip of the soup and it hit me. This is all it takes to create magic! Food is meant to feed the soul and that’s exactly what the Kissir and Thukpa did for me.

In a trend driven world, here were people with perfectly satiated palates and what I have come to helplessly love – saaf neeyat.

[Click here for my recreation of the Thukpa]

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