Uttarakhand is one of the most beautiful Himalayan states in India. The people here are really warm and friendly, and it is always an amazing experience to travel through the state. Uttarakhand has some really breathtaking places that one must visit at least once – the char dhams of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, Hemkund Sahib, Auli, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Nainital, Mussoorie, Dehradun, Corbett National Park, Rajaji National Park, and so many more.
Uttarakhand is not just special because of the lovely locations, the food here is just as delicious. I’ve written before about it, in my post on Hisalu berries. If you haven’t seen the post yet, you can check it out here.
While the people of Uttarakhand are really sweet and warm, their desserts are even sweeter. That was a very corny thing to say, my apologies! But its still true.
The traditional desserts of Uttarakhand may not be as well-known outside Uttarakhand like the sweets from many other states of India, but that does not make them any less yummy. Home to the unique Pahari cuisine, Uttarakhand has loads to offer in terms of delicious delicacies. There are unique ingredients, robust flavors and distinct cooking techniques used by the people here.
Note: If you are counting calories or are on a strict diet devoid of sweet treats (read devoid of the joy of life that is food), then this is where you stop reading. Feeling tempted to cheat on your diet is not the responsibility of the author.
Here are my six most favorite desserts from the beautiful state of Uttarakhand:
I first had this when a colleague shared it with me in office. Since then, I’ve loved it, asked everyone I know visiting the state to get it for me, and sometimes even guilty of hoarding it. Bal mithai is a specialty of the Almora district of Uttarakhand. It is a khoya-based fudge-like sweet. It is generally coated with white sugar balls which gives it a crunchy texture on the outside. The unique taste of this mithai comes from the Maillard browning and caramelization of the khoya. To make the bal mithai, khoya is roasted until it turns brown, then sugar is added. The mixture is stirred continuously until it turns a dark chocolate brown. The hot mixture is spread flat, cut into pieces and coated with the small white sugar balls.
This is a fried dessert, and my mouth is watering even as I am writing this. Arsa is made using rice flour, jaggery, dry fruits and the magic ingredients – cardamom powder. Arsa has different versions and variations across India. In Bihar and Maharashtra it is called as Anarsa. In Uttar Pradesh, it is called as Pua. In Tamil Nadu, it goes by Adhirasam. Call it what you like, but most festive occasions are incomplete without these delicious treat. Traditionally in Uttarakhand, arsa is fried in mustard oil which gives it a unique rustic, smoky, and earthy flavor.
This one comes from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, and again I had it first when a friend shared it with me after returning from home. Singori, sometimes written as singodi is a khoya and coconut based dessert molded in an indigenous leaf called ‘molu’. Molu leaves are commonly found on the hill slops in the Kumaon region, and have a peppery fragrance which adds to the flavor of singori. Since these leaves can’t be found outside Uttarakhand, it is really hard to find Singori anywhere outside Uttarakhand.
The name sounds funny, I agree, but this Garhwali sweet is as delicious as it gets. Kumaoni weddings are practically incomplete without the gulgule. The sweet is also popular in the neighboring states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and even Bihar. Gulgule isgenerally fried in oil or preferably ghee, and then flavored with the fennel seeds. It is made using wheat flour and semolina, and is very similar to the arsa. Nowadays, there are many flavors of gulgule available, created by swapping the fennel seeds with other fragrant spices and fruits, especially banana. Locally, some people also refer to it as pua or khajur (no, not the dates that come from the Middle East).
Another festive staple, singals is a fried snack served with tea or aloo ke gutke. Aloo ke gutke is a delicious Pahari-style aloo ki subzi (it is so delicious that I can eat it up as is, without any accompaniments). Singals are made using semolina, banana, hung curd, milk, sugar, and cardamom powder. The ingredients are mixed to form a thick batter, and then fried in oil or ghee. They are soft and spongy in texture. You can’t stop at having just one Singal, I assure you.
Jhangore ki Kheer
Everybody has eaten kheer, but have you ever tried the Jhangore ki Kheer? People allergic to gluten, rejoice, Jhagore ki kheer is gluten-free. And its nutritious. And most importantly, it is an indispensable part of Garhwali cuisine. Jhagora in Garhwali cuisine is the barnyard millet. In Hindi, the barnyard millet is called Shama. We, here in Gujarat, called it as Sama. Jhangora is a widely grown millet crop in Uttarakhand and used in many dishes in local cuisines. Jhangore ki kheer, like just about any other kheer, is made by cooking the jhangore with milk cardamom powder, and sugar. Common garnishes for the kheer include ghee-roasted cashew nuts, raisins and charoli seeds.
Makes for quite a list to try on your next trip to Uttarakhand, doesn’t it? And if you have friends or colleagues who are from Uttarakhand, you know exactly what to ask them to bring back for you from home. Well, add the buttery biscuits from Ellora’s Melting Moments to it if your friend is coming from Dehradun. Pahari cuisine is delicious comfort food at best, and if you have never tried it, then you must now. You’ll find a lot of recipes of simple dishes. The beauty of the Pahari cuisine lies in its simplicity. Do try these desserts and tell me how you like them, would love to hear from you.