Indian cuisine is considered one of the world’s most diverse cuisines, characterized by its subtle use of spices, vegetables, grains, and fruits grown across India. If we divide it majorly, it has North Indian cuisine which includes dishes from Uttarakhand, Punjab, and other northern states, South Indian cuisine which includes dishes from Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, and other southern states, and North-Eastern Cuisine including dishes from Nagaland, Meghalaya and other north-eastern states.
Uttarakhand’s cuisine is an important part of North Indian cuisine, yet it is very underrated. Uttarakhand has always been famous for its tourist attractions, but it is less known for its food. If we try to dive deep into Uttarakhand’s food culture, we can find that Uttarakhand’s food offers palates of appetizing dishes that are high on nutrition. The food here is simple yet great, just like its people. So here is one iconic dish from Uttarakhand’s cuisine, which is one of the most famous desserts of Uttarakhand, known as Bal Mithai.
Bal Mithai is brown chocolate-like fudgy sweet delight that is sweet and chewy. It has an identical colour like chocolate, but there is no chocolate in it. It gets its dark brown color from solid condensed milk or Khoya, which is a milk food widely used in Indian cuisine. Researchers say that Bal Mithai is a nutritional food as it contains a natural balance of fat, proteins, and carbohydrates. it is soft and easily chewable hence it is easy to eat and digest.
Bal Mithai in Almora is believed to come from Nepal in the seventh or eighth century. There is no specific historical account about how it is made now in Nepal, but in Almora, it was made famous by Lala Joga Ram Shah, who used to run his shop at Lal Bazaar, Almora. Since the seventh century, Bal Mithai kept on getting modified, and the version we see today is the one, which was reinvented by Lala Joga Ram Shah in the early 20th century.
He used a special kind of milk from nearby villages to make this dessert which gave it a distinct flavour and texture. Older Bal Mithai used poppy seeds for coating, but to save money, people have started using sugar balls instead of them. After Jogaram Shah Made Bal popular, other shopkeepers started copying his recipe. One shop was of two brothers, Kheem Singh and Mohan Singh Rautela, whose shop is now a popular destination for authentic Bal Mithai in Almora.
The recipe of Bal Mithai uses simple ingredients, but the process is very complex.
1. Khoya, sugar, and poppy seeds/white Sugar balls are required to make Bal Mithai.
2. Khoya is cooked on slow and steady heat on a non-stick pan & stirred continuously till its color becomes dark brown and chocolate-like.
3. Then sugar is added and cooked till it is thick in consistency.
4. The mixture is then poured over a greased tray and is cooled.
5. Then, rectangular pieces are cut and coated with sugar balls.
( You can also enjoy it without sugar balls as chocolate barfi.)
If you visit Uttarakhand for any purpose in the future, don’t forget to taste this sweet tooth of Uttarakhand. Although other Shopkeepers around Kumaun and Garhwal region has also started selling Bal Mithai, the authentic taste that you get in Almora cannot be found anywhere else.
Read some more interesting facts about the food around you, here.