What is a Dham?
Dham is a Traditional Himachali Festive meal. It is a feast that is a good example of complete food as per Ayurveda having all six rasa, served in a proper sequence.
The entire Dham is Satvik and is made by Boti Chefs of the region. Satvik means onion, ginger or garlic are not used to prepare a Dham. Preparations for this elaborate mid-day meal begins a night before the event.
A temporary kitchen called Rasialu is usually built outside the main house with bamboo sticks as main pillars and steel sheets as roof to cook the Dham.
Food is generally cooked in thick copper and brass vessels with a broad base and a narrow opening. These utensils are normally called “Batohi“, “Baltohi” or “Charoti” in local languages.
Why is a Dham Satvik?
It is believed that initially dham was served in the temples as Prasad, and hence, the entire meal is Satvik. Another unique aspect of traditional dham is that usually no vegetables are used in any of the dishes. It is purely made from various types of lentils and dairy products.
What are the types of Dham in Himachali cuisine?
There are 12 kinds of Dham in Himachali cuisine. These pertain to the regions where they are served. These dham are briefly explained below.
- Chamba – Chambyali Dham – One of the most favourite Dham across Himachal Pradesh, Chambyali dham is said to be the birthplace of dham historically. The dishes are dominated by Madra and rajmah and kaala chana is a must. The madra dishes ooz with ghee and are to be eaten with rice. Chamba kadhi is another dish of Chamba dham with gucchi (local mushroom) pulao. Khatta is also served with available vegetables and the dham is topped off with a sweet dish. It can be sweet pulao or even halwa mixed with poppy seeds.
- Kangra – Kangri Dham – The Kangri Dham Thali’s speciality is telia mah, black lentil dal doused in ghee and mixed lightly with spices; served with chickpeas madra, kaale chane ka khatta (sweet and sour black gram mahni) and other curries served with rice. Moong dal is also used in some dishes. Kangri dham also makes use of the dhuni (dhungar) techniquewherein, mustard oil is poured over a piece of burning coal and is placed in the dish and covered for some time to give the smoky flavor that is called dhuni.
- Mandi – Mandiyali Dham – This Dham follows the Ayurvedic pattern of serving food where the sweet dish is served first. Boondi ka meetha (Bengal gram flour dipped in sweet syrup) denotes the starting of the meal in Mandyali dham. After that, the feast begins – Sepuvadi (Fresh spinach leaves are made into a gravy and vadi is a deep fried fritter of black lentil and bengal gram) is served with rice. Next on the serving platter is kaddu ka khatta (Sweet and sour pumpkin dish made with tamarind and jaggery) and mah ki dal (black lentil dal) made in copious amounts of ghee. A different variety of madra with kidney beans is prepared and the ubiquitous kadhi is also served to be eaten with rice. Sometimes khatte chane (sweet and sour bengal gram) are also made and served in Mandiyali dham. The dham is finished by serving jhol – buttermilk like drink made by mixing curd and water.
- Kullu – Kullvi Dham – Kullvi Dham doesn‘t have many different dishes as compared to Mandyali Dham but it’s serving process differs. Like Chambyali Dham, 2-3 different types of madra like rajmah madra, chickpea madra and Gucchi Madra are served first with rice. The dham continues with telia maash (oil fried black lentils) with delicious kadhi, chane ka khatta and meetha chawal (sweet rice) completes the feast.
- Kinnaur – Kinnauri Dham – In Kinnauri dham, rice is served along with puri, halwa, and seasonal vegetables. There is also provision of liquor and mutton for the guests. Apricot finds its way in different chutneys.
- Hamirpur – Hamirpuri Dham – Traditional madra is the epic of this region prepared with pungent flavouring mustard oil. Onions and tomatoes are used wisely, but curd finds its place in many of the dishes. Dried apricots are used for preparing khattas. Palda, Maah dal rajmah and chana dal are the most sophisticated mouthwatering novelties.
- Lahaul and Spiti – Lahauli Dham – In Lahaul and Spiti district, rice is served along with chana dal (Bengal gram), rajmah (kidney beans), chole (chick pea), aloo gobhi sabji, and mutton. Hot spices and the use of ginger, garlic and onion is very common and in almost all the dishes.
- Una – Unaini Dham – In Unaini dham , rice, chana daal, rajmah, maah ki daal along with palda finds a special place in dham. Almost all feasts culminate with Boondi kaa meetha. The Food, the style of preparation and the eating habits of the people of this district is very much influenced by Punjab and Chandigarh.
- Solan – Solani Dham – Dham served in Solan, use onion and tomatoes based gravy for preparing dishes. Raita with cuccumber and Ramban (a wild thorny tree branch) is used as digestif. The Dhungar technique (adding smoky flavour) is used on Raita. Sooji ka halwa cooked in desi ghee is served as a sweet dish and usually served as the first course of Dham. Seasonal vegetables like Yam (Jimikund), Matar paneer, urad dal and a potato preparation is used in these areas.
- Sirmaur – Sirmauri Dham – In Sirmouri dham, rice, maah ki daal, pude, jalebi, halwa, and shakkar are served in dham. Patande, ainkulu, and sidu are some of the famous foods of Sirmaur district.
- Bilaspur – Bilaspuri Dham – In this moong dal cooked in ghee, serving as a rich source of carbohydrates; simple urad daal and tur daal cooked in the mouth-watering white mustard paste, followed by spicy sebu badi. Adding to the savory menu is khatta, which is unique as it consists of pumpkin, chickpeas, tamarind, and jaggery followed by the kadi pakoda which is a must. In the end, a sweet dish bundi ka meetha is served glazing the feast with irresistible kaleidoscopic colors.
- Shimla – Shimlai Dham – In rural Shimla, maah ki daal, chane ki daal, safed chane kamadra, jimikand (yam), paneer, kale chane ka khatta, and sweets such as badana (Boondi) or small-sized gulab jamuns are served.