Pahaari Dhaam Menu
Once upon a time, some 1300 years ago, a King in Himachal Pradesh was so enamoured by the Kashmiri Wazwaan that he ordered his cooks to prepare a vegetarian variant of their own. The Botis, a Brahmin community that served as the King’s chefs gradually devised a saatvik menu that was devoid of any onions and garlic; and relied entirely on locally-available ingredients such as lentils, pulses, dairy, mustard and ground-spices. This gamut of delicacies came to be collectively known as ‘dhaam’ and came to be served exclusively in temples as prasaad (divine offerings enjoyed by the devotees).
The sheer simplicity and precision that went into preparing the various dhaam recipes required a certain expertise in culinary skills. Even the cooking equipment used catered uniquely to the climatic conditions and nutritional requirements of the particular regions. In all, traditional dhaam preparations stood distinguished in two features. One, that they used neither vegetables nor meat. Two, that each recipe was cooked in narrow-mouthed pots made of a copper alloy, ergonomics that ideally maximised the heat efficiency amidst the cold Himalayan climate.
Over the years, the dhaam’s popularity surged across the various Himalayan states and principalities, deriving local adaptations and symbolic mentions in occasions such as wedding ceremonies, family gatherings as well as religious events. The more recent evolutions of the dhaam cuisine include a diverse range of ingredients that span well beyond the conventional restrictions of meat and vegetables. Today, the Himachali dhaam stands as a notable cuisine in itself, bearing popular local variants from Chamba, Kangra, Lahaul and Kullu amongst others.