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Sidu, Aunty and Bhuntar | Himachal Pradesh

Sidu with Chutney and Ghee
Sidu with Chutney and Ghee

It’s easier to find Shakshuka or Lafa on this route. So finally, when I found the Himachali speciality Sidu, did I really like it? Read on.

Few months ago, I spent some really wonderful time in Himachal Pradesh. I had gone for a road trip between DharamsalaManaliKasol and then back to Dharamsala via Bhuntar, a small district famous for housing Kullu Airport and also for its connectivity to Manikaran and Kullu-Manali.

I had been travelling with my siblings and Kasol was our last stop before we started our return to Dharamsala. Exhausted from travelling in a local mini bus wading on serpentine roads, we finally reached Bhuntar, our stopover for the next bus to Dharamsala. All I wanted to do was sit and relax for a while, before we resumed our arduously long journey.

My sister, Gullu who had been on this route before, insisted we try a local specialty called Sidu. Despite not being so hungry, I couldn’t contain my excitement for trying something new and something, which is so dear to the locals.

So, as soon as we got off the bus, we went to a local Kirana shop-cum-Dhaba. I could see Momos, Sandwiches and fresh fruit juices and shakes, but we were only looking for our Sidu.

My brother, Saurabh and I, were, however, completely clueless as to how Sidu will look or taste like. Gullu, nevertheless, placed an order for 3 Sidus quite confidently. And in no time, 3 plates of Sidu were sitting in front of us.

Sidu, is essentially bread made with wheat flour, kneaded with yeast, fermented for hours, before it is filled with a stuffing and steamed. Traditionally, it is eaten along with ghee, mint or apple chutney. So, ours were also served with ghee and additionally, filled with a mashed paste of green chilli, peas and walnuts.

The taste of the dish is still fresh in my mind. I liked the simple flavours. The soft bread like texture of Sidu, contrasted well with the crunchy walnut and chilli flavour of the stuffing. It was so simple, yet so different from anything I’ve had before. I am not a fan of ghee, but the aunty who ran the dhaba, insisted that I eat it with ghee. Hesitantly, I gave in and allowed her to drizzle some ghee on top of my Sidu. And I must say, some things are best enjoyed, just the way they are meant to be.

As we waited for our bus, I sat down and chatted with aunty. She told me Sidu could be made with any filling using tomatoes, garlic, onions, peanuts or even plain green peas. Just like Sarson Ka Saag, every household has their own recipe, though in principle the technique remains the same. Although the dough takes a lot of time in fermentation, the cooking part is only a matter of 10-15 minutes. In many ways, this dish is very similar to dumplings.

While we were gorging on Sidu and Mango Shake, I noticed Aunty talking to her local supplier of goods. She was trying to strike a deal for Sach Much Aam Ice Cream, as no one around her was selling it. She was looking after accounts, supplies and service. Also, she was the only lady, selling Sidu in the area. She seemed like an enterprising lady, someone who wanted to move forward, while keeping a grip onto her roots, as well.

I have often felt, as people living in cities, our vision of the world becomes very limited. In our ever-busy lives, we seldom realize what we’re leaving behind in the name of development. Sometimes, now-a-days, it’s easier to find a quality Burger, than probably a decent plate of Chana Bhatura. During my travels in different parts of Himachal Pradesh, finding a plate of Pasta has been easier than a plate of Rajma- Chawal or Madra (Himachali dish). So, meeting Aunty and eating her preparation of Sidu, gave me a sense of reassurance, that all is not lost.

I left the place, content, as I had tasted and felt something, so dear to the locals.

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