Sitting on the back of a scooter for over 250 km on rocky roads in the Himalayas, during monsoons, with a backpack is never easy. Suddenly, the view opened up to towering mountains filled with snow, up ahead and a shimmering stream running alongside. The last 80 km of the road trip was magical. Back in 2014, when I was visited Rishikesh for the first time, I was blessed to visit Tungnath – the highest Shiva Temple in the world.
The route can be completed in a day but I decided to stop along the way three times to enjoy the Garhwal beauty of Uttarakhand. The first prolonged pitstop was at Pauri which was truly breathtaking. Enroute I saw an adolescent tiger who was being chased by 3 Bhutia dogs. These Himalayan mastiffs make the most loyal & reliable pets.
The last stop was totally unplanned. The sun was beginning to set, and the rain was pouring down. I had to stop in Chopta, which was barely developed then. Luckily there was a local hotel which consisted of 2 simple rooms and no running water. The name of the owner was Devendar. He was kind enough to make some delicious Dal (lentils) & Roti (flatbread). I tasted the most delicious & potent honey which the villagers had extracted from nearby. The syrup was so thick, almost frozen, that I couldn’t have more than a spoon at a time. If I had any more, I think my tongue would bruise. It made me think about all the diluted honey we find in the market, filled with sugar.
Even though it was only monsoons, the temperatures were below 0 degrees because of the heavy rain. After all, Chopta is at an altitude of 2,608 m. The next day, with almost wet shoes, I went to the entry point of the Tunganth trek, which is merely a 5 km trek uphill. The scooter was parked next to a Dhaba. I requested the very kind owner to keep an eye on it. There began my journey to the most beautiful place on earth I had ever visited. I knew it was beautiful for I had seen images, but the trees, the beauty and magnificence of the destination can not be justified in mere words.
I have travelled all around the world including the Alps but this place has magic & vibrations of a different kind. I planned to go for the day and trek back to the base the same day- but as you can imagine, I was too spellbound to leave. I spent 2 nights there exploring the sprawling green meadows and a trek to Chandrashila peak (this is where God Ram had meditated for several days to meet Shiva). I started this trek at 4 am to reach there right before the sun began rising, far away in the mountain ranges opposite me.
So many years have passed, and many more places explored yet a part of me still lives there. Oh! how I can’t wait to go back to Tungnath, to feel the magic and revisit myself. As I reminisce, here is a straightforward recipe of the Chainsoo dal I had on this trip. It is made using black gram dal (Black urad dal). This dal is generally quite hard to digest, so these wise mountain women nullify this effect by roasting it first.
Chainsoo Garhwali Dal
- Urad Dal (split or whole) 1 cup
- Mustard Oil 2 tbsp
- Water 2 cups
- Coriander powder
- Turmeric powder
- Red Chilli Powder
- Ghee 2 tbsp
- Onion 1 finely sliced
- Garlic 3 cloves finely chopped
- Green Chilly 2 finely chopped
- Ginger 1 tsp finely chopped
- Hing – 1 tsp
- Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
- Fresh Coriander
Directions for making the daal
- Take a pan and put it on the stove on medium flame and dry roast the dal. Once it cools down, blend this dal into a powder.
- Take the mustard oil and heat in a pan. Add the powdered dal and keep storing till it becomes light brown in colour.
- Add all the spices except hing. And cook further for 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the water and let it cook till it boils well.
- In a separate pan, heat ghee and add the hing. Add the cumin seeds and wait till they are cooked. Add the rest of the tempering ingredients, except the coriander leaves. Ensure you do not burn it.
- Add the tempering & coriander leaves to the boiling dal and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Add more ghee if you like at the end.
- Serve hot with Roti or steamed rice.
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