From Kasauli we drove to Shimla in search of local and popular delicacies. This picture perfect hill station fascinates each and every visitor with its terrific outdoors and unique charm interspersed with elements from colonial times. The capital city is always buzzing with tourists as here, one finds, panoramic views of the snow clad Himalayas, tiny paths along the pine forests, Elizabethan-style architecture and a delectable food culture, all of which together make it resemble a dreamy settings.
The only and the best way to explore the central part of the city is by walking through the winding paths and stairs leading uphill and downhill. In this delightful gastronomic journey across this pretty town, we were joined by our awesome host Savitoj who walked us through the food scene enthralling us with historical references and tales.
Our first stop was the Indian Coffee House whose old world charm takes you back in time and gives you a taste of a bygone era. Here we tried the coffee, jam toast and Sambar Vada. The food and beverage both were decent but it was the ambience that made it special.
Next we tried an amazing hot Gulab Jamun from the iconic snack shop Baljees, a local favourite stop for quick snacks. After this we went to Sharma Chaat to taste their unique Parati Kulcha. This spicy and savoury dish is a must try delicacy in Shimla.
From there we went to Vijay Sweets to have tea along with some of their very famous tea time snacks. The assortment of sweet and savoury snacks was quite interesting, especially the Toshe.
Then we tried the Spoonie from the renowned Trishool Bakery. The place was full of fresh bakery products and eager customers. At last we went on to try the traditional feast from Himachal Pradesh known as the Dham, that is served at all special functions. It’s was a hearty and nutritious platter consisting of the choicest delicacies from across the state. We tried the Madiyali Dham-native to the Mandi district- at a restaurant named Himachali Rasoi. It was indeed a scrumptious spread whose star dish was the Rajma Ka Madra.
After exploring the local food scene at The Mall Road and the Middle bazaar, we descended to the Lower bazaar to try some of the popular local delicacies. With crowded lanes lined with shops selling everything from wooden items, winter clothes to mobile phones and vegetables, this buzzing marketplace, is the main shopping destination for the visitors, locals and villagers.
Here at Lower Bazaar, one can buy affordable and inexpensive daily products for it was meant to cater to the needs of the common public. It also has a delightful vegetable market full of fresh fruits and veggies. The street food culture here is a mix of traditional delicacies and popular fast food influences.
We began our journey from the sabzi mandi or the vegetable market. The crowded narrow lanes were lined with shops selling fragrant fruits and fresh vegetables. Here we spotted the lingdu or the Fiddlehead greens, a quintessentially local vegetable-essentially a fern- that is commonly consumed in this region.
We then arrived at the 117 years old sweet shop Meher Chand and Bros which is still one of the most sought after sweet shops in Shimla. Here we tried three different sweetmeats- cream chocolate(milk burfi with no trace of chocolate), panjiri ladoo and meshu-that were pretty good. We also picked up some historical anecdotes about the place from the owner.
After the pure ghee stuff it was time to savour some lip smacking pickles and preserves from another legendary place known as Thakur Bhrata. This shop too is nearly a decade old establishment that is coveted for its traditionally prepared pickles and sweet preserves made with good quality ingredients. We tried four things of which the Amla and Gajar ka Murabba were simple yet phenomenal.
From there we went to our next stop Drigen Chinese Fast Food Corner, an inconspicuous veg eatery that is immensely popular with the young crowd here. We had delicious momos and an interesting go to snacks called Kurkej which was essentially super tasty fried veggie sticks.
Next was the turn of veg hotdog from a small roadside stall. It was the yummy chutney and the well made potato patties that made it a tasty treat.
Our final stop of our culinary sojourn in and around Lower Bazaar was the Kamala Nehru Hospital premises. We were there to experience and support the exceptional langar service run by the charitable organisation Almighty Blessings. They serve free meals in the evening to all visitors. Savitoj informed us how the local communities like schools, restaurants etc contribute effectively in the functioning of this heartwarming initiative. We also visited the kitchen, took part in the service and at the end relish the simple meal of rice, dal and roti. Its was a surreal feeling to learn about this selfless endeavours of kindness and compassion. The food was superlative as it was served with such love and care.
In the last leg of our Shimla Food Tour we were out to explore few more popular and toothsome options both on the streets and at few sought after places.
We started with a visit to a very special cafe called the Book Cafe which was nestled amidst the tranquil, cosy and picturesque backdrop of huge trees and misty mountains. Conceptualized by the Himachal Pradesh prison department, this cafe cum library is run by inmates of the Kaithu Jail, Shimla who are serving their life sentences. It is an ideal destination for all visitors who love to spend time with books in the lap of nature while sipping coffee or eating the bakery fares prepared and served by the friendly and efficient inmates. You might also engage in a conversation with them and discover more about their lives and experiences.
Do make time to visit this place in order to learn more and support this innovative rehabilitation programme for convicts, that intends to provide livelihood options to the inmates who have maintained a remarkable conduct in a stipulated span of their sentence.
From there we reached the most popular ice cream joint in the town, The Embassy Ice cream. Savitoj introduced us to this place whose chocobars and mango duds were the best chilled treats that he has grown up eating. The raspberry ice cream comprising of a smooth vanilla ice cream base topped with raspberry crush was yummy and delightful.
Next we walked up to a person selling fried peanuts and chana right under the cool shade of a huge tree. We were surprised to know that he has been selling this playful snack in paper cones for the past 43 years. As we gleefully munched on the crispy, crunchy and spice mixed peanuts right out of the paper cones, Savitoj shared his memories of getting them just for rupees two while returning home from school.
After the nostalgic treat and pleasant interaction with a lively little girl occupied with her bubble making toy, Savitoj took us to Sita Ram and Sons, one of the most iconic eateries in Shimla, whose Lucchi Chana is hugely popular with visitors and locals alike. The plateful of thin yet spongy Lucchi or Bhatura and a distinctly flavourful chana topped with chutney was indeed delicious. No wonder it’s a place that you must definitely try in Shimla.
Next was the turn of the Cheese Kulcha. We quite liked this cheesy twist to the popular chana kulcha where the bun like kulcha was stuffed with cheese slice and chana mixture and topped with mayo. It’s an easy to grab stuff to check the hunger pangs while walking.
The next destination that Savitoj fondly took us to for a unique fusion experience was an unassuming yet popular joint serving the Chinese Paratha. This deep fried paratha, somewhat resembling a pie in appearance and fried momo in taste, was stuffed with a delicious momo fillings and noodles. It was crisp from outside and soft inside.
Our penultimate destination was the Ashiana restaurant. The ambience was amazing and so was food. We tried two popular Himachali non veg dishes, Chaa Meat and Anardana Chicken, along with the Himachali veg speciality Chane Ka Madra. All the three delicacies were delectably tangy because of the sour elements like curd and anardana. We thoroughly enjoyed the spread. You can try this place for traditional cuisine.
Our culinary trail ended with chocolate and strawberry pan from Guru Pan. It wasn’t very appealing as the taste of the paan was completely overpowered by the sweetness and the chocolate and strawberry flavours.
With this our Shimla Food Tour came to end. We are truly grateful for the enlightening company of our genial host Savijot Singh.
Video Links for the Shimla Food Tour:
Shimla Food Walk Part 1
Shimla Food Walk Part 2
Shimla Food Walk Part 3