While I was staying with a delightful family in Almora, I had the most delicious pahari chilla, which is sort of a cross between a dosa and a chapati, made of buckwheat (or maybe pulse), and kadu subzi (pumpkin vegetable). That breakfast was so good it was enough by itself to have made the visit to Almora worthwhile—though, actually, it was a good visit in many other ways, as well. I should have taken a photo, but I didn’t, thinking I’d find one online somewhere. No such luck. Pahari chilla is something you get in homes, virtually never in restaurants, so most visitors miss out. There is one exception, though, the new organic restaurant, Haritima, in Delhradun. I haven’t been there yet, but their menu sounds great.
We also went out for the special Almora coffee, which is something like latte, but made in a unique way. It’s only served in a few restaurants there, as far as I could determine. The one we went to was called Mansarovar Restaurant & Cafe Center just to the right and upstairs at the lower end of the mall. The restaurant was painted in a rather amazing array of colors—purple, bright blue, orange and brown, with a bright green carpet. It’s a simple, homely restaurant with an inspiring view from the clean kitchen. They make it by mixing coffee powder with sugar and a little milk and stirring it for a long time, off and on all day. This produces a thick paste, which is then added to scalding hot milk and garnished with, I believe, mocha powder. The person drinking it stirs it all together. It ends up being thicker and richer than an ordinary latte, but the taste is not too dissimilar. It’s actually quite good, though it would be even better with higher quality ingredients. Still, it’s some of the best coffee I’ve ever had in North India in spite of its humble origins.
A more well-known specialty of Almora and the Kumaon area is a sweet called baal mithai. Baal Mithai is made by cooking khoya (milk that has been boiled down) with cane sugar, until it becomes a dark chocolate brown color. It resembles chocolate fudge so much that many people simply call it chocolate.After it cools, it’s cut into cubes and garnished with small white sugar balls. You can also get it without the sugar balls.