The Cuisine of Himachal Pradesh - the north Indian state lying at the foothills of the Himalayas - boasts of a uniqueness of its own. Influence of the neighboring lands of Punjab and Tibet is clearly evident in the Himachal cuisine. Besides, the geographical and climatic conditions of the state have a strong effect on the dishes of Himachal Pradesh and the way they are prepared.
The day-to-day cuisine of Himachal Pradesh is simple and very much similar to that of other north Indian states. Rice, paddy and maize constitute the staple diet of the people here. But the preferred taste varies from region to region. Thus, while in the barren regions of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti, locally-grown coarse grains like buckwheat, millet and barley are mainly used, regions with pastoral tradition use large quantities of milk and its products in their dishes.
Non-vegetarian food, with liberal usage of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and red chilies, form an integral part of the cuisine of Himachal Pradesh. The local people are not known to be particularly fond of vegetarian fare. In the average Himachal households, all kinds of meat, lentil and cereal preparations are generally cooked.
A typical everyday meal in the cuisine of Himachal Pradesh comprises 'dal-chawal-subzi-roti' (the common north Indian fare of lentil broth, rice, vegetable curry and bread). Special dishes are cooked during festive occasions.
Some of the popular dishes in the cuisine of Himachal Pradesh include 'Sidu' - a kind of bread made from wheat flour. It is generally eaten with ghee (clarified butter), dal or mutton.
Among the festival dishes prepared in Himachal Pradesh, 'Dham' - atraditional festive meal is the most popular one. This dish is cooked by only a particular caste of Brahmins called 'botis'. Preparations for this elaborate mid-day meal start the night before. Dham is served in courses on epattalsi or leaf plates. 'Ankolas' made of rice flour are also famous festive dishes in many parts of the state. In drier areas like Lahaul-Spiti valley, the leaves of buckwheat are mixed with wheat flour and made into cakes called 'aktori'. 'Patande' - a kind of pancake is a famous specialty in the Sirmaur area.
The Cuisine of Himachal Pradesh also includes a wide variety of other Indian and International food preparations like those of South Indian, Thai, Chinese and Italian origin.