"Red Rhododendron" by Jennifer C. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Scarlet Adventure

A Scarlet Adventure

Uttarakhand is famous for its rhododendrons, which begin to bloom in the month of February and was my scarlet adventure. Taking a cue from the monkeys that love eating the flowers of this fruit, many have tried the juice of this flower. But a dish to be tried is rhododendron pakoras. The flowers are very popular amongst juice makers. Hence, it’s not easy to come by rhododendron flowers being sold in the vegetable mandi. Thus begins the quest for collecting these flowers if you are to enjoy these crispy fritters.

The Quest

Nayalap itself has a few Rhododendron trees, and when the fiery red blooms start to show, one needs to pick them before the monkeys and the Langoors do. Even having done this, we still didn’t have enough for a plate full of pakoras. Our quest began to get more. Reminiscent of a long-gone time when one would pick their food from the wild instead of buying it in a market, one has to go into the jungles and try and pick these flowers from trees. While they look sturdy, the trees are treacherously dangerous to climb. Luckily, Tanuja, a trained mountain climber, managed to find several trees in full bloom. She also devised nifty tricks to get to the flowers. I contented myself with picking the petals off the ground.

Eventually, after the hunt in the forest, we had collected enough for a full plate of pakoras and made our way back to Nayalap.

No pakoras have ever tasted sweeter, or should I say tangier! The Hard picked flowers, after washing and cleaning them, were thinly coated in a batter made of rice flour and then fried to a delicate crispness. The crunch of the rice batter, mixed with the unexpectedly juicy tang of rhododendrons makes for an interesting gastronomical experience.

 

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