Posted by: ljubica | June 29, 2008

Hunza’s Diet – Going Back to Basics

Written by; social anthropologist Dr. Julie Flowerday who has lived and worked extensively in the Hunza Valley. Her e-mail is flowerda@email.unc.edu.
Marta Luchsinger, who coordinated production of the recipe book, visited Hunza as a doctoral student at the University of Bath.
Mareile Paley is a graphic designer who lives in Hong Kong with her husband, free-lance photographer Matthieu Paley (http://www.paleyphoto.com/).
This article appeared on pages 34-43 of the May/June 2006 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

Left: A woman uses a wood-fueled stove inside her home in the town of Karimabad. Right: Rice does not grow at Hunza’s altitude, but wheat thrives, and it provides the staple grain of Hunza cuisine.
So it is that the “traditional” underlies life-shaping experiences. The Karimabad women thus added something of their life histories to the recipes we collected through their fierce labors of love, which have made generations of women and their fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and daughters happy and well-nourished. We, in collecting these recipes, and you, in recreating them, honor the cultural heritage of the unspoken heroes and heroines of Hunza.
—Julie Flowerday
Wheat is Hunza’s main staple food. Rice, otherwise so common in Asia, cannot be grown in the mountainous terrain and high-altitude climate, and so different breads and wheat-based dishes replace it. Other grains such as buckwheat and barley are also cultivated.

Maltash is “aged butter,” prepared from milk that is scalded before churning. Its strong taste is so valued that maltash is a gift for births, weddings and funerals—taxes can even be paid in maltash. The older the maltash, the more valuable it is. Wrapped in birch bark and buried in the ground,it may lie for years or even decades before the head of the family decides it is time to dig it out.

Kurutz is a salty, sour, rock-hard cheese that is a favorite soup flavoring. It is made by boiling down lassi (see page 43), together with a piece of older kurutz that gets the enzymes started, as in sourdough bread. The resulting soft pasteis pressed and sun-dried. Similar cheese is made from Mongolia to Tibet.

Dried apricots are a favorite snack and an ingredient for soups and juices. The valley is known for its abundance of apricots, most of which are collected in late summer to dry in the sun on rooftops, walls and boulders.

Apricot kernels are very similar to almonds in taste and used in much the same way, as a snack and for cooking. Children often crack the hard shell of the apricot pits with a stone to get to the delicious kernel.
Apricot oil is traditionally extracted from the kernels by hand, though machines are slowly replacing the hand-work. There’s a sweet and a bitter apricot oil: The sweet is for cooking; the bitter is a beauty product for skin and hair.
Tumuro is a native wild thyme which is found in the mountains surrounding the valley. It is used freshand dried.
Coriander is not native to Hunza, but it grows easily in the harsh climate, and it is a very popular herb to season soups andmeat dishes.
Turmeric usually comesas a bright yellow powder and is also a favorite import. It is mainly used in small quantities to color soups and other dishes.

Wheat is Hunza’s main staple food. Rice, otherwise so common in Asia, cannot be grown in the mountainous terrain and high-altitude climate, and so different breads and wheat-based dishes replace it. Other grains such as buckwheat and barley are also cultivated.
Maltash is “aged butter,” prepared from milk that is scalded before churning. Its strong taste is so valued that maltash is a gift for births, weddings and funerals—taxes can even be paid in maltash. The older the maltash, the more valuable it is. Wrapped in birch bark and buried in the ground,it may lie for years or even decades before the head of the family decides it is time to dig it out.
Kurutz is a salty, sour, rock-hard cheese that is a favorite soup flavoring. It is made by boiling down lassi (see page 43), together with a piece of older kurutz that gets the enzymes started, as in sourdough bread. The resulting soft pasteis pressed and sun-dried. Similar cheese is made from Mongolia to Tibet.
Dried apricots are a favorite snack and an ingredient for soups and juices. The valley is known for its abundance of apricots, most of which are collected in late summer to dry in the sun on rooftops, walls and boulders.
Apricot kernels are very similar to almonds in taste and used in much the same way, as a snack and for cooking. Children often crack the hard shell of the apricot pits with a stone to get to the delicious kernel.
Apricot oil is traditionally extracted from the kernels by hand, though machines are slowly replacing the hand-work. There’s a sweet and a bitter apricot oil: The sweet is for cooking; the bitter is a beauty product for skin and hair.
Tumuro is a native wild thyme which is found in the mountains surrounding the valley. It is used freshand dried.
Coriander is not native to Hunza, but it grows easily in the harsh climate, and it is a very popular herb to season soups andmeat dishes.
Turmeric usually comesas a bright yellow powder and is also a favorite import. It is mainly used in small quantities to color soups and other dishes.
Bread Staple Food of Hunza’s
Hunza’s ubiquitous chappati is actually a culinary import from the south. Really traditional Hunza bread is a thin wheat bread known as the khamali. Compared to a chappati, it is much larger in diameter, and the reason was practical: Wood for cooking fires is precious, and by baking a large piece of bread you can take advantage of the heat on the rather large cooking plate of a traditional Hunza stove.

Phitti is probably the most famous of all Hunza breads and a common breakfast food. Thick and nutritious, with a crusty outside and a soft interior, it is time-consuming to prepare: The dough is put into a sealed metal container, and after all the other cooking has been done at night, the phitti is tucked into the embers of the hearth, where it bakes overnight.

Diltar The Refreshing Yogurt Drink
People call it buttermilk, lassi or simply a yogurt drink. Traditionally, diltar is prepared in a goat- or sheep skin which is shaken or rolled on the ground until butter forms. An alternate method uses a tall, narrow wooden cylinder and a long, thick pole in a process much like churning butter. Nowadays, the simplest way to make diltar is to mix yogurt with an equal amount of water and blend at high speed for a few minutes. Add salt, sugar or fruits like bananas or mangos as you please.

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