I don’t identify myself as a seeker of the new tastes and the food world has mostly, with a few exceptions, failed to elicit any special interests to know things deeper. Having said that, I don’t mean to have no excitement in trying the new food items of different places. In fact, one of the things I really enjoy during my journeys is served meals. If the new comestibles come in my natural preferences, and sometimes even if not, I do like to try them. But the reason for not seeing myself as a food enthusiast is that I have hardly felt to go deeper to know the way any meal is prepared. Perhaps, my views for any edible material are primarily limited to see it as an energy source or biological building material. In spite of this monotonous view for any meal, some preparations have attracted my attention to know them better. Recently I experienced a unique kind of frozen dessert, called Motha, which I found worth sharing on Travel Parable.
On one of the evenings after the first seasonal snowfall in Garhwal, Dr. Anil Dutt Sharma, a doctorate in Geography from Garhwal University, invited me to try a special dessert, called Motha, which he was going to prepare at his temporary residence in Badshahithoul of Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand. Anil Dutt is originally from the Jaunsar region of Uttarakhand. Since Jaunsar has some of its parts in the territory of Himachal Pradesh (Eastern Himachal Pradesh) also, Anil identifies himself both as an Uttarakhandi as well as a Himachali. Except for passing from the Jaunsar 2 times, once while traversing from Rohru (Himachal Pradesh) to Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and another while visiting a village near Sahiya (Uttarakhand), I lack any significant personal experiences from that region. So whatever I know about Jaunsar has mostly come as a piece of second-hand information from some of the friends who are either native of that place, like Anil, or who had visited the region during their journeys. Since the Motha was being prepared by a Jaunsari native in the non-Jaunsari region of Uttarakhand, it was going to be a kind of another partial experience of Jaunsar.
After the dinner was over, Anil asked 2 of the 3 young boys, who lived in the adjacent room, to get some fresh snow from the forest. Meanwhile, Anil started to grate a jaggery brick into as thin layers as possible. Before I could assume what the combination of snow and Jaggery would be like, Maltas, a kind of citrus fruit, were taken out from a bag. Malta reminded me of Kimb, another comparatively bigger citrus fruit, which along with other ingredients (that included jaggery too), was used to prepare a multi-flavoured Chutney, known by the same name as that of fruit (Kimb), at my native village in western Himachal Pradesh. Perhaps Motha was going to be somewhat similar like Kimb. But there were some obvious differences between Motha and Kimb which were apparent by that time. While I saw kimb preparations only on full sunny days, Motha was being prepared after the dinner was over. Moreover, the Kimb had nothing to do with snow, which two guys had gone to collect from the forest.
We actively participated in peeling the Maltas and placed a few samples, as instructed by Anil, over the grated jaggery. After 20 minutes, the guys who had gone to collect the snow came back with a big, well-compressed snowball. Anil switched his attention from the jaggery and fruit to the processing of the snowball. He placed that snowball in a dough kneader and started to disintegrate it back into the snowflakes. Once disintegrated, the jaggery was poured on the flakes and maltas were placed over it. The Maltas were cut into two halves, and after the removal of seeds, each half was chopped into small pieces. The next step was to get a steel turner for mixing everything. To facilitate the mixing, which actually was a time taking process, some Maltas were squeezed over the snowflakes.
After partial mixing, half a teaspoon of salt was poured over the preparation. The points where the salt hit the ice became a bit harder and so made the mixing process more time-consuming. In the last part, coriander, both in the forms of chopped leaves and ground paste, and a pinch of red chilli powder were also added and mixed properly. During the whole preparation, the act of mixing was a continuous process and it hardly stopped except for those moments where the required ingredients were added. A small part of the snow that had got melted during the process facilitated the uniform mixing. Coriander and red chilli powder brought some visible and aromatic changes in the preparation. While the snow was pure white in the beginning, it first changed to the light yellowish after mixing it with jaggery and Malta, and then the coriander extract and red chilli powder made it light greenish. Anil used those changes in aroma and colour as indicators to determine that the Motha was almost ready. After testing it to know if the taste was as per his expectations, Anil decided to add a bit of more salt to make motha pleasant for his taste buds. Soon after we were ready to try that new recipe.
Anil distributed the finally prepared Motha in 5 different cups. A ladleful of Motha had cold Malta pieces and partially melted ice roughly dipped or floating in a viscous syrupy liquid. In terms of taste, the cold and juicy Motha was a muti-flavoured item: from sweet to tart, from spicy to salty. For some moments, that taste took me back to my childhood memories. Since Motha had some similarity in taste with Kimb, most probably due to the presence of citrus fruit and jaggery in both items, eating Motha was like experiencing an old flavour after a gap of many years.
Although all the people, except me, were of Garhwali origin, no one, besides Anil, had even heard about that recipe before. So it was a first time experience for all of us. Everyone came up with their views for Motha. Since Anil was the only person who had been growing eating Motha in every season of snow in Jaunsar, his words were trusted source of authentic information. It is reasonable that for eating the original form of Motha one should wait for the season of snowfall. But besides preparing it as an after-dinner dessert, as Anil did that evening, it is normal to prepare it on full sunny days also. The way it was prepared by Anil was a standard way. But in that standard method, a few alterations, like using mint leaves and green chilli paste at the place of coriander and red chilli respectively, can also be made. Most interestingly, Anil has travelled almost the entire Uttarakhand, but did not see that same recipe in any other regions of Uttarakhand. According to Anil Dutt, Motha has its origin from Devghar of Jaunsar region of far western Uttarakhand. And perhaps it was the reason that Anil introduced Motha not as an Uttrakhandi, Garhwali, or Himachali recipe, but as a Devghari/ Jaunsari, an area-specific, frozen dessert.