Kuttu – Buckwheat

Buckwheat, a pseudo-cereal, is a good gluten-free alternative. Its grain has nearly twice as much protein as standard varieties of rice and corn, and it is a rich source of fibre, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

Grown at high altitudes in the Himalaya with traditional farming practices, it is rich in fibre, antioxidants, and magnesium. Buckwheat contains all nine essential amino acids, which are our body's building blocks of protein.

Mixed grain or Buckwheat flour mush called Paba is served in Ladakh with vegetables and condiments. In Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, Kuttu pancakes are a mainstay in the local cuisine. Various studies reveal regularly eating Buckwheat may help improve cardiovascular health, assist in regulating blood sugar and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Naked Barley

Barley is one of the first grains cultivated by humans, 8000 years ago. In Himalaya, it is grown at elevations up to 3800m. Traditionally, Buddhist monks have consumed Barley as a nutritious breakfast that helps the body conserve energy in cold weather.

As a whole grain, Naked Barley is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, whose health benefits include lowering cholesterol levels and the risk of type-2 diabetes.

Ladakhi Skew is a preparation of Barley flour worked into a dough and cooked in a delectable mix of chicken broth, vegetables, and spices. In Ladakh, Chanthuk, unroasted Barley soup, is cooked with shranma (indigenous peas), nag-shran (indigenous black peas) and apricot kernel.

Ramdana – Amaranth

Known as Ramdana, loosely translated as 'the lord's grain' or 'the grain gifted by god', Amaranth has been cultivated for over 7000 years and its seeds can be eaten as a gluten-free grain alternative. Its leaves and stalks are considered a global superfood and used to make salads, smoothies and juices. Amaranth is classified as a pseudocereal, meaning it is not technically a cereal grain like wheat or oats, but it shares a comparable set of nutrients and is used in similar ways. Its earthy, nutty flavour works well in a variety of dishes.

It grows in abundance between the altitudes of 1,000 metres to 3,000 metres in the Himalayan region. Amaranth is rich in protein and manganese that is essential for healthy bones, and research suggests that it lowers cholesterol levels. Besides being incredibly versatile, this nutritious grain is naturally gluten-free and rich in protein, fibre, micronutrients and antioxidants.

Amaranth is simple to prepare and can be used in many different dishes. Before cooking amaranth, you can sprout it by soaking it in water and allowing the grains to germinate for one to three days.

Mushk Budij

Mushk Budij is a small-grain, plump, white, fragrant rice grown at high altitudes in the Kashmir valley. It has an earthy, nutty taste with a unique fragrance that distinguishes it from other varieties.

Mushk Budij Rice grows mainly at an elevation of 1600 metres above sea level in high-lying areas of the Himalaya, under unique climatic conditions. It is chiefly grown in areas of Sagam, Panzgam and Soaf Shali of Anantnag district, and the Beerwah belt of Budgam district using traditional farming methods.

Eaten with curries, vegetables, and meat, used in Pulao and rice preparations occasionally blended with Saffron, Mushk Budij is partaken on special occasions, with the fragrance wafting out for over a kilometre.

Buh ban – Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice has no specific nomenclature. The diverse tribes in northeast India call Sticky Rice by various local names. The Mizo, for instance, call it Buh ban (buh means “rice” and ban means “sticky”).

The various tribes across the region also have distinct ways to prepare Sticky Rice. However, the basic process is by and large the same for all the tribes: they first pound it and make a coarse powder and then use it to prepare a variety of snacks by adding a variety of condiments. Though the more common method is to simply boil or steam it like normal rice, the accompanying ingredients set the preparations apart from one another. Pounding is usually done manually as it adds extra flavour.

In Arunachal Pradesh, Khaw-laam is a popular item prepared with rice, first soaked in water overnight. The next day, it is placed inside a special hollow bamboo. This special bamboo has a thick membrane and is only found in the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh. The bamboo is roasted over a fire till it is partially burned. Once it is done, carefully the bamboo is discarded before consuming the cooked rice.

Garhwali Red Rice

The Himalayan Red Rice from Purola, Uttarakhand, also known as Laal Chawal, is a highly nutritious variety with a crunchy texture and distinct flavour. It is naturally grown in the unpolluted Uttarakhand hinterland. Himalayan Red Rice has high nutrition value, fibre content and is a good source of antioxidants.

The heavy rain in the high-altitude Garhwal Himalaya valleys is partly responsible for the firm texture and distinct flavour of this Red Rice. Traditionally cultivated in the lush Himalayan valleys, it is grown with chemical-free farming practices.

Meethu Bhaat a unique sweet preparation of the Laal Chawal, involves cooking the red rice with jaggery, ghee and coconut.

Chakhao – Manipur Black Rice

Manipur Black Rice, popularly known as 'Chakhao' by the locals, has bagged the Geographical Indication tag (GI tag #602). It is well-known for its attractive colour and aromatic flavour. Manipur Black Rice is considered one of the richest sources of anthocyanin found among food grains, apart from its optimal content of vitamins, minerals, fibre, proteins, and many other nutrients.

The cultivation of the richly scented Black Rice is centuries old in Manipur and is spread over thousands of hectares. The presence of the pigment anthocyanin, which imparts the black colour to the rice, also gives it strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helping boost the immune system.

The authentic Manipuri Chakhao kheer is a Black Rice pudding, nutty, creamy, aromatic, and delicious.

Brown Rice

Grown in the high valleys of the Kumaon Himalaya, this rice is an old variety that grows best under extreme weather conditions in rain-fed areas. Brown Rice is old fashioned rice that is de-husked but still has its inner layer intact. All the iron, protein and B vitamins are present in this layer.

The outer husk and coating of the Brown Rice kernel is rich in Thiamine (vitamin B1). Unpolished Brown Rice has more nutritional value than white rice and can help insulin-dependent diabetics to normalize blood sugar levels.

Various rice preparations such as Pulao or Pilaf can be made with brown rice by adding a variety of vegetables. Kharzi Rice is a dish from the Monpa tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and is cooked with mozzarella cheese and select vegetables.