Phaanu – A Garhwali Delight

Phaanu - A Garhwali Delight

Phaanu is a culinary gem from the Garhwal region, nestled in the majestic Himalayas. This flavorful lentil curry is a comfort food for the soul, perfect for chilly evenings or a hearty lunch. Phaanu is traditionally made with gahat dal, also known as horse gram. Locally grown in the hills, these lentils lend a unique texture and earthy flavor to the dish. The lentils are soaked, ground into a paste, and then transformed into a delicious curry with a symphony of spices.

Aromatic Spices and Culinary Expertise

The magic of phaanu lies in its simplicity and the skillful use of spices. Common ingredients include cumin seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, coriander powder, and green chilies. Each addition adds a layer of complexity, creating a warm and inviting aroma that fills the kitchen.

The Art of Phaanu Making

The preparation of phaanu involves two key steps. First, a portion of the lentil paste is used to make small, savory pancakes. These crispy delights are then added to a simmering gravy made with the remaining paste, water, and spices. The slow cooking allows the flavors to meld, resulting in a rich and comforting curry.

A Perfect Pairing

Phaanu is traditionally served with piping hot steamed rice. The fluffy rice acts as a perfect canvas for the flavorful curry, soaking up the delicious sauce. A dollop of ghee and a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves add a touch of luxury and freshness to complete the dish.

Beyond the Plate

Phaanu is more than just a dish; it’s a window into the culinary heritage of the Garhwal region. It reflects the resourcefulness of the mountain people, using locally available ingredients to create a hearty and satisfying meal.

Phaanu’s Culinary Cousins

Phaanu’s appeal extends beyond the Garhwal region. Similar lentil stews with regional variations can be found across India:

  • Dal Makhani – This popular Punjabi dish uses black gram lentils (urad dal) simmered in a creamy tomato gravy with butter (makhan).
  • Sambar – A staple in South India, sambar features lentils and vegetables cooked in a tamarind-infused broth.
  • Pandi Curry – This Maharashtrian delight combines lentils with a unique blend of spices, often including goda masala, a special spice mix.

Some Other Dishes Of Uttarakhand


Kafuli is a winter delight, and kali is a stir-fry of spinach, fenugreek leaves, and radish leaves, bursting with vitamins and earthy flavors.

Bhang Ki Chutney

Bhang Ki Chutney uses cannabis leaves (bhang), offering a refreshingly pungent and slightly intoxicating flavor profile (be aware of local regulations regarding cannabis consumption).

Kandali Ka Saag

Kandali Ka Saag is a dish that features the knobby kandali root (similar to colocasia) cooked with tomatoes and spices, offering a unique and slightly bitter taste.

Mandve Ki Roti

For those seeking gluten-free options, and ki roti is a flatbread made with millet flour (mandua), high in protein, and perfect with lentil curries.

Bal Mithai

Bal Mithai is made with condensed milk (khoya) and coated in tiny sugar balls, bal mithai is a delightful and festive sweet treat.


Singodi is a sweet dumpling made with wheat flour and stuffed with a flavorful coconut filling, a perfect way to end a meal on a light note.

Jhangora Ki Kheer

A delicious take on rice pudding, Jhangore ki kheer is made up of jhangora (barnyard millet) for a unique texture and a slightly nutty flavor.


Bhatwani is a rustic dish made primarily from black soybeans, locally known as “bhatt” in Uttarakhand. These beans are known for their high nutritional value and are a significant source of protein for the local population.

FAQs About Phaanu the Garhwali Delight

1. What is Phaanu?

Phaanu is a traditional lentil curry from the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, India. It’s known for its rich flavor, hearty texture, and comforting warmth.

2. What are the key ingredients?

The main ingredient is typically gahat dal (horse gram), although some variations use chana dal (split Bengal gram) or a combination of both. Spices like cumin seeds, asafoetida, coriander powder, turmeric, and green chilies add depth and complexity to the dish.

3. How is Phaanu prepared?

The lentils are soaked, ground into a paste, and then used in two ways. A portion is made into crispy lentil pancakes, while the rest is simmered with water and spices to create a flavorful gravy. The pancakes are then added to the gravy for a final cooking stage.

4. What is Phaanu typically served with?

Phaanu is traditionally paired with steamed rice, providing a perfect base to soak up the delicious gravy.

5. What are some other dishes from Uttarakhand?

Uttarakhand boasts a diverse cuisine

  • Kafuli (spinach stir-fry), Bhang Ki Chutney (cannabis leaf chutney), Kandalee Ka Saag (kandaal root dish), Mandve Ki Roti (millet flour flatbread).
  • Bal Mithai (condensed milk sweet), Singori (sweet dumplings), Jhangora Ki Kheer (barnyard millet kheer).

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