Wellness | Journey Through Vana
An hour’s drive from the Dehradun airport through forests of Uttarakhand, we reached Vana, a wellness stay carefully designed for a holistic experience offering yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic & spa treatments, Tibetan Healing and conscious cuisine midst a 21-acre green land. A brainchild of Veer Singh, Vana engages all five senses with elements that are well thought out and inspired by minimalistic Japanese Buddhism and ancient Indian wisdom. Some other offerings at the space are art, music and dance residencies.
Speaking of design, the architecture is inclusive of outside plants and natural light that gives a sense of merging boundaries. The space includes various ponds, pottery installations used as lighting, a library of books on art, design, religion and travel, bonsai’s, indoor gardens and mixed media artworks. Abraham and Thakore craftsmanship and expertise can be seen through handwoven rugs and shawls, Khadi room accessories, colors, and textures of various materials like wood, ceramics, textiles, metal and cane. The property is sustainable in more ways than one and uses minimal plastic and recycled paper.
During my one week stay, I was the most intrigued by the cuisine offered as well as the flora and fauna. We chatted with in-house experts Chef Rajeev from Salana Kitchen and Promod Ji, the horticulture head to explore further.
‘There is a misconception that Indian food is only wheat and rice and curries with oil and spices’, says Chef Rajeev. There are many vegan and gluten-free options in Indian cuisine which can be made in minimal spices and oils. Millets like Bajra, Johwar, Amaranth, Ragi are rich in fiber and minerals, offer both protein and carbohydrates and can be easily compared to quinoa, currently popular amongst conscious eaters. Chef says, ‘I work very closely with the nutritionist and we follow the roles of Ayurveda for our cooking and try to be sustainable, seasonal and use local produce. We do not believe in creating a carbon footprint hence I don’t use imported groceries. I have 25 varieties of pasta that we make in-house, as well as, our sauces.’
Vana produces its own salads, herbs, and some special vegetables, however, some have to be sourced from outside. For this, they work with trusted sources and farmer groups. Chef says, ‘We experiment with our food and offer Indian food with some techniques of the west as well. Risottos are made with Indian millets and beetroot. We try to stay low on sugar, oils, and chili as real Indian food is about being local and balanced. We are rediscovering our lost wisdom and continuously finding alternatives to commercial products like sugar for dessert and use jaggery and dates instead. We also use the correct cooking method and don’t fry our food, instead grill and poach.’
‘We celebrate six seasons at Vana and for me, Sharad is the best as we have so much variety and we have festivals and the appetite is also the best in winters. SInce it will be carrot season soon, we’ll do gajar halwa for our guests. My other favorite ingredients are pumpkins and peas.’ Being sustainable in the kitchen by recycling waste as compost, using no plastic and taking steps towards food safety by offering leftovers to animal shelters is a must at Vana.
We offer International cuisine and continuously learn from their techniques. The Japanese cuisine is simple and the cooking is minimalist. The effort is put in growing vegetables and one can see that in the plate. There is no pressure cooking and tadka that has become common in our Indian households. They use all parts of the vegetables in a stew and practice slow cooking to retain flavours.
In the ayurvedic restaurant, there are three different thalis that are offered according to your energies. These are carefully designed keeping in mind the season, spices and the amount of oil used while preparing. The menus change every season and are further divided into daily and weekly menus. Over 1,000 recipes are made in the kitchen and soon a book will be published to document these.
Key Takeaway: Be mindful of what you are eating and be more logic driven with your choices. Questions to are are: What is the season and what does your body want? Start reading in the grocery stores. Look at long-term wellness and make a plan. Look for healthy alternatives for sugar, millets and dairy.
Content in Collaboration with Cocoa & Jasmine, find out more about them by clicking here and read more about the Founder in our My City Series.