Hungry, tired, thirsty and bruised. That is how we all felt after that long and mind bogglingly, adventurous day in Hussaini Valley, Hunza. Who knew that walking on that suspension bridge and posing for pictures while we hold dearly for our lives, could demand this much physical energy. Ah! We were exhausted and down to our zero level of tolerance for any more physical activity. And just when I thought, I would not be able to walk anymore; not even to my bus at least, I spotted my trip mate, perched up on an old wooden seat in a small hut like dhaaba!
That was it.
There was food and water available, I could see it, smell it, and imagine it as good as home food.
Leaving behind all my things in the bus, rather throwing them on the seat right there, I found myself inside that hut like shop. There was space for only 3 people to sit over there, let me tell you. But since Pakistanis are we, five of us managed to have ourselves seated shamelessly while Amjad, the owner of the five star, with his beautiful smile, cooked something on the stove. After a minute spent on inspection, I came to know what was it that we were there to eat.
“Daodao, baji. Isey Daodao kehte hain. Spicy logey?”
“No no, spicy nahi, bas saada dey dain. Kitne ka hai?” I asked the polite man, and the answer that I received simply shocked me.
It was for PKR 30 only!
One big bowl of warm delicious noodle soup with a boiled egg and the best service in the world, was worth PKR 30 only. Oh my goodness! I wanted to cry the tears of happiness at that point. Could I ever repay the people of Hussaini Valley for the hospitality, tasty food and love they provided us? No. PKR 30 sounded very alien.
I ordered my share of soup, and I still remember, how greedily we all had our bowls of soup, not willing to waste even the last piece of noodle in it.
For those who are new to the name Daodao, it is a simple recipe of noodles, some herbs, vinegar and an egg if you have the taste for it. I watched the man make it on the stove, and in a matter of few minutes, it was ready to be devoured. The moment we decided to sit over there and look actually quite proud to have it the desi way, a number of the locals over there and some tourists as well, began to ogle at us. I spotted apple cheeked babies, some handsome young men with the looks that could fool you into thinking they are foreigners, and of course, couldn’t have missed the pictures of Samina baig all over Hunza. She was even there, pasted over the table.
From what I have observed, the people of Hunza, seem to take great pride in the fact that Samina Baig is from among them. Originally from Shimshaal Valley, (the valley from where my guide came from) people of Hunza associate themselves with Samina Baig in a such a heartwarming way that anywhere I went in Hunza, she was either cherished as a faraway cousin, or described as the pride of the Hunza Waadi, Pakistan.
I must honestly add, I found the people of Hunza to be quite something and true. And how can I ever describe, the tastes I encountered there. Daodao, is just one small chapter.
The recipe as the locals explained, comes from across the border; China. Heavily influenced by the simplicity and tendency to keep the tastes natural, the food that you’ll find in Upper Hunza and Hussaini Valley especially will remind you how wonderful life actually is, without all those oily and spicy meals. Upon inquiring how healthy daodao actually is, Amjad simply smiled and said one thing in reply, “ye pyar se bana hai baaji, aap logon ke liye”.
Amjad has been running his shop from past 4 years, as he explained. And I am pretty sure, never in his life, had he ever been visited by so many girls, all dying for his daodao. In fact, now that I think about it, it was not just him, but the entire squad of old men, sitting on that turn, that was surprised to see us interview and surround Amjad as if he was a master chef.
As soon as we finished eating, I remembered that I had a mom waiting for me in the bus, probably hungry as well. And then upon further shifts of the soup, we were informed our driver and guide, both are back to the bus as well. The face of our guide upon seeing us sitting over there and waving at the strangers like idiots, looked hilarious. He signaled us to eat more, and get moving before the sun goes down.
But since girls are not boys and quite thoughtful, (I would like to believe this so) we decided to end our day in Hussaini Valley the sentimental way, by taking lots of selfies with every single human being, crawling over there.
The band of gorgeous boys from Hussaini Valley, waited right outside the hut on the other side of the road. They were probably there to say to their lovely sisters. Again, this is what I would like to believe. And the kids playing near us, were there I think, just because we were holding cameras and flashy gadgets.
I couldn’t have enjoyed my stay in Hunza and in the the famous Valleys if I hadn’t come across their special recipes. The Tuk in Hussaini Valley with homemade jam and butter, the delicious food in Gulkin and the mouthwatering food in Passu, everything seemed heaven sent.
If you ever visit Hunza, and especially Hussaini Valley, I would recommend you try out Daodao and meet Amjad. You wouldn’t be disappointed, I promise you that. On the contrary, you’ll begin to have these crazy ideas about opening up your own food hut over there.
For the travelers like us: Hungry, tired, and thirsty.