The Good Food of Rajasthan

The more I say about the food of Rajasthan, I think the lesser it will be. There's not much to be found on the internet either. Oh you will find the regular Wikipedia article, a couple of blog posts featured here and there, but nothing deep enough to go into the history of each food item that is eaten there. And that I think is a good thing. Because you know a bit of what to expect, you are not completely lost when you are served the local food, but you don't know as much about it, that you want to ask the chef more about it. Here, I don't intend to delve deep into the history of the local food either, but I can’t not share my personal food experiences of Rajasthan with the world.

Rajasthan is a located in the north west of India. It is largely a desert and was for many years war ravaged because of the fights for land and honour between the local rulers. The war, the scarcity of water and the royal residents therefore influenced the cuisine. Rajasthani food is colourful, spicy, and rich. Oh its rich. But then a diet schedule should never be in sync with your travels, correct? What would be the point?

Everyone hears of Rajasthani food and how good it is. Malpua and Jalebi anyone? Yes, so now you probably know what I am talking about. But there are foods there you will not find anywhere else in the country try as you might. And it’s not all about the desserts either. There are really good, spicy, fiery sides and main course dishes which need to be tried.

The first day in Rajasthan we headed to Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur which is like a melting pot of the Rajasthani culture. Me being me, I was only looking for dinner service. It’s all very traditional there. Floor mats, Recyclable plates, dim lighting, and locals cooking and serving the food. Here is where I had Ker Sangri for the first time. Ker Sangri is made with two desert vegetables - Ker and Sangri. Ker is a small, round fruit whereas Sangri is a small pod like fruit (similar to beans) that is harvested in spring, dried and used. Sangri is more pickle like than vegetable like. It’s dry, spicy and has that sourness that you might get in a pickle. If you can find or convince your friends in Rajasthan to bring back/send you Ker and Sangri, there's a recipe here that you can try. I don't have the book but the recipe will be good.

Butter on the left, Ker Sangri served on the right

Next was the more widely known Dal baati choorma. You can’t leave Rajasthan without eating this at least once. The Rajasthan experience is incomplete without Dal baati choorma. Dal Baati is savoury, Baati is a hard round bread (its baked!). It’s very high on nutrition and doesn’t require too much water to make (food of the desert. Our guide told us that before the water canals were built, the locals would prefer to offer a cup of ghee than water to a guest; One guide told us that it rains 16 times in a 100 years!). The Baati is smeared with melted ghee (or butter) and broken into pieces and then soaked in the dal and eaten. I did not know what to expect, and although the baati was hard, once soaked in the dal, the dish transforms into the ultimate comfort food – its warm, its slightly spicy, and what you would love to eat after a day of hard work (or, eh in my case, a day of vacationing, visiting forts, walking in the streets, you know...). Dal baati is always served with Churma, which is made with coarsely ground wheat cooked in ghee and sugar or jaggery. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of flavour that 3 ingredients can pack. The slightly caramelised, earthy, roasted flavours balance out the spice from the dal. It shows what food should be –  unbelievably simple, nutritious and extraordinarily delicious.

I had originally intended to write everything in one go, but there is so much to tell you, that I'll write up one more post on the sides and naturally, the desserts.


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