Don’t leave Rajasthan without trying:
Rajasthani food has been influenced by the dearth of vegetables and water in this arid state. The hunting expeditions of the rich and the lifestyle of local warriors has given rise to a whole range of innovative dishes and ingredients that can last for several days. The use of dried lentils, beans, milk and buttermilk is common in cooking. Oil and red chillies help preserve the food and reduces the need for water. Each region of Rajasthan has its own trademark dish.
Dal Baati Churma
Baati is believed to have originated during the time of Bappa Rawal – the founder of the kingdom of Mewar. Back then, the Rajputs were establishing their stronghold in the region and baati was their preferred war time meal.
It was later, when traders from the Gupta Empire settled in Mewar, that the combination of dal and baati became popular – panchmel dal was a much-loved favourite in the royal court of the Guptas.
Churma, on the other hand, is believed to have been invented when a cook of Mewar’s Guhilot clan accidentally poured sugarcane juice into some baatis. Realising that it had made the baati softer, the women of the clan started dunking the battis in sweet water in an attempt to keep the baatis soft and fresh for their husbands. This eventually evolved into churma, a sweetened and cardamom-flavoured mix of crushed baati.
Legend has it that laal maas came into being when a king from Mewar rejected the deer meat that was prepared with nothing but garlic and yoghurt, which did not take away the strong gamy odour.
Through trial and error, the cook raised the heat of the dish with copious amounts of Mathania chillies (named after the Mathania region in Jodhpur where these chillies are cultivated) and thus laal maas was born.
Although most families cook their own versions, the recipe from the royal family of Mewar is considered most superior. Many in the interiors of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer still follow the centuries-old tradition of cooking laal maas on a chulha or wood stove and using only Mathania chillies.
The story of ker sangri is a story of survival in the Thar desert, in Rajasthan. The desert sun enervates all manner of vegetation, but not the ker and the khejri trees — the fruits or pods of which are called sangri. These tenacious trees have roots that go deep into the soil — so deep, in fact, that they can store enough water for seven months. The berries of ker and pods of the khejri tree are the ingredients that lend the ker sangri its umami.
Ker sangri is also one of the most underrated dishes on the Rajasthani menu, and often sidelined by the lal dal ki puri — which is served with it.
While the ker sangri finds top billing at restaurants in Rajasthan, and is even served as a part of the main course — as a dry side dish to be eaten with rotis or rice — it is no longer a staple in Marwari homes. Instead, it is increasingly being used to headline Marwari buffets. That may be because making ker sangri is no easy task.
There are many varieties of Ghewar, including plain Ghewar or Mawa Ghewar and Malai Ghewar. It is generally prepared in July–August for the Teej or Raksha Bandhan festival.
In mithai-making, preparation of Ghewar is unique and fascinating. Unlike other mithais, Ghewar comprises by frying liquid Maida poured into a mould generally round or hexagonal-shape, layer by layer and soaked in an aromatic sweet syrup.
The crispy delicacy Ghewar is often eaten by women of Rajasthan to break their fast on Gangaur and Teej. Jaipur’s Ghewar is world famous and is exported globally.