Regional Cuisine - Rajasthan
Rajasthani cuisine is a splendid array of colourful and unique dishes, despite being a desert state; the cuisine has a lot of variety. Rajasthani cooking was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the lack of availability of ingredients in such an arid region. Rajathan has a dry and hot climate and the most common foods eaten include bajre ki roti, lahsun ki chutney with onion and other pungent elements that add flavour to such simple meals. More ghee is used in the cuisine as ghee is considered to reduce dryness. It is also known for its snacks like Bikaneri Bhujia, Mirchi Bada and Pyaaz ki Kachori. Other famous dishes include Mawa Kachori from Jodhpur, Ghevar from Jaipur, Alwar ka mawa, Malpuas from Pushkar and Dry snacks from Bikaner and Dall-Bati-Churma which is famous all over the state. A distinct feature of their cooking is the use of mango powder, a substitute for tomatoes which are scarce in the desert, and Asafoetida, to enhance the taste in the absence of garlic and onions. Rajasthani curries are a brilliant red but they are not as spicy as they look because of the prevalence of red chillies, a staple in Rajasthani food since red chillies are heavily cultivated in the region, dried and packaged for sale. The specialty here is Marwari cuisine which originated in the Marwar region. It is pure vegetarian and involves innovative cooking methods with ingredients like gram flour to produce dishes that are like vegetable curries as the region has few vegetables to offer. One example is the ‘Gatte ki Sabzi’, which is essentially gram flour dumplings. This cuisine is extensive even with the paucity of fresh ingredients as can be seen in dishes like Mirchi Bhajiya, Aloo ke Sooley, or the Dal Samosa! This cuisine also includes the famed foods of the Maheshwari clan and is called Maheshwari cuisine!
Common spices/seasonings used in Rajasthani cuisine:
- Red Chillies: Rajasthani red chillies are world famous and cultivated for export as well. They are very fiery compared to Kashmiri chillies and skin, seeds and powder are very potent.
- Nigella seeds (kalonji): When cooked, the seeds have been described as peppery and smoky, or descriptions compare the seeds to oregano. Nigella seeds are aromatic and the taste is light and occasionally slightly bitter. They are common as topping on breads like ‘naan’ and in curries.
- Amchoor (dried mango powder): Amchoor is a powder made from dried unripe green mangoes. It has a honey-like fragrance and a sour fruity flavour. Amchoor is used in curries, chutneys, pickles, and stir-fries, both with vegetables and with meats. It has a slight tenderizing effect in meat dishes. Use this powder to add a fruit flavour without adding moisture, or as a souring agent.
- Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves): This flavouring is basically dried fenugreek leaf which is very convenient for state like Rajasthan as fenugreek is seasonal but can be preserved this way. This flavouring packs quite a punch but is less bitter and more fragrant than fresh fenugreek leaves.
- Kachri: Kachri is a wild variety of cucumbers. Fresh kachri resembles a brown yellow small melon, which grows wildly in the desert areas and is seldom cultivated as a crop. Fresh kachri is often added to vegetables and even used to make chutney. It is also dried and powdered and the powder, when used in cooking, adds a tangy taste.
Common vegetables used in Rajasthani cuisine:
- Corn: In Rajasthani cuisine, you will find dishes as diverse as ‘Makai Jajaria’ a corn based cake like dessert. But corn is processed into a flour as well and used to make rotis that have a long shelf life which is ideal for this desert state.
- Millet: In Rajasthan, ‘millet’ is commonly ground and used to make the popular ‘bajre ki roti’, they also use it to make ‘Bajre Ki Khichdi’ ‘with millet and green gram and it is used in snacks too!
- Sangri: Sangri is essentially a desert plant. A small moderate sized evergreen thorny tree that belongs to the same family as beans and lentils. Dried sangria are produced by harvesting the pods when they are fully mature and then drying them. Once they are dried and the skins removed, they may split naturally. Sangri needs to be soaked or parboiled to be used in cooking.
- Gwarphali: Also known as cluster beans, these are desert perennials too. Gwarphali is a common legume grown in India, and used just like string beans or green peas. It has the same health benefits as legumes, high protein content.
- Fresh Turmeric Root: This vegetable/root belongs to the ginger family but is much milder than ginger. It has a potent yellow colour and properties that produce heat in the body which makes it perfect to cook in cold winter months spent in the desert.
- Raabri: Flour of Pearl millet (Bajri) is mixed with buttermilk to make a thick sauce which is kept in the sun to ferment. After about 3 to 4 hours, it is boiled and simmered until the flour is cooked. It is usually eaten as a hot soup, but it can also be mixed with yogurt or buttermilk. Cumin seeds (zeera), onions, etc. are used as garnish.
- Daal-Baati: Baati is a hard, round bread which has a long shelf life and high nutritional content, as well as the minimal quantity of water required for its preparation. It is always eaten with dal. Baati can either be plain or have various kinds of fillings, including onions, peas, and sattu. Bafla is a kind of baati, which is softer. Bafla and baati are always eaten with hot dal with pure ghee and chutney.
- Bajre Ki Khichdi: Bajra is ground into a flour to make rotis or is coarsely crushed to make a porridge like khichdi that is eaten with a dollop of ghee or sesame oil in the cold desert winters. Lentils are also included in this preparation to make it more meal like and wholesome.
- Gatte Ki Kadhi: Gatte are made with gram flour, they are dumplings that are spiced with dry masalas and then steamed and cut into small bite sized pieces. These pieces are used to make a wide variety of dishes like subji, pulao, curry etc. This dish is made using a yoghurt based gravy and dry masalas.
- Gwarphali ki Sabzi: Gwarphali or cluster beans are an integral part of Rajasthani cooking. They are always strung and boiled before use. They are usually made as a dry side dish with typical Rajasthani ‘sabzi’ masalas like fennel, mustard seeds and asafoetida. They can also be prepared as a thick gravy.
- Kanji Vada’s: Kanji is a liquid extract of usually rice, black carrots or mustard. This is a Marwadi delicacy of moong dal vadas, soaked in mustard flavoured kanji. The kanji is usually made at least a day in advance so that all the flavours are released into the water and the vadas are soaked to absorb all the flavours and moisture.
- Ker Sangri: One of Rajasthan’s most favourite dishes, this is tangy vegetable preparation made with typical desert wild vegetables. Ker and sangri are available in the dried form and can be stored for a year. They are parboiled to soften, seasoned and then tempered with chillies, ajwain and asafoetida.
- Mooli ki Bhunji: This is a dry vegetable side dish, ideally made in winters when fresh white radish or mooli is easily available. Both the vegetable and the leaves are used, cut fine and seasoned with turmeric , garlic, cumin and red chillies and sautéed till cooked.
- Haldi Ki Sabzi: Turmeric Curry (Haldi Sabzi) is a traditional recipe of Rajasthan, turmeric is found fresh in winters which is yellow in colour and looks like Ginger. Turmeric is hot in and is good to consume in cold months. The Haldiis fried in ghee to remove bitterness and in some recipes even peas, cauliflower are added into the curry.
- Misi Roti: These are a common addition in a Rajasthan meal and sometimes variations are made by adding methi/fenugreek or coriander leaves to flavour the dough. The dough is a mix of whole wheat flour or atta and gram flour or besan and seasoned with spices and asafoetida.
- Bajre Ki Roti: These are usual Indian flat breads or roti’s except these are made with millet flour and the millet used is ‘bajra’. Commonly had in winters as it is heavy and hearty and keeps you full longer.
- Laapsi: Is a sweet dish made of wheat flour and ghee along with nuts, raisins and dry fruits. There are different types of laapsi also called sheera. Wheat flour is roasted in ghee till lightly cooked, then boiling water & jaggery are added, cooked further and served hot, like a halwa.
- Churma: Churma is a popular Rajasthani delicacy usually served with baati and dal. It is coarsely ground wheat crushed and cooked with ghee and sugar. Traditionally it is made by crushing up Bajra or wheat flour baati’s or roti’s in ghee and jaggery.
- Ghevar: This is a famous Rajasthani sweet usually associated with the festival of Teej. It is a Filigreed preparation made with flour, oil and sugar and set in a disc shaped mould. Since it is porous, it retains the sugar syrup it is doused with.
- Kairi ka Paani: Raw mangoes have a cooling effect on the body. To beat the intense desert heat, a drink called "kairi ka paani" is made using raw mango pulp, flavoured with jeera powder, sugar and black salt.
- Thandai: Rajasthani thandai is prepared with a blend of almonds, peppercorns, poppy seeds, saunf, and elaichi powder. This rich and flavourful paste is added to milk and sugar to make a cooling drink perfect for a desert state.
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