India is known for its lip-smacking cuisines, amazing spices and well, quite simply the unbeatable flavours of its food. But what you may not know is that each area of India has its own traditional dishes and spices which are local to particular places You won’t be able to taste them all in one trip – there are far too many – so let’s focus on Rajasthan, the land of the Kings.
Rajasthan is one of India’s most exotic destinations (and that’s saying something for a country that is famous for its intriguing sites). You might know it as the home of the Thar Desert or Jaipur, the famous pink city. Rajasthan, a state in the north of India, literally translates to Land of Kings and is so called as it was once ruled by Monarchs.
This rich history oozes from the remnants of forts and palaces throughout Rajasthan, a state that is soaked in royal culture and unique and famous cuisines. Rajasthani food is highly influenced by a dearth of water and vegetables. The hunting expeditions of the rich and the lifestyle of local warriors of years gone by has given rise to a whole range of innovative dishes and ingredients that can last for several days.
Whether you love spicy food or have a craving for desserts, Rajasthan has a variety of tantalizing dishes in its arsenal for you. Here are the five best dishes to try while traveling in this arid state.
Gatte ki Sabzi (Gram flour dumplings)
Typical Rajasthani food platters are incomplete without this dish. Steamed and lightly fried dumplings made with gram flour, this dish is served with a tangy gravy of tomato, buttermilk and spices. There are, of course, variations on this cuisine across Rajasthan. Where one is tangy, another will boast the richness of dry fruits. Enjoy it with steamed Jeera (cumin) rice or Rotis (Indian flatbread).
Ker Sangri (Wild beans and berry)
Legend has it that long ago when Rajasthan was hit with a famine, its people found a kind of wild berry and wild beans that flourished during this grim time when all the vegetation had died. The villagers took these vegetables home and due to the scarcity of water cooked them in vegetable oil with spices. They ate this concoction with their bajra (Pearl Millet) rotis. Today, this tangy and peppery cuisine is cooked with buttermilk or water and served as a side dish – trust us, when we say, it’s wonderful.
Besan ki barfi
Oof! With innumerable desserts from Rajasthan, it’s difficult to choose just one as the best. But this one manages to inch out its counterparts to come out on top. This royal dessert will impress even the fussiest food connoisseurs. Made with gram flour and also known as Mohanthaal, this dense milk-based sweet has a chewy texture and leaves a grainy flavour in your mouth. Plus, the aroma and taste of ghee (clarified butter) adds cherry to the cake!
Laal Maans (Red Meat)
Now for something for all the non-vegetarians–Laal Maans (Red Meat) is inspired by the color imbued by red chilies and is one of the most famous non-vegetarian dishes in the predominantly vegetarian state. Traditionally, laal maans was made with wild boar or deer. Today, it consists of marinated spicy mutton cooked on a low heat in a fiery sauce of red chillies, garlic paste, sliced onions and curds. You can’t ignore this pungent yet scrumptious crowd favourite.
Another variation of this dish is Mohan Maans, cooked with fresh milk, ground spices that include poppy seeds, cardamom and lemon and enjoyed best with dry fruit flatbread.
Daal Baati Churma
We’ve left the best for last, Daal Baati Churma is the state’s classic signature dish. Baatis are hard, unleavened breads traditionally cooked over firewood or a gas stove. They are served with Panchkuti Daal (a delightful curry consisting of five different types of lentils), ghee (clarified butter) for dipping and churma (coarsely ground wheat mixture crushed and cooked in ghee and jaggery – a kind of sugarcane – or sugar). From start to finish, you’ll find all the ingredients of this dish cooked in ghee – beginning from frying masala in ghee to adding additional ghee before serving. This combination of savory and sweet is a must try.
Have we got your mouth watering yet? We know we said five, but these four deserve a special mention also.
India has numerous variations of spiced yoghurt curry. While in some areas it’s cooked with a tangy flavor, others balance sweet and savory palettes. And Rajasthan has a special version of it. Made with gram flour, cumin, chili, garlic and curry leaves, this is a pungent and spicy curry best served with steamed rice.
Pyaaz Kachori (Onion deep fried breads)
Pyaaz ki kachori originated in Jodhpur and is now eaten all over the state, mainly as a breakfast snack. They are flaky, deep-fried breads made from plain flour and stuffed with a spicy onion mixture with spices like fennel, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder. Usually, kachoris are served with coriander and mint or date and tamarind chutney.
A sweet version of deep-fried breads, Mawa Kachori is filled with dry fruits and khoya (thickened milk), deep fried and then dipped in sugar syrup. A must try dessert after lunch or dinner. If you say you don’t have a sweet tooth, we say you haven’t tried this one yet.
Aam ki Launji (Raw Mango pickle)
An instant pickle made of raw mangoes, this is a sure heat beater. It is prepared with fennel and nigella with a sweet and sour gravy texture. Soft mango chunks are added to enhance the flavour. It can also be savoured with any Indian sabzi, giving the entire meal an extra edge.
So there you have it, just a few dishes to try while travelling through the amazing sites of Rajasthan.
Want to try these dishes for yourself? Check out our tour on the Palace on Wheels and explore some of the highlight of India.
By Diane Squires and Gunjit Arora