Like the state itself, its inhabitants and their rich culture, Rajasthani cuisine is a splendid array of colorful, spicy and unique dishes. The Rajasthani platter is a gastronomic delight and it is a part of today’s urban Indian culture to indulge in Rajasthani food festivals. The food style of this glorious desert state of India has been affected by the natural topography and indigenously available ingredients like most other civilizations of the world. A lack of leafy green vegetables, a pronounced use of lentils, pulses, legumes and the use of milk, curd and buttermilk in place of the water in the gravy marks the essentials of Rajasthani cuisine. Rajasthan Food is an experience to be cherished.
Dal, Baati, Churma is probably Rajasthan’s most favored and famous meal. Curma is a favorite sweet dish (made of coarsely powdered cereals) prepared to mark a special occasion or to honor a special guest. It is mostly had in combination with Panchmel Dal or simply Dal (five varieties of lentils slow cooked over coals and tempered with a generous helping of ghee, dry red chillies and spices) and Baati (balls made of wheat, thrice cooked- steamed, baked and fried).
Pickles and Papads:
Pickles and chutneys of Rajasthan are famous accompaniments to their main fare. Tamatar ki Launji, Lehsun ki Chutney, Imly ki Chutney Aam Launji and Pudina Chutney are common tidbits that give a bland meal the tang required and have excellent digestive properties. Moong Dal Papads, Masala Papads, Mangodis, Pakodis and Badis are used instead of vegetables in many dishes.
Unique soup recipes such as Dai Shorba (a frothy yoghurt based soup) and Tamatar Shorba (tomato soup flavored with traditional spices such as cumin and coriander) are served at the start of a meal. The popular vegetarian dishes of the region include the famous Ker Sangri (a zesty dish made of ker and sangria- locally grown beans cooked in butter milk with spices and raisins), Mangodi Alu ki Shak (a dish of potatoes and dal dumplins slow roasted and cooked till soft in a gravy) Jaisalmeri Chane (chick peas cooked in a sour gravy) and Besanwali Bharwan Mirch (big green chillies stuffed with a gram flour and spice mixture, deep fried and cooked in a gravy). In this regard it needs to be mentioned that yoghurt and gram flour (Besan) combination is used extensively to create the traditional gravies. Kadhi and Gatte ki Subzi are apt examples of such dishes.
Scarcity of fresh herbs and condiments leads to a restricted use of these and a pronounced role of spices that may be used dry and powered. A preference for flavorings which can be stored for long times in normal weather conditions characterizes the local cuisine. Red chillies of Rajasthan are famous worldwide. These may be used either whole or coarsely powdered. They lend the gravies not only a bright red/orange color but also their fiery, scalding flavor. Other spices commonly used are powdered turmeric (haldi),cumin seeds (jeera), corriander seeds (dhania), fennel seeds or aniseed (saunf), fenugreek seeds (methi dana), nigella seeds (kalonji), carom seeds (ajwain), cloves (laung or loong), garlic, dried ginger (soonth), amchoor (dried mango powder), mustard seeds (rai), kasuri methi (dried coarsely powdered fenreek leaves), asafoetida (hing), cinnamon (dalchini), cardamom (elaichi) etc. These are generally powdered in a heavy iron mortar and pestle just before adding to the food to retain their coarse texture and natural flavor.
Most Rajasthani families abstain from meat eating and are strict vegetarians, not only due to the costs incurred but also due to religious dictates. However the Rajput clan was always known to enjoy a hearty hunt (shikar) and the royal chefs (Khansamas) would delicately cook the day’s capture and incorporate the dish into the night menu.The women of the household never involved themselves in cooking the meat which they considered impure.
The men themselves or their cooks rustled up the meaty delights. Thus the meat prepared was mainly of hare or rabbit, wild boar or deer or game birds. Thus meat dishes were classified into Lal Mans (red meat) or Safed Mans (white meat). The Lal Mans was prepared in rich gravy of tomatoes and spices such as the scalding red chillies. The white meat was however was stuffed with dry fruits such as raisins and pistachio and slow cooked in a gravy of cashew, cream, coconut and blanched almonds and laced with powdered spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. Khud Khasrgosh and Sula are the two most famous meat preparations of the region. The influence of the Mughal association led the Rajputs to take an interest in the barbequed boneless preparations of tender meat called Kebabs.
The climatic conditions and the vegetation available do not allow for prosperous diary farming. However, the ingenious natives have found excellent substitutes. Goat and camel milk form the basis of the various diary products used in Rajasthani cuisine. Camel’s milk is thicker and richer and produces excellent yoghurt (dahi), butter, ghee, malai, khoa and soft cheeses such as paneer. These products are used lavishly in the cuisine as ingredients of the gravies and in the preparation of sweet dishes. The thick hot milk is an everyday beverage and is taken laced with a dash of cinnamon or a pinch of turmeric. Chilled Lassi (sweetened whipped curd) and Chas (buttermilk) are served in the households instead of tea or coffee as these are known to combat the scorching heat.
Bread rather than rice forms the staple food of the Rajasthanis. This is because rice does not grow well in these dry sandy soils. Rice is used in the pulaos and such preparations in the Rajput households but it does not form the staple main course of most households in the state. Wheat breads such as rotis are indeed the staple food. Wheat products such as atta (wheat flour), dalia (cracked wheat) and maida (refined flour) are commonly used to make the bread. Chapattis and Parathas are unleavened flat bread that are cooked on the direct flame and served dry or shallow fried. Puri and Kachauri too are smaller pieces of bread and these deep fried till they are crisp, golden and fluffy. Laapsi, made of dalia is an all time favorite. Missi Roti and Tikadia are shallow fried rotis stuffed with an assortment of spices. Due to the natural habitat of the region, jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and makai (corn) grow well. The flour of these are used very often to make rotis and make nutritious substitutes to the ordinary roti such as Jowar ki Roti, Bajre ki Roti, Chane ki Roti etc are common household variations of the wheat rotis.
And how can you miss out on the sweet meats? Native Rajasthanis have a unique style of coupling the sweet dishes with the main (bread/roti/puri) course instead of or in addition to vegetables or meat. Halwa - Puri for example makes a famous combination. Here again we find a great use of pulses, legumes, diary products etc and a unique style of rustling up the desserts. A great use of clarified butter (ghee) characterizes the sweets. These are over cooked and often chashni (caramel) based. Halwas and Chakkis are a must on most festive occasion. A variety of dal ka halwas are made using lentils such as Moong Dal ka Halwa, made of green gram (split) or semoina (Sooji ka Halwa). Ajmer is famous for its Sohan Halwa. Chakkis are also similar to halwa- Besan ki Chakki is an all time favorite. The state is also known for the many varieties of laddus (sweet balls) prepared commonly in the households. Motichur ka Laddu, Besan ka Laddu, Dal ka Laddu and the unique Gaund ka Laddu eaten mostly in winter months due to the heat it imparts to the system are the state’s specialties. A number of diary products are also effectively used in making desserts. Kheer is a milk-based sweet dish. Kheer is cooked in variations such as with the more common rice or with Vermicelli (Seviyan Kheer). Makhane ka Kheer and Jhajharia are also diary based recipes cooked only by the natives of the state. Ghevar (a specialty of Jaipur) of is probably the most intriguing of sweets prepared in the state. It is a must have on Makar Shankaranti, a festival that usually falls around the 14th of January every year. The Rabri topped Jalebi of Rajasthan is legendary. Malpuas of Pushkar, Dil Jani of Udaipur, Mishri Mawa of Ajmer have claimed the hearts of international tourists. Firni, Kalakand, Kaju Katli and Mawa Kachori are other all time favorites.
Snacks And Other Delights:
Rajasthan’s lip-smacking snacks and crunchy delights have made a name for themselves all over the world. Bhujia, Boondis, Sohali, and crisp Nimkis are the classic recipes of Rajasthani snacks. These can be stored and used over a long period of time. Chillas, Dahi Badas, Dahi Kachauris and Kanji Badas make for lighter meals and need to be consumed soon after preparation. Digestive drinks are served instead of aerated drinks in the ordinary household. These drinks such as Jal Jeera, Pudina Nimbu Pani and Kairi ka Paani are also known to cool the system down.
The traditional Rajasthani kitchen is devoid of the modern amenities such as ovens, burners and even the LPG. The oven is often a brick and mud chulha that burns on coal or dried cakes of camel dung. The rotis etc are cooked on direct flame and this is believed to be therapeutic. Heavy brass utensils and thick bottomed pots and pans (such as kadhai, tawa and haandi) serve the style of cooking best. Mortar and pestle are used extensively to grind and wooden spoons and ladles complete the picture of a Rajasthani kitchen.
Catch some more information on mouth watering Rajasthani Cuisine at Camel Festival 2008
Last Updated on 01 December 2011