Rajasthan is one of India’s many exotic destinations. With its breathtaking palaces, spectacular landscape and rich history, it’s a truly unique holiday experience. We asked travel writer Kalpana Sunder to pick the region’s top dishes...
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.
Don’t leave Rajasthan without trying:
Dal baati churma
This is the state's classic signature dish. Baati is hard, unleavened bread cooked in the desert areas of Rajasthan. Baati is prized mainly for its long shelf life, plus it requires hardly any water for its preparation. It is always eaten with dal (lentil curry). The dal is made of lentils while churma is a coarsely ground wheat mixture crushed and cooked in ghee and jaggery or sugar.
Gatte ki subzi
Most of Rajasthani cusine came to fruition as a result of the arid conditions. For this dish you don’t need any fresh vegetables and that’s its speciality. This curry is made with gram flour dumplings (steamed and lightly fried) and tangy gravy made up of tomato, buttermilk and spices. It’s best enjoyed with rotis (Indian flat bread) and rice.
In this predominantly vegetarian state, the most famous non-vegetarian dish is laal maans. Laal maans literally means ‘red meat’ and the dish got its name because of its red color. Traditionally, laal maans used to be made with wild boar or deer. Today, it consists of marinated spicy mutton curry cooked on a low heat in a fiery sauce of red chillies, garlic paste, sliced onions and curds. A must-try for meat eaters.
One of the most popular Rajasthani dishes, ker is a wild berry that is tangy and peppery while sangri is a type of long bean grown abundantly in the desert areas of Jaisalmer and Barmer. Sangri is a mainstay during drought, when little else is available as it is 53% protein. Legend has it that long ago there was a famine in Rajasthan and the villagers found these two vegetables when all other vegetation had withered away. The villagers took these vegetables home and due to the scarcity of water cooked them in vegetable oil with spices. They ate this wonderful concoction with their bajra rotis. Today they cook it with buttermilk or water.
Papad ki subzi
The shortage of rain and water always made Rajasthanis think out of the box, and this dish was a lifesaver when they ran out of vegetables. In this popular curry, roasted papads (thin Indian flatbreads made from lentils) are broken roughly and added to the yogurt gravy made with gram flour, chilli powder, turmeric and chopped coriander leaves. The result is a mouth watering curry usually served with steamed rice.
Bajra ki roti with lasun chutney
Bajra is black millet flour and enjoyed all over the state. In villages, thickly rolled bajra rotis are cooked over cow dung cakes that impart a smoked flavour to the rotis. Bajra rotis can accompany virtually any vegetable on a Rajasthani menu. Bajra roti is usually accompanied by lasun ki chutney- a garlic dip made from garlic, red chilli powder, lime juice, jaggery and homemade butter.
This is a thick broth made from millet (bajra) flour and buttermilk, which is heated and fermented. Bajra flour and buttermilk are put in an earthen pot and mixed to make a thick sauce. This is then left to simmer over a low flame for several hours until fully cooked. It is then eaten, usually as a soup. A variant is 'makki ki raab', or corn raab, in which boiled corn kernels are added.
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 & mint and date & tamarind chutney.
This is a quintessential curry made up of five ingredients found widely across the Thar Desert. For a long time, travellers in the desert relied extensively on panchkuta during long drives on carts and camels. It has a long shelf life after being cooked and is traditionally eaten with pooris/rotis. The five ingredients of panchkuta are sangri, ker, Kumat (seeds from the pod of a deciduous tree), gunda (a kind of wild berry) and dry red chillies.
A special sweet dessert from Jaipur that is essentially a disc made from flour, soaked in ghee, milk and topped with sliced almonds. This sweet dish has a crunchy texture and is made in a mould. There are varieties of Ghevar that can be prepared from a plain, mawa (condensed milk) and malai ghevar (cream).
Have you sampled authentic Rajasthani cuisine? We’d love to hear your foodie experiences. We have lots more for gourmet globetrotters in our travel section.