Skip to main content

Winds of taste from the sandy desert

The ethnic group of people from the princely Marwar region of Rajasthan is called Marwari. Though the term is used to refer to all the people from Rajasthan or those having roots in Rajasthan, the term specifically refers to the bania or trading community of Rajasthan.
You might wonder why instead of writing about food in my column I have shifted my attention towards anthropology. Worry not, this detour will only lead us to the destined land of tastes and slurrrps. As you might have figured by now, today we are going to discuss Rajasthani cuisine, which has been spread far and wide by the travelling business community, the Marwaris.
Dal baati churma is the most common name amongst the dishes ladled out of this desert region that you might already be aware of. Let us take a look at what else is on offer.

The Marwari traders used to travel far and wide on the Ganga-Yamuna trade route for business. Not much of their food was influenced by their travels though the people of this community, with their astute sense for profit-making, have been at the forefront contributing to the development of the country.
The people of the Marwari community generally consume vegetarian food which is prepared with generous helpings of desi ghee. The food of these desert people has been characterised by jowar or bajra, which is used to make rotis and khichuris, and by an effusive use of chilli and asafoetida to impart strong flavours. The lack of leafy vegetables ensured a pronounced use of lentils, pulses and legumes in Rajasthani food. The cuisine relies heavily on dry mango powder or amchoor to substitute the taste of tomatoes which do not grow in abundance in the desert area. Amla has traditionally been in use to make delicious preserves and pickles as the tree is commonly found in this region. Amlana, a delicious cool drink to fight the desert heat, is made of tamarind and infused with the goodness of black salt, pepper and cardamom. This is a drink fit for kings.

Amongst fruit, mangoes are considered to have a cooling effect on our systems. Hence the aam ka panna or kairi ka paani, a drink made of raw mango pulp and spiked with jeera powder and black salt in great quantities, is a favoured drink to fight the intense heat of the desert. The mango pulp when simmered with the fennel flower and seeds yields a pickle that is a must in the Marwari household as an important accompaniment for afternoon meals.
The arid conditions do not favour a lot of vegetation and hence not many dairy animals can be reared around the desert. yet the ingenious people of Rajasthan devised various ways to include the wealth of vitamins and minerals of dairy produce in their diets. The camels yield thick, creamy milk which can spoil because of the heat and so it is curdled and used to produce amazing dishes like the gatte ki kadhi that is known far and wide. The chaas made of curd is served in every household and can be sweetened or salted to suit the taste of the consumer. Curd is also used to prepare dahi shorba — a frothy yoghurt-based soup, often served at the beginning of a meal. The use of curd and buttermilk in gravies not only acted to improve the flavours but also substituted the need of water.

It is always amazing to see how human beings have striven to make hostile circumstances work in their favour. Rajasthani cuisine is one such example of ingenuity and working with the resources available.

(This post appeared as a column in The New Indian Express on Feb 15, 2012. You can read it here as well.)


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: Eeny Meeny, MJ Arlidge

A spine chilling novel where Detective Inspector Helen Grace makes her first appearance. Read it for a prose that doesn't meander or wastes time in getting to the point.


I have bee postponing writing about Eeny Meeny because I wanted to be in a certain mood to write this review. There has only been one other book besides this one that has given me a sleepless night. That book was Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None'.

There is nothing graphic or gory in either of these books over which I might have lost sleep but the sheer reason for which people were being murdered, shook me up. Of course And Then There Were None is very atmospheric, that whole abandoned island, the morose weather, crashing sea waves- is enough to spook you. It is the woman herself- Agatha Christies- who is a master storyteller, you might just say.

Getting back to Eeny Meeny, credit should be given to Arlidge for creating a spell binding narrative doled out in small,…

Book Review: The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith #1

Precious Ramotswe- Botswana's only and finest female private detective makes her debut with this book which is divided into short stories like chapters, full of warmth, wit and intuitive charm, taking our detective to solve a case in strange locations amongst still stranger people.
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is everything that you might expect from a thriller novel and then some more. The book perhaps might seem like the life story of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only and finest female private detective, from her birth till the time she sets up her agency and you might be tempted to give up, (if you are in search of blood and gore) but I would suggest against it.
The book not only gives you the entire history of the now thirty-five years old and large (but the traditional way) Precious Ramotswe and some of Botswana as to what this place and its people are like, but I believe that the very skilled Mr Smith is just setting the …

Seeking thrillers- Why I am reading mystery books this year

If you have been following me for sometime, you might know that I am on a personal mission to read as many first thrillers where a Detective or a Detective Inspector makes an appearance, from world over. So far, I have read some awesome Detectives etched by writers from the Nordic countries (Jo Nesbo, Helen Tursten, Kristina Ohlsson),  the US (JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith) and this one that I am going to review next, from England (MJ Arlidge, this though is his fifth on the link). I have also read some remarkable stand alone thrillers like No time for Goodbye and the Japanese masterpiece Devotion Suspect X (which I think kicked my obsession with finding the first ones of the series and which was so mind-blowing that its review isn't even comprehensible slink to another one of his works that is also so so good. Must rectify that one someday though when I can get over the awesomeness).

You might wonder why am I doing it. Even I think what is this going to achieve and I don't…

Book Review: No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

If you would want to give your system a shock or a jolt then this book is for you. If you are facing a reader's block and thrillers are your thing then read this book. Pick this book if you want to have a good time page after page.

The Plot

No Time for Goodbye by the Canadian author Linwood Barclay is a nail biting thriller that is as simple and humane as it is complex. As a 14 year old Cynthia Bigge is dragged from her boyfriend's arms by her father who finds her sloshed in his car one night. Next morning Cynthia wakes up to find that her parents and brother have disappeared without leaving a single trace or note for her. The house is spic and span as her mother likes to keep it, nothing is out of place or amiss to suggest any kind of foul play and still no one can seem find anything about her family. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of this event, Cynthia agrees to feature in a documentary about this. A few days later strange things begin t…

Book review: Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson #1

Someone is abducting small children and leaving their dead bodies with UNWANTED scribbled on their foreheads. Fredrika Bergman is an academician and a civilian, and a new entrant on the investigation team whose instincts and insights are being ignored by her senior male colleagues at the Police department. Will the culprit keep getting away or will the team come together past its differences and nab him?

Whoever said a book will take you to places that you might not otherwise get a chance to visit. While I would say that reading any author is like going inside his head and at times there you will find how a psycho thinks and works and there you might also find the wonder and inquisitiveness of a small child.

Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson is a thriller that will take you through many Swedish towns and cities in search of the perpetrator of a crime that takes place in Stockholm. A young child of six, Lillian, is abducted from a crowded train. No one notices that t…