Although it is not easy to find in the rest of India and even less so in Indian restaurants in Europe, Gujarat cuisine is famous and a source of pride for its inhabitants. It dominates vegetarian food, more than in other places in India, and egg consumption is rare, with the exception of the Muslim community that remains meat and fish consumer.
The Gujarat food stands out for its sweet flavors that balance the spiciest curries and the strong presence of dairy products, which almost always accompany the meal, whether in the form of curd (yogurt), sweetened milk-based cream and the popular cham (buttermilk) which is the drink that usually accompanies meals, in a state where the dry law rules, that is, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Like the rest of the country, the chai, tea with milk, is very popular being consumed throughout the day, often serving for breakfast, as a pretext for a break, at the end of a meal or simply a pretext for two fingers of conversation. But the Gujarat chai is stronger, distinguished by its dark color and its intense spice flavor, where the “spicy” of ginger stands out.
Dhai Dhokla: a previous dish variant, found only in Bhuj, to which is added yogurt and hot sauce that cuts the sweet taste of yogurt. It was an invigorating way to start the day as soon as we reached the city market.
Dhai wadha: kind of fluffy dumplings, which is served with yogurt and hot sauce, bringing a touch of powdered cumin that matches the sweetness of the yogurt.
Fafda: stall selling snacks, both sweet and savory, but mostly fried; in the foreground are the gathiya: crispy and spicy fritters made from grain flour
Dhokla: one of the most popular snacks in Gujarat, often eaten by tomorrow; made with flour and turmeric, steamed and seasoned with curry leaves and mustard grains. It can be eaten plain accompanied by fried chili peppers, or drizzled with sugary yogurt.
Kutchhi Dabeli: perhaps the most popular fast food in Gujarat, which by name has its origins in the Kutch area, but which can be found everywhere, in small restaurants and street stalls; it is a small hamburger bread (pav), toasted and stuffed with a potato-based paste seasoned with a mixture of spices called dabeli that gives the mixture an intensely red color. Accompanying the chaas, (buttermilk) a kind of slightly fermented milk, close to yogurt but more liquid.
Lassi: drink based on beaten yogurt, with sugar, but which can also be salted. This is a variant with a rose aroma and decorated with dried fruits. Lassi is found throughout India and is usually eaten as a snack
Poha: steamed rice flakes, wrapped and seasoned with a mixture of spices, the saffron that gives color to this snack stands out, often consumed as breakfast; it is served accompanied by a spicy sauce and fried chilies.
Street snacks: a sample of the many options of food that can be found on the streets of the cities of Gujarat, and also all over India, which can serve as breakfast, meal or as a snack between lunch and dinner. A mixture of pakoras (fried based on grain flour and vegetables of which there are many variants) and crunchy lentil dumplings.
Sweets … like most Indian sweets in Gujarat, sugar has a strong and heavy presence; however, the aromas of saffron and cardamom and other spices, many of which are made from milk and ghee (clarified butter that gives a very particular flavour) or using grain flour; sometimes with pistachio, almonds and cashews… burfi, ladoo, gulab, mesu …. the names have been forgotten but there was a delicious memory !!!
The complete meal, which is called thali, usually composed of rice, vegetable curry and a lentil-based broth (dhal) but in Gujarat gains another refinement and complexity, with a greater variety of curries, vegetables, grain, etc. … some with a sweet taste, others soft and rich in spices, reaching the very spicy.
In the large metallic plate that starts empty, the small bowls are filled with various curries, curd (yogurt) and sweets, reserving space for salty and spicy chutneys, and sometimes pieces of dhokla.
Traditionally, the meal is served with papad (a crispy cracker of grain flour) and accompanied by chapatis (flatbread), always in large quantities; only a portion of rice is served at the end. Throughout the meal several employees pass to refill the plate, bringing more chapatis until “say enough” !!!
The drink served with thali is chaas (buttermilk, made from milk) that can be sweet or salty and seasoned with powdered cumin.
I can say that the food in Gujarat left a yummy and memorable memory… and it’s so easy to be a vegetarian in Gujarat!!
I miss it!!