Cuisines of Rajasthan

Land of Princes, as Rajasthan is called, shows off, many a fine gastronomic both within the palaces and outside. The royal kitchens of Rajasthan, the preparation of food was a very complex matter and was raised to the levels of an art form. Thus the 'Khansamas' (the royal cooks) worked in the stately palaces and kept their most enigmatic recipes to themselves. Some recipes were passed on to their descendants and the rest were passed on as skills to the chefs of semi states and the branded hotel companies.

Rajasthani cooking was inclined to the war-like lifestyle of the medieval Rajasthan and the availability of ingredients of the region. Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred, more out of necessity than choice. Scarcity of water, fresh green vegetables have had their effect on cooking.

In the desert belt of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner, cooks use a minimum of water and prefer, instead, to use more milk, buttermilk and clarified butter. A distinct feature of the Maheshwari cooking is the use of mango powder, a suitable substitute for tomatoes, scarce in the desert, and asafoetida, to enhance the taste in the absence of garlic and onions. Generally, Rajasthani curries are a brilliant red but they are not as spicy as they look. Most Rajasthani cuisine uses pure ghee (clarified butter) as the medium of cooking.

A favourite sweet dish called lapsi is prepared with broken wheat (dalia) sautéed in ghee and sweetened. In the desert belt of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner, cooks use a minimum of water and prefer, instead, to use more milk, buttermilk and clarified butter. A distinct feature of the Maheshwari cooking is the use of mango powder, a suitable substitute for tomatoes, scarce in the desert, and asafoetida, to enhance the taste in the absence of garlic and onions. Generally, Rajasthani curries are a brilliant red but they are not as spicy as they look. Most Rajasthani cuisine uses pure ghee (clarified butter) as the medium of cooking. A favourite sweet dish called lapsi is prepared with broken wheat (dalia) sautéed in ghee and sweetened.

Popular Dishes

Some of the popular dishes specific to Rajasthani cuisine include- Karhi, popularly known as khatta, made of buttermilk or yogurt, mixed with chickpea flour, mustard seeds and crushed garlic cloves, cooked on slow heat for a long time, for the longer it simmers, the better it tastes. 'Gatte ka saag', is cooked with freshly made dumplings of chickpea flour and 'badi ka saag' is prepared with sun-dried moth-lentil dumplings. 'khichra' a porridge of millets and moth lentils that is cooked along with water, a little spice and some ghee in combination with either jaggery or karhi forms a staple part of the Rajasthani diet. The hot red-chilli-and-garlic chutney (a type of tangy Indian sauce) 'raabori' and millet flour cooked in buttermilk, (which is believed to be an excellent coolant in the summers) are popular accompaniments with the food. Sangri and ker (a hard desert berry) abounds in the preparation of Rajasthani meals and vegetables such as Okra, Jackfruit, Eggplant, Mustard and Fenugreek leaves are also used.

After spicy, sweet is the next preferred flavour in Rajasthan and each town boasts of a specific sweet speciality, Laddoos from Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, Malpuas from Pushkar, Rasogullas from Bikaner, Dil Jani from Udaipur, Mishri Mawa and Ghevar from Jaipur, Mawa Katchori from Jodhpur, Sohan Halwa from Ajmer, Mawa from Alwar and the list goes on.

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