CUISINE OF RAJASTHAN IN INDIA
Fascinating Rajasthan Cuisines were influenced by the geomorphology and political conditions of the region of Rajasthan. The availability of all types of food was a rarity here and the preservation of the food was the main criteria because of the desert conditions and war situations of Rajasthan. Rarely has the world seen so rich a cuisine from so little that was available from the land of Rajasthan. While the eastern region of Rajasthan has fertile soil capable of crops of everything from wheat and maize to millets and corn, for much part the desert’s dry terrain, prone to droughts, was incapable of producing even basic necessities of survival. Yet, live and eat they did, creating an exotic cuisine from the soil that threw up a few pulses, crops of millet, and trees with beans that were dried and stored for use when, in the summers, nothing would grow.
Communication and faster means of transportation of Rajasthan have brought in a revolution in the choice of vegetables and fruits that are now available throughout Rajasthan, but this was not always so. Which is why, for the villager, his diet still remains sparse, and consists of dairy produce, bread of millets and accompaniments of gram flour and sour buttermilk which, say dieticians across the world, is a high-protein, low-fat cuisine. Perhaps that is what gives the people of the desert their erect gait and slender build.
Land of Princes, as Rajasthan is called, shows off the royal kitchens of Rajasthan in which 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.
Historical Influence of Rajasthan in India
Rajasthani cooking here has its own unique flavor and the simplest; the most basic of ingredients go into the preparation of most of the dishes in Rajasthan. The cuisine of Rajasthan was highly influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in the desert region in Rajasthan. Scarcity of water and lack of fresh green vegetables also had their effect on Rajasthani cooking. Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred, more out of necessity than choice in Rajasthan.
The passion of the Maharajas of Rajasthan for shikar (hunting) has been largely responsible for shaping the culinary art in Rajasthan. In the world of good eating, game cooking is easily the most respected art form in Rajasthan, largely because the skills required to clean, cut and cook game are not easily acquired. With the Pathani invasions, filtered in the art of barbecuing which has now been honed to perfection and the quintessential sula-smoked kebabs or skewered boneless lamb-can be prepared in 11 different ways. On the other hand is the vegetarian cooking of the Maheshwaris of Marwar or Jodhpur in Rajasthan, who do not use even garlic and onions, as these are said to excite the blood.
The personal recipes of the royal KHANSAMA still rotate around their generations and are the highlights of regal gatherings of Rajasthan. Each state of Rajasthan had their own style of the recipes which is continued in the Rajput households. It was mainly the men folks of the family that prepared the non-vegetarian. Some of the Maharajas apart from being great hunters relished the passion of cooking the SHIKARS themselves for their chosen guests and the trend continues among the generation of Rajasthan.
The Cuisine and the Favourites of Rajasthan
In the desert belt of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner of Rajasthan, 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. Dried lentils, beans from indegenous plants like sangri, ker, etc are liberally used. Gram flour is a major ingredient here and is used to make some of the delicacies like khata, gatte ki sabzi, pakodi etc. Powdered lentils are used for mangodi, papad etc. The daily food in Rajasthan typically comprises unleavened bread, made of wheat, barley, millet or maize. Bajra and corn is used all over the state for preparations of rabri, kheechdi and roti. Various chutneys are made from locally available spices like turmeric, coriander, mint and garlic. Perhaps the best known Rajasthani food is the combination of Dal, bati and churma but for the adventurous travelers, willing to experiment, there is a lot of variety available in Rajasthan.
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. The wealthy can afford to eat meat regularly in Rajasthan, but many abstain for religious reasons. Though the Rajasthani kitchen was able to create much from little, it had also to cater to different communities with their own ritual observances. You can spice up vacations in Rajasthan by trying out the various chutneys that are made from locally available spices like turmeric, coriander, mint and garlic.
Some Mouthwatering Delicacies of Rajasthan are:
Daily food mainly comprises of dal-bati (cooked lentils and roasted balls of dough), accompanied by a variety of dried or pickled berries cooked in different ways.
Soups in Rajasthan
A soup of legumes flavored with red chili peppers, yogurt or milk and sometimes a vegetable such as okra, jackfruit, and eggplant, mustard or fenugreek leaf.
Chapatti in Rajasthan
The chapatti is flat, unleavened bread which serves almost as a spoon, for it is used as a scoop to transfer food to the mouth. It complements both the texture and flavor of the food it scoops up, absorbing runny sauces, balancing strong flavors and smoothness.
Fried Puris in Rajasthan
Puris are delicious, fried wheat bubbles which have varied uses; as snacks, scoops for food and as a complement to hot spices. Family members typically sit on the floor and are served piping hot food by the lady of the houses.
Khud khargosh in Rajasthan
Khud Khasrgosh (Hare or rabbit meat cooked in a pit) is a Rajput specialty during summer in Rajasthan, when the hare is lean. The hare is skinned and stuffed with spices, wrapped in dough and finally in layers of mud-soaked cloth. The ambrosial result is meat perfectly blended with the spices and dough.
Lal maans and Safed Maans in Rajasthan
Lal maans (red meat), a fiery heavily spiced dish, and safed mass (white meat) cooked with almonds, cashew nuts and coconut - should not be missed during your Rajasthan tour.
Sula - Tender Morsels of Meat in Rajasthan
In Rajput cuisine, sula refer to tender morsels of meat, the most prized being wild boar spare ribs(bhanslas), marinated in a mixture of dry yogurt, browned onions, garlic, ginger, coriander, red chilli, and kachri, a small pod which tenderizes meat and lends a particular sharp-sour flavour to many dishes. The marinated meat is smoked, spitted on skewers, and grilled over hot coals. Sulas are made of chicken, pheasant, mutton, or fish.
Mughal inspired Dishes in Rajasthan
The Mughals influenced the eating habits of the Rajput courts. From the simple grilled meats served on leaves, the royal kitchen introduced elaborate curries, kebabs and pulao's(rice prepared with clarified butter, spices meat and vegetables) served on silver platters.
Lassi in Rajasthan
Natural yogurt is churned to remove the butter content for the making of Lassi or buttermilk a cooling summer beverage.
Regional Specialties in Rajasthan
Each region has its own special food item that is identified with the town or city. If Jaipur in Rajasthan has its specialty of Mishri Mawa, Kalakand and Ghevar, none of the other princely states have lagged behind. Bikaner has its savouries, especially bhujiya, which has accounted for its fame, and the quality of its papads and badi remains unrivalled. The lean mutton of the desert goats of this region too is considered the most favourable. In Bharatpur, milk sweets, rarely commercially available, occupy a niche by themselves. A Rajasthani delicacy, linked with the monsoon festival of Teej, is called ghevar, consisting of round cakes of white flour over which sweetened syrup is poured. Today, variations include lacings with cream and khoya, making it a delightful concoction. Muslim food has also occupied a place in the overall cuisine of Rajasthan, not just in pockets such as Tonk and Loharu, but also in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
The region of Mewar or Udaipur in Rajasthan is believed to have come up the form of barbecue called Sooley and Dil Jani. The region of Jodhpur in Rajasthan is famous for Makhaniya Lassi, Kachoris, hot green masala chilies and Laddoos. The region of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is famous for Laddoos, Pushkar for Malpua, Ajmer in Rajasthan for Sohan Halwa, Alwar for Mawa and Bharatpur for Sweets made from milk. Hot jalebies are available in most town and cities of Rajasthan.
The Kachchwaaha family of Jaipur in Rajasthan is the originator of the delicacy called Safed Maans or white meat. The preparation is white in color and is prepared from white mutton. The curry is prepared from cashew nuts, almonds, fresh coconut kernel paste, white pepper and poppy seeds.
When it comes to food and drinks of Rajasthan, each city of Rajasthan has a fantastic range of restaurants that offer local Rajasthani cuisine as well as Indian, Mughlai, Chinese and Continental food of Rajasthan.
Popular Beliefs or Myths of Rajasthan
Contrary to popular belief, people of Rajasthan are not all vegetarians. The unique creation of the Maharaja of Salwar is the Junglee maas. Junglee maas was a great favourite among the Maharajas and due to the paucity of exotic ingredients in the camp kitchen, the game brought in from the hunt was simply cooked in pure ghee, salt and plenty of red chillies of Rajasthan. However, now this dish has been adapted to the less controversial ingredients like kid/lamb, pork or poultry of Rajasthan.
The Vaishnavs, followers of Krishna, were vegetarian, and strictly so, as were the Bishnois, a community known for their passion to conserve both animal and plant life. Even among Rajputs, there were enough royal kitchens where nothing other than vegetarian meals was cooked.
The Marwaris of Rajasthan, of course, were vegetarian too, but their cuisine, though not too different from the Rajputs, was richer in its method of preparation. And then there were the Jains too in Rajasthan, who were not only vegetarians, but who would not eat after sundown, and whose food had to be devoid of garlic and onions which were, otherwise, important ingredients in the Rajasthani pot.
The Indian Kitchen of Rajasthan
The simple Indian Kitchen has a brick-and-mud fireplace in Rajasthan. Food is usually cooked over a wood or charcoal fire in the remote areas but the people of the urban area use LPGs, Hot Plates, Microwaves, Heater, etc. for cooking in Rajasthan. The utensils of clay, brass or copper are generally used in Rajasthan.