#FoodTalk: Tracing the Origin of traditional Rajasthani dishes

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Be it dal baati choorma, gatte ki sabzi, lal maas or ghevar, Rajasthani cuisine has time and again bowled people over with its uniqueness and palate explosion. What may be staple to this exotic state is an object of wonder for many. Let’s trace the origin of some of the popular delicacies of the state.

 

Rajasthan is not only known for its rich, vibrant culture and heritage, but also for its exquisite food. Geographic characteristics can influence the cuisine of any region. And when it comes to Rajasthan, the radical climatic conditions, shortage of water resources had a huge effect on its food and eating habits.

Dal Baati Choorma and its many tales

Dal Baati Choorma is one of the most popular dishes of Rajasthan. Considered a meal in itself, the quintessential dish has three elements - dal whichis a mix of boiled lentils with tempering, baati is a whole wheat flour dumpling and choorma is coarsely ground wheat alongside gheeand jaggery or sugar. History has it that itwas a staple dish for soldiers during the time of Bappa Rawal of Guhila (Gahlot) clan. They used to bury balls of dough made with wheat, ghee and camel milk into the sand and leave it to bake under the sun. By the time they would return, the dough was cooked and eaten with curd or buttermilk.


Dal Baati Choorma (Representational image / Image credit: Wikimedia)


Much later, a lot of people began enjoying it with dal too, especially panchmel dal, which was a common delicacy in the royal kitchens of the Gupta kings. Choorma’s origin on the other hand is credited to the House of Mewar as well as the Guhila dynasty. There is a tale associated with its origin - a cook accidentally poured ganne ka ras (sugarcane juice) into the baati which then became choorma. Another tale notes women keeping baatis dunked in sugar or gur (jaggery) to keep them fresh until their husbands returned from work. A few years down the lane, baati became an integral part of the Mughal Court too, during the period of Rani Jodha Bai. And finally, the dish came to be known as Dal Baati Choorma.


Gatte and its flavours

Another item that is a must-have is Gatte ki sabzi. Back in the day, leafy and green vegetables was not easily available in Rajasthan, but people used to compensate with lots of grains, pulses and spices. So they made the best out of the available resources and came up with Gatte ki sabzi. In the book 'A Historical dictionary of Indian Food’, food historian KT Achaya writes, "Moong and besan flour form the foundation of numerous crisp, fried savouries like the mangodi, gatti, papadi and methi.” He even states, "Many vegetables are sun dried throughout the year before being used as gattey.” Women in Rajasthan used to make gatte in advance and store them for future use. Prepared with gram flour and dry masalas, the gatte is steamed and cut into bite-sized portions.


Gatte ki sabzi (Representational image / Image credit: Manjula’s kitchen)


In simple words, they are gram flour dumplings that are simmered in a rich yoghurt or buttermilk-based gravy. Truly unique, isn’t it?


From the Rajputana kitchens

The food habits of the Rajputs deeply influenced that of the masses during those days and it has transcended to the present times. The Rajputs were very fond of hunting as a sport and their shikar (target) would be served as meals. The khansamas (cooks) who were in charge of the rasowaras (royal kitchens), would consistently innovate to cook the shikar. The recipes were guarded and passed on only to the next generation of khansamas.


One such item is Laal Maas. Laal means red and maas means meat. In an interview with NDTV Food, Chef Sadaf Hussain, a Contestant of Masterchef India 2016 said, “An iconic dish in Rajasthan that originated in the Mewari Gharana is Laal Maas. The inception of it dates back to the 10th century AD when the King of Mewar desired for some hot and meaty food to suit the palate of a warrior. Legend has it that though the Khansamas made what they were asked to, the odour of the hunted deer was prevalent in the curry even after adding a lot of yogurt and garlic. Thus, the curry was not good enough to please the Royal King and got rejected.”


So what did they do?

He continued, “Rising up to the challenge, the Mewar cooks used three different styles of cooking and a lot of chillies. The chillies not just added to the flavour of the dish but also removed the odour and gave it a bright hue and therefore, it was named Laal Maas. The traditional recipe was an amalgamation of local spices. Red chillies were rubbed on the meat (lamb/mutton), and then cooked in ghee to attain a distinct flavour and eventually slow-cooked in a paste of chillies, ghee, garlic, spices and yogurt for about 45-50 minutes.”

Well, it is interesting to note that Laal Maas came into being many years after being consumed by locals and tourists alike. Even other Rajasthani delicacies like Ghevar, a popular sweet; Ker Sangri, a spicy dish similar to a pickle; Safed Maas, white meat; Papad ki sabzi, papad cooked in a rich yoghurt-based gravy became popular subsequently.

So if you truly want to experience these traditional delicacies, it is time to order in or cook some authentic Rajasthani food.


 

Edited by Roshni Shroff.

 

Some resources and links to help you learn more about Rajasthani cuisines:


Rajasthani Cuisine: A Fusion of Resilience, a Royal Past and Innovation


Food of Rajasthan: 27 Rajasthani Dishes To Get You Drooling!