Gujarati Cuisine is a representation of the industriousness, ingenuity and inventiveness of the Gujarati people.
India’s culinary scene is incomplete without a mention of the ‘jewel’ of the western region. Though the long coastline brings with itself a huge variety of seafood, however, the impact of Jain philosophy and culture makes the state predominantly vegetarian, except for a few communities who include non-vegetarian ingredients like eggs, chicken, and seafood to their platter.
But the truth remains, Gujarati food is not only vibrant and flavorful but also packed with nutrients. A range of cooking styles, techniques, and combinations of spices are all blended together to prepare dishes marking uniqueness in their own way! Some of the Gujarati dishes are boiled while others are stir-fried. Traditionally, Gujarati food is served on a silver plate, and the thali mostly consists of roti, kadhi, dal, sabzi, and plain rice. But what really makes their meals interesting and mouth-watering are the side-dishes such as papad, buttermilk, and homemade pickles as well as chundas. Besides, to prevent the body from getting dehydrated, the food is incorporated with a lot of tomatoes, lemon, salt, and sugar.
But ever thought why Gujarati food is made in the way it is? Not many might know that in the past centuries, Gujarat has had a host of different rulers including the Rajputs, Marathas, Mughals, and other invading Islamic reigns. Being an important port hub, there have been countless interactions with several global cultures that have left an impact on the Gujarati way of life. We also need to factor in the weather conditions saturating the whole of the state, thanks to the temperature that touches the peak up to 45 degrees Celsius in the summers. Thus, the very hot and dry climate not only shapes the state’s climate but their cuisine too!
Having said that, the region that spans to a whopping 200,000 sq. km, it’s tough to narrow down into one complete entity. We can’t miss giving a mention of the distinct flavors of Kutch, Kathiyawad, Amdavad, and Surat, with the latter consisting of central and north Gujarat cooking styles and dishes. Tastes also vary according to preference and choice of families. But on a wider spectrum, there’s a heavy bent towards sweeter taste, including the savory dishes, which contain a quite larger quantity of sugar as compared to spices and salt. Many Gujarati families substitute sugar with jaggery in a lot of their food items.
When it comes to the star dish, also the staples of the region, Khichdi tops the list. Made with lentils and rice, and served with pickles and papad, this popular dish remains a comfort food for most Gujarati’s and non-Gujarati’s, too. However, with time, many new variations of the said dish have emerged. And needless to say, the biggest contribution the Gujarati cuisine has ever made towards the country is a huge variety of delicious snacks. Called as ‘farsan’ in Gujarat, it constitutes a vital part of their meal. These snacks are rich in taste and not so oily. They are often served with a range of chutneys, sauces, and hot pickles.
Whenever you’re in Gujarat or visiting a Gujarati-specialty restaurant, do try out the following popular treats – khaman (healthy steamed snack made from freshly ground lentils and chickpea flour), thepla (made from gram flour, whole wheat flour, fresh fenugreek leaves and spices), khandvi (thin layers of gram flour cooked with buttermilk and rolled up in mushy goodness, seasoned with sautéed sesame seeds and a few other spices), undhiyu (eggplant, crunchy fried chickpea flour dumplings, potatoes, yam, green peas, bananas and beans, slow-cooked to perfection with buttermilk, coconut and spices, in an inverted clay pot), handvo (a savoury cake prepared with a fermented batter of lentils and rice), fafda-jalebi (fafda is a crunchy, fried chickpea flour snack, jalebi is a sweet deep-fried pretzel made of wheat flour and dipped in sugar – together they are a match made in heaven), Gujarati kadhi (a traditional dish made of sour curd, spiced with thickened gram flour and sweetened with a jaggery or sugar), and ghari (made of milk, ghee and puri batter with sweet fillings inside which is then moulded into round shapes).
All in all, Gujarati cuisine is elaborate, ingenious, and gives you immense hits of flavour each time you take a bite of the food items in its repertoire.