Rajasthan is a land of multiplicity - with a varied spectrum of geographies and landscapes. Yet, an underlying flavour exists, unifying the different regions. Cultural exchanges and climatic similarities brought on an amalgamation of cuisines within the royal state of Rajasthan. Located on the Indian Silk Road, Rajasthan has been a gateway into the Indian heartland and played host to hordes of traders passing by over the millennia. All of this has left a mark on the land and its cuisine. Hospitality has become ingrained into the people.
Although a generous people, Rajasthan was also known for its fearless warriors whose belligerent lifestyle brought with it a need for innovative culinary practices that are primed towards making longer shelf life food, even in the hot and dry climate of Rajasthan. Added to this the source of food, which was to a large extent provided by hunting and gathering also gave it a uniqueness. The use of dried and dehydrated lentils, beans, along with oil and red chillies as preservatives and flavouring and the extensive use of milk and buttermilk replaces the need for water to cook. Each of the great houses of Rajasthan developed their own secret ingredients and style of cooking, many of which are closely guarded secrets to this, handed over as priceless legacy within the family.
Still, many of these secrets have leaked out over time to the public at large, who have made it their own and embedded them deeply into the cultural and culinary tapestry of Rajasthan. At Manvar, an experiential Resort and Desert Camp in Jodhpur, we too are proud sentinels and guardians of such legacy, some secretive, some common knowledge but all of them delicious. Let us explore a few of them here and hope that you can give us the opportunity to regale you with the culinary wonders of our kitchen in the alfresco dining area of our multicuisine restaurant near Jodhpur with a speciality traditional menu at our private desert camp in Jodhpur. A poolside lounge and a deck on the dunes make for a wonderful setting for sundowners as well.
This is Rajasthan’s staple and classic signature dish. No travel to Rajasthan is complete without indulging in this simple meal. Baati is an unleavened and hard bread cooked in the desert regions such as around Manvar, our experiential desert camp and resort near Jaisalmer. Baati has a special place, significance and usefulness, prized mainly for its long shelf life along with the fact that hardly any water goes into cooking it. Relished with Dal, a lentil curry, Baati is common in all households. Churma is a coarsely ground mixture of wheat, cooked in ghee and jaggery providing the sweet relief that Rajasthanis love so much. A must try when visiting our desert camp in Jodhpur.
Rajasthan at large is an arid region. Although called subzi, Gatte ki Subzi is a misnomer. There is no vegetable that goes into the preparation of this popular dish. It is a curry made with gram flour dumplings and tangy gravy usually made of tomato, buttermilk and spices. Best enjoyed with Roti, we recommend the Bajre ki Roti.
If one dish has risen from being proletariat to popular, it is Ker Sangri. A blissful combination of peppery, tangy desert berry (Ker) and ubiquitous long bean (Sangri) found all over in the deserts of Jaisalmer and Barmer. A hardy bean variety, Sangri is a lifesaver during the times of drought. To boot, it has 53% protein! A serendipitous discovery during a severe episode of famine and drought, the marriage of Ker and Sangri in the presence of buttermilk and spices, enjoyed with Bajre ki Roti is indeed a union with an accord form heaven.
Rajasthan has predominantly a vegetarian population yet the defining dish of this land amongst many, not just the meat connoisseurs is the Laal Maas. With a literal meaning of red meat, the dish gets its name from the colour of the gravy, made of a feisty combination of red chillies, garlic paste, onions and curd. Historically, it was a hunter/ warrior dish made with wild boar or deer meat, but today it has morphed into a mutton dish. Our chef at Manvar Luxury Camp near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan makes a particularly popular and acclaimed dish. Our patrons from the world over return here or at least stop by to relish this.
Scarcity of water makes its presence felt in everything in Rajasthan. The industrious people with indomitable spirit always see the bright side of life and have turned this disadvantage into an advantage. Papad ki Subzi is a testament to this. A lifesaver in times of scarcity of vegetables, Roasted Papads ( paper-thin flatbreads made of lentils) are crushed and mixed with yoghurt gravy made of gram flour, chilli powder, turmeric and chopped coriander leaves. Savoured with steamed rice, Papad ki Subzi is an invention worth digging into on your next trip to Manvar Resort near Jaisalmer.
Bajra, a black millet grown all over Rajasthan is a local favourite. Flour made from this millet is rolled into thick flatbreads called Bajre ki Roti. Traditionally cooked on an open flame, fueled by dried cow dung cakes, that impart a smokey flavour. Wood from the local acacia tree also gives it a different dimension. Best enjoyed with a garlic dip made of garlic, red chilli powder, lime juice and jaggery, tempered with homemade butter, the Lasun ki Chutney is perfect to enjoy the earthy and rich flavour of Bajre ki Roti.
A much healthier option compared to wheat, Bajra is not just good for you, owing to its micronutrient profile, but also to the planet as it requires much less water and is disease resistant. Desert food is not just a curiosity but a window into our possible future with global warming and hotter climes rendering more and more land arid and desert-like, knowing the traditional secrets of the desert food might just save humanity in the future. Manvar Luxury Camp near Jaisalmer has earmarked an area of 400 acres of pristine desert land as a preserve and reserve for desert flora and fauna, so that future generations might benefit from studying this land and taking useful lessons from here. We also endeavour to preserve and showcase the traditional culinary art and science for the benefit and pleasure of all.