Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman — not an artist. There’s nothing wrong with that: the great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen — though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable and satisfying. ~Anthony Bourdain
Rajasthan is a vibrant cocktail of heritage and culture. Soaring temperature tales and aridity results in paucity of vegetations here. This is what gave birth to the much-celebrated cuisine of Rajasthan. Jaipur, the capital city of the state, forms a rich culinary canvas that weaves the state together. While 60% of the population is vegetarian, there are clans and communities that have had some exotic meat preparations. Dairy products like buttermilk, milk and ghee have compensated for the dearth of water in recipes and that’s what makes them ridiculously delectable.
Around the bustling walled city and maturing new city, there are numerous culinary motifs. Although Jaipur is a hotbed of contemporary kitchens and cafes, still the walled city is the ground to iconic and desi authenticity. Here you go with some ‘must try/know’ about the Pinkcity while you stroll around the riotously colourful lanes.
Loaded with cardamom and cooked on a coal stove, Sahu tea stall has been serving tea since 1968. Gulaab Ji & Lassiwala, who is known for his steaming masala chai and thick creamy lassi for over 70 years respectively. Kachoris find a special place in this city with a diverse range bracketing from Pyaaz(onion) to Heeng (asafoetida) to Daal (dried lentils) and Mawa (condensed milk) kachoris. Rawat Kachoris is the master chef behind Pyaaz and Mawa ones in the city. A pop & spicy chilly cutlet or Mirchi Bada has savoury potato stuffing that goes inside the large-sized green chillies. Tamarind or mint chutney is served as a condiment with it. You may explore tiny shops producing Bhujias and Namkeens for over a century now. The signature dish Daal-Baati-Churma is a delicious platter which has many masters in the city. Baatis, baked wheat balls are eaten with a spicy blend of lentils’ curry and accompanied by coarsely ground wheat breads with lots of pistachios and jaggery or sugar. Bati has a variety of stuffing options also like – Masala Bati (dry fruits, potatoes and peas filling) or Keema Bati (minced mutton filling). Often, Churma has seasonal variations to it with distinct flavours like rose, gram flour and millets. During monsoon, there are more than 300 kaarigars (craftsmen) who get hired to cook for picnics and campout kitchens. Whether red or green; mistress of spices are a must in Rajasthani cuisine. A supplement in the above platter is Tipore, chopped green chillies are fried with dozen of spices. While there are many authentic Rajasthani restaurants to dine in, Kalyug Halwai is a small shop in the narrow bylanes, who has been serving this sole item since past 180 years. Gatte ki Sabzi, literally doesn’t have any veggies to it and still manages wonders. Steamed and fried chickpea flour dumplings go into a tangy gravy made of tomato, buttermilk and aromatic spices. Ker-Sangri is a recipe of twins where ker is a tart wild berry and sangri is a bean that grows in surplus amounts in areas of Jaisalmer and Barmer. Sangri is 53% protein and holds the glory of mainstay during droughts. Eaten with breads baked of millet/wheat/barley, the preparation has oodles of spices and an unmatched shelf life without refrigeration. Roasted papad is broken and added to a gravy made of yogurt and other spices, predominantly coriander and here is peppery Papad ki sabzi. The two princesses in every kitchen of state are onion and garlic. Bajra ki Roti with Lehsun ki chutney is a winter delight with scoops of homemade white butter. Black millet flour is rolled into thick rotis and cooked over woodfire which imparts a smoked flavour to them. Garlic dip is made up of garlic, ghee, jaggery, lime juice and red chillies. A thick soup or broth known as Raab, is made from millet or cornflour and buttermilk. Boiled on low flame and fermented in an earthen pot it ensures a unique taste to it.
Hopping onto the carnivore buds, Laal Maas tops it all. Traditionally it used to be made with deer or wild boar which is now cooked with marinated mutton and typical fiery gravy. Safed Maas gets a variation with curd and cashews to it while Mohan Maas, is a rare sinful dish. Tender meat cooked with mild spices, milk, cardamom, khus khus (poppy seeds) ends it to be luscious like none other. Anjeer Mutton, Junglee Maas, Banjari Gosht, Maas ke Sooley and a houseful of barbecue lip smackers are some more to the never-ending list. Though a little less pervasive, Muslim eateries also have there distinctive presence. Rich Chicken Changezi, White Korma, Mutton Biryani, Nihari are known from Ramganj Bazar and Muslim Musafirkhana and a vast range of smoking Kebabs from Old Takeaway at MI Road.
Pockets of past brag of the meaty delights that showcase how this regal land had a bulk of food connoisseurs. Home to wildlife, scarcity of fresh vegetables, hunting expeditions and warrior rituals of erstwhile royals moulded cooking into an artistry as they celebrated aromas and flavours with a dedication like none. Khad Khargosh, Khargosh ki Mokal and Kaleji ka Raita are some of the extinct dishes.
Not to skip, merciless calorie magnets- The Mithaiwalas, who unite the gastronomic enthusiasts beyond their choice of main course. Ghewar, Makkhan Bada, Besan Chakki, Aaloo Tikki, Dahi Bhalle and Rajasthani Thali (all pure desi ghee items) at LMB, Doodh ke Laddoo at Bhagat, are some mandatory Jaipuri calories that will leave you sweeter than before.