All of us belong to various places, cities, states and countries and with this are palettes are also of the same origin. I am a Marwari, which means that I belong to Rajasthan, but I’ve never really lived in Rajasthan, as most of my life has revolved around London, Delhi and Kolkata. My palette started off with pasta as a staple diet and moved on to enjoy the flavours of Punjabi cuisine and the spices and tanginess of Bengali Puchkas.
My father too has been born and brought up in Punjab so most of the food made in our household has a Punjabi touch to it. My mom is the only one around who brings the taste of Rajasthan to us from time to time with homemade daal baati or gatte ki sabzi. But never before had I experienced the real deal, until last weekend.
I was in Jaipur visiting relatives when they suggested we should go to the famous Chowki Dhani for dinner, a tourist spot designed like a Rajasthani village(dhani) serving authentic Rajasthani food. But as luck would have it by the time we reached there it was full for the night. Just as we were returning home sad, we noticed a place across the street called Ambar Vatika, we thought we might as well give it a shot as it looked pretty similar to Chowki Dhani. And trust me it was amazing.
It was like the whole of Rajasthan on the same premises. We were greeted with a Rajasthani welcome drink called Jaljeera, an assortment of spices nicely mixed in cold water. In the distance we noticed a lady sitting in a small hut making hot bajre ki roti and giving it out with lots of white butter and garlic chutney, it was delicious.
Next stop tea and dal (lentil) pakoras, which were piping hot and to die for. The place was like a festival of art and colours with puppet shows, magic tricks, dance performances, camel rides, hookah and a pottery wheel. After we enjoyed all of this we proceeded to the main hall for dinner. Yes, I know you’re wondering how much we had already had to eat, but there was no stopping us.
We were seated in rows in the hall on low chairs accompanied by a wooden stool for the plates. The men serving us were dressed in Rajasthani attire and were full of hospitality and warmth. There was so much to eat, from dal, bati, churma to gatte and bajre ki khichdi with oodles of ghee and sugar and from sangria and lehsoon(garlic) ki chatni to malpua and bajre ki roti there was just so much and every dish better than the first.
I instantly realised what I was missing out on. My native food can put any pizza and burger to shame.I just had to find out more about Rajasthani cuisine, in a nutshell this is what I found online –
Rajasthani cooking was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region. Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred. Scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables have all had their effect on the cooking. It is also known for its snacks like Bikaneri Bhujia, Mirchi Bada and Pyaaj Kachori. Other famous dishes include Bajre ki roti (millet bread) and Lashun ki chutney (hot garlic paste), Mawa Kachori from jodhpur, Alwar ka mawa, Malpuas from pushkar and Rassgollas from Bikaner. Originating for the Marwar region of the state is the concept Marwari Bhojnalaya, or vegetarian restaurants, today found in many part of India, which offer vegetarian food of the Marwari people. (Wikipedia)
This was not just a mouth watering and delicious experience but also one from which I learnt a lot and have brought back with me. I think we should all at least once go back to our roots and experience the real “taste” of our very own culture.