The diverse nation that India is, it has different colours and flavours unfurled across its length and breadth. At every border, begins a new story revolving around the elements of history, culture and food. Be a part of this food-story; travel along the Western front of India from Punjab to Karnataka and dwell in these local savouries.
It’s an over 2000 km long distance between Punjab in north-western India to Karnataka in the south-western region. On a journey this long that stretches between Indian states on two extremes of the country, a traveller gets to experience a myriad of cultures, traditions, colours and flavours spread across different states. Although a long one, this culturally rich journey on the line of the western Indian border is bound to be fruitful and ‘foodful’!
From Punjab, this food trail proceeds to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and ends down south in Karnataka. With a change in the neck of the woods, there is a change in the soil, the climate and alongside a variation in spices, ingredients and dishes.
From delectable greens to toothsome meats, these dishes are culturally rooted in the places they hail from.
Savour sarso ka saag and makki ki roti in Punjab
Our culinary journey begins with a classic Punjabi dish. Sarso or mustard leaves and spinach are boiled to prepare the rich saag or mash of leaves. Loaded with ground-spices, chillies, ginger and ghee or clarified butter, saag is a dish relished all over Punjab and in Punjabi dominated regions across the country. It is best enjoyed with makki ki roti or corn flour bread which is baked on a flat pan.
Many people relish saag and makki ki roti with diced onions and green chillies as accompaniment and give a sweet ending to the meal with a bite of jaggery which also helps in digesting this heavy meal.
Prepared during the cold months of winter, the mere amount of ghee in this dish keeps one warm, cozy and makes them sleepy!
Relish ker Sangri in Rajasthan
A traditional Rajasthani dish, Ker Sangri is a combo of dessert bean (sangri) and desert berry (ker). The subzi or the vegetable dish is mostly dry with a mild gravy prepared using curd, an ingredient essential to the curries and gravies in Rajasthani dishes. Spiced using roasted and grounded Rajasthani spices, spoons full of ghee are also added to give the subzi a rich flavour.
The dish’s ingredients are only available in cities such as Jaisalmer, Jodhpur or Udaipur, amongst other cities or regions which are located deep in the state of Rajasthan as it is here that ker and sangri are grown. Thus one may not be able to find them in outer Rajasthani districts like Alwar.
A flavourful dish with the varied textures of sangri and ker playing in your mouth, it is served with bajra roti or millet bread.
The delectation of raajvaadi dhokli in Gujarat
It is a quick and easy-to-make recipe from the kitchens of the Kathiawars in Gujarat and is rooted deep in the Kathiawari culture, one of the oldest cultures in India. It is said when in olden days women couldn’t go out to buy vegetables, they would fix up a meal with any available ingredients; Rajwadi Dhokli has its roots in such times.
The dhokli is a sliced cake of gram flour, which is dunked in a mildly spicy curry. This rich curry has flavours from spices such as chilli, garam masala, colours from red tomatoes, green curry leaves, and the goodness of buttermilk. The curry is thickened with a mixture of crushed peanuts, ground sesame and coconut powder, a special Gujarati powder mix.
This delicacy is enjoyed with bhaakri (a kind of flour) bread which is crunchy and thick in texture or with bajra roti.
Zest of zunka bhakar in Maharashtra
A dish from the rural parts of Maharashtra, Zunka bhakar makes for a healthy and sumptuous meal.
Zunka is a spicy sabzi, a mix of vegetables which is served along with the bhakar or bread made of barley.
As typical Maharashtrian cuisine would have it, zunka is an explosion of spices on the palate so a cup of curd on the side is always a good idea. Nonetheless, it is a healthy delicacy, especially with the bhakar as the accompanying bread- a good choice for the ones watching their weight.
Palatable Pandi curry in Karnataka
Pandi Curry or Pork Curry is a traditional dish form Coorg in Karnataka. The spicy dish is traditionally made of hunted Wild Boar which is the ancestral species of the domestic pig. The kodavas, the region’s natives, who were once fearless hunters, are meat lovers and prefer wild pork over domesticated- a reflection of their practice. Meat is in-fact elemental to their cuisine, followed by rice which is an accompaniment.
Pandi Curry has come to represent the Coorgi Cuisine, not only because of its thick, spicy gravy and succulent meat which are prepared in Kachumpuli (Coorgi vinegar made from Panapuli – a fruit, and has a high degree of pungency along with medicinal values) but also because of the fact that hunting is now banned and getting hold of a Wild Boar rare. Coorgis have come to terms with the fact and now use locally available pork. Although, they make sure that the meat has a layer of fat on it so that not much is compromised in terms of taste.
It’s deliciously delightful and stirring to mark food-routes on the maps of travels across India. Indian cuisine is full of recipes that are packed with the flavours of well sourced ingredients and a rich history, making the dish a plate of savoury and a story in itself. So, while you travel and discover the beautiful corners of India, don’t forget to mark your own food-row.