India’s best known cuisine came from the Mughals and along with European cooking, influenced the royal kitchens. However, the common man’s kitchen in Rajasthan remained unaffected. Cooking here has its own unique flavour and the simplest ingredients go into preparing most dishes. The food owes much to the demands and ingenuity of the lifestyle of the people. For example, the universal favourites ‘Dal-baati’ (lentil curry with wheat dough balls roasted in hot coals) and ‘choorma’ (dry, flaky, wheatbread crumb pudding garnished with raisins and almonds) were food items that could be carried for days in the hot desert climate by warriors. Baatis could be buried in the hot desert sands and slowly baked till required. The non-vegetarian dishes include ‘soola’ or barbecued meats, marinated to succulent tenderness and grilled on open coal fires originated in the hunting expeditions of the nobility.
In the desert areas of Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Barmer the scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables had their impact on the creativity of the cooks. Instead of water, the womenfolk of the herdsmen used milk, buttermilk and clarified butter that was available in plenty, as well as dried lentils and beans from native plants.
Gram flour is a major ingredient and is used for preparing delicacies like ‘gatta ki sabzi’, ‘pakodi’ and ‘khata’. Bajra and corn, the staple grains, go to making rotis, ‘rabdi’ and ‘kheechdi’. And various chutneys prepared from locally available spices like coriander, garlic, mint and turmeric round off the regional flavour. However, it is the sweets that the Rajasthanis really excel in, each region having its speciality. So Jaipur is famous for its ‘mishri mawa’ and ‘ghevar’, neighbouring Pushkar for its ‘malpuas’, Ajmer for its ‘sohan halwa’, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer for their ‘laddoos’, Bikaner for its ‘rasgullas’ and Udaipur for its ‘dil jani’. And you can find mouth watering, crisp and syrupy ‘jalebis’ everywhere.
Being constantly on the move, the Rajasthanis required foodstuff that could last several days and be easily carried. So, a large number of savoury snacks were developed - ‘daal-moth’, ‘mathri’, ‘bhujia’, ‘khatta-meetha sev’, which are popular to this day. You can find these ready-to-eat munchies in hygienic, attractive packaging everywhere. If you are not used to chillies, make sure you ask for the less spicy ones - the sweet-and-sour ‘khatta-meetha sev’ would be a good choice.