Gujarati Food and the Kathiyawadi Food Festival at Soam, Mumbai
There is a myth associated with Gujarati food that says Gujarati food is very sweet and not everyone can enjoy it. This really needs to change.
Gujarati food in general is a myriad of flavours that are perfectly balanced make the food delicious and perfect!
Where jaggery is added for the sweetness, kokum is added to balance it out. Similarly, when there are dishes that are traditionally cooked using freshly grown spices such as fresh garlic, ginger, green chillies, etc., they are usually balanced out by the addition of fresh coconut or are accompanied by something sweet that would help settle it off. Depending on the dish, a sweet dish is selected. It could be shrikhand (hung curd with sugar and dry fruits) or mattha (sweetened curd) or something else.
Majority of the state being arid, most of the vegetables that are consumed depend upon seasonal produce. One may also note that a lot of farsan based dishes are cooked in Gujarati cuisine for the same reasons.
Due to varied rainfall in different areas of the state (some areas being more dry than the others), the locals make the best out of what is available and one can categorise base ingredients and flavours on the basis of the region of origin.
While Southern Gujarat uses a lot of desi sabji (the likes of bottle gourd, bitter gourd, aubergines, etc.) and their primary spice is a combination of green chilli and ginger; up north they use a lot of red chilli.
Why so much gyaan on Gujarati food suddenly?
Well, last weekend, we experienced this fun meal at Soam that focussed on Kathiyawadi food which was the first from Rushina Munshaw Ghildayal’s Taste and Talk series. It was such an enriching experience I must say, actually making me come back and study in detail, the food that my culture has to offer.
Our brilliant meal comprised of:
Dakor Na Gota: A local delicacy of Dakor, a village about 84 km from Ahmedabad, these are traditionally made from Besan (gram flour) and dried methi (fenugreek leaves), these are delicious bhajias (fritters) that are enjoyed with a spicy green chilli-coriander chutney. These are usually relished all year around, but are a must during the festival of Holi. These can be easily found all around the streets of Dakor and one can also take home packets of the batter. Depending upon your spice tolerance levels, you can choose between no spice, mildly spiced, and spicy.
This dish gained popularity because of the stream of people visiting the Ranchhodraj-ji temple in Dakor.
I was pleasantly surprised to see this dish on the menu at Soam and loved what I tasted. Took me back to my visit to Dakor in 2009 when I was first introduced to these.
Mathiya ane Besan ni Chutney: Mathiya is a snack that Gujarati’s make during Diwali every single year. The festival is not complete without munching on chorafali’s and mathiya’s. Made of an assortment of flours such as Muth Dal Flour, Urad Dal Flour and Besan, the primary flavour in this comes from the sharpness of carom seeds. These, along with a few other ingredients are kneaded into a dough, rolled, and then deep fried.
We usually eat these just the way they are and eating it with a smooth besan chutney and papaya nu sambharu (a grated papaya relish) at Soam was a first for me. I initially was a little hesitant to try this combination but then, I fell in love with it and could not lay my hands of. The freshly made papaya nu sambharu added so much freshness to the entire dish!
Badam Sherbet: A delicious concoction of freshly ground almonds, saffron and water, served frozen, this was the best way to beat the heat. I loved this and how! All it took me was a couple a seconds to gulp this down!
Kanda Gathiya nu Shaak with Chopdas: Originating from the more arid regions of Gujarat, this dish is made with spring onions, onions and bhavnagri gathiya. I grew up in a Gujarati Vaishnav household where onion and garlic was not cooked, but my parents allowed us to eat everything outside, as long as it was vegetarian and hence, this dish was a first for me. I have had the Bengali version of the spring onion sabji that also has some potatoes in it but this blew my mind away. Proving once again, that simplicity is always the best; the combination of assorted onions cooked together, topped with bhavnagri gathiya needs to be experienced to know what am talking of.
These were served with Chopdas. Chopdas are layered parathas that are hand flattened and then cooked, but I relished these with some hot, fluffy puris that made me fall in love with food, once again!
Shrikhand, Puri ane Bateta nu Shaak: An all-time favourite, just the thought of this dish has most of us Gujarati’s drooling. Hot fluffy puris, potatoes cooked with cumin and green chillies accompanied with some chilled trichina, this truly defines soul food for us. Did Soam make it well? Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed Shrikhand Puri ane Bateta nu Shaak this much!
Lasaniya Ringna Bateta with Chopdas: More from the Gujarati comfort food category, this is made with baby brinjal and potatoes that are stuffed with a mix of Turmeric Powder, Cumin Seed Powder, Coriander Seed Powder, Salt, Sugar, Asafoetida and Garlic and then cooked. Served with an accompaniment of your choice (fulkas, parathas, puris, rice) I personally enjoy having this with rice!
Undhyu Puri: Another Gujarati staple, this is something that we Gujaratis look forward to very single year. Made only during the winter with the produce of the season, this is a combination of various greens cooked together and served with puris, rice and shrikhand. In the olden times and even today, in certain parts of Gujarat, this dish is made by layering the vegetables in a clay pot, sealing it burying it in the land, and then covering it with a lot of hay that is set in fire. While people from the Northern regions of Gujarat spice their Undhyu with the Red Chilli powder, Cumin Powder and Coriander Seed Powder; people from the Southern regions of Gujarat use Ginger, Green Chillies, generous portions of Coriander, Sugar, Fresh Garlic, Turmeric, Cumin Powder and Coriander Seed powder. The dishes from both the regions are a total contrast in terms of textures and flavours. My Maternal grandmother is from Southern Gujarat and she makes, by far the most delicious undhyu that I have ever had, and my paternal side of the family has roots from Northern Gujarat and honestly, the undhyu that they, I personally don’t enjoy it much.
Luckily, Soam makes their Undhyu the Southern Region way and I can proudly say, I’ve had my first Undhyu of the season!
Motichoor ke Golgappe: A hearty meal like ours had us stuffed but when the owners insisted we sample this, we had. Let’s be very honest, when I saw this on the menu, I rolled my eyes at another Pani Puri fusion dish and had decided not to even give these a try, but am so glad I did because I then went on to clean out and entire portion (6 pieces) of the dish! Crisp Puris soaked in saffron syrup, stuffed with crushed motichoor laddos, and topped with generous portion of rabdi; I personally have never had something so good in all my life. And as I write about this, my craving levels have hit the roof with dish and for all you know, I may just end making a visit to Soam for it this weekend.
All these and a lot more can be relished and loved at the on-going Kathiyawadi food festival at Soam!
Thank You Rushina and Pinky for having us over and allowing us to be part of this wonderful afternoon of great food and conversations and for making me realise that I need to eat these often! Nani, indeed is going to be happy lady!
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