Like many cuisines of India, Gujarati cuisine too is well known for it’s Thali meal comprising every nutrient our body needs. Having grown up in the state where food is worshipped as much as ‘bijness’ and money, it is only fair for me to write this article on the cuisine that is one of my favourites.
Gujarati meal is a typical Indian Thali meal that has many dishes providing nutrient in abundance. Gujarati Thali includes a lilotri shaak (a green vegetable), a kathol (curry made of pulses), dal (lentil preparation), bateta nu shaak (potato curry either dry or curried), farsan (steamed or fried snacks), misthan (a dessert), rotli/rotla, rice/khichdi (the staples), a buttermilk preparation (either in the form of kadhi or buttermilk itself), sambharo (dry side curry), athanu (pickles) and papad.
How Gujarati meal differs from other meals is that Farsan (snacks) are not served as starters. They are relished throughout the meal and the same goes with dessert. They are not served at the end. They are served with the Thali but it is upto the person when to eat it. It can very well be throughout the meal.
A Gujarati Thali is so balanced that it has everything – Protein, vitamins, minerals & carbohydrates. Lilotri shaak or the greens are served depending on the season and availability of the vegetables. Kathol or pulses are usually served because many times in the past the state had become a victim of drought and fresh produce wasn’t easily available. People used to make Kathol in times like that and it became a regular feature then on. Gujarati cuisine has a variety of staples in the form of chapati, thepla & rotla. These are made from various flours like wheat, bajra and makai. Gujarati cuisine almost always have ‘Kachumbar’ which is nothing but a salad of greens like cucumbers, cabbage, coriander & tomatoes. Depending on people’s liking, the ingredients of Kachumbar changes but inclusion of Kachumbar means that the meal is having greens in apt amounts. If ‘Salad’ is your thing, this blog can be really helpful to you. A must for a Gujarati thali is either buttermilk or kadhi made from buttermilk. It is scientifically proven that curd or buttermilk is very beneficial for digestion. In fact, buttermilk is so famous in Gujarat that it is also known as Kutchhi Beer for our dry state.
Varieties in Gujarati Cuisines based on the influence:
Even in Gujarat one will find a lot of variety and regional influence on the taste and the cooking techniques. The four most influential regional cuisines are Kathiawadi, Surti, Kutchhi and Amdavadi. Based on the temperature and availability of resources the taste and the dishes differ. For example Kathiawadi cuisine uses a lot of oil and red chili powder in their dishes. A lot of Rajasthani influence can be seen on Kathiawadi cuisine. As opposed to the myth that Gujarati cuisine is sweet, Kathiawadi cuisine is completely opposite, It is spicy and greasy.
Surti cuisine gets it’s name from one of the most famous cities of Gujarat – Surat. As Kathiawadi cuisine is known for using red chili powder, Surti cuisine is known for it’s usage of green chilies in their dishes. One of the main reasons for having a lot of green chilies in this cuisine is because there is abundant rainfall in this area and they have the luxury of using fresh green chilies unlike Kathiawar where they have to make do with preserved red chilies or red chili powder. The use of khada masalas in Surati curries dominate it’s style of cooking. Undhiyu, Ghaari and Locho are some of the most popular dishes from this region.
Kutchh region of Gujarat is known for bringing Kutchhi cuisine to the forefront. Kutchhi cuisine is a blend of Sindhi and Gujarati cuisine. The Kutchh region from Gujarat shares its borders with Pakistan and it is believed that a lot of people from Sindh had made Kutchh, their home during partition. With them, came along their cuisine. Again, contrary to common belief, Kutchhi cuisine which is a part of Gujarati cuisine is not sweet. It is balanced. Not over the top spicy nor too sweet. As Mr. Bachchan had said Kutchh nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha, it is true for its cuisine too. Kutchhi nahi khaya toh kuch hi nahi khaya :p
Coming to the last but not the least of Gujarati regional cuisine – Amdavadi. It obviously gets its name from the city of Ahmedabad. The biggest and the most developed cities of Gujarat. It is so famous that sometimes people mistake it as the capital city of Gujarat rather than Gandhinagar. If Gujarati cuisine gets a bad rep for sweet cuisine, it is because of Amdavadi cuisine. The people from this part prefer sweetness in their dals and shaaks. And since it is the most commercial city, it is perceived that the entire state serves cuisine which is over the top sweet. Most of the people who visit Gujarat, visit Ahmedabad and try only one kind of cuisine and forms this conclusion that the entire state serves the cuisine dripping with sugar. In reality Gujarait cuisine recipes vary from region to region.
Importance of Farsan:
One thing that makes a Gujarati Thali incomplete is Farsan. As mentioned earlier in the blog, Farsan is nothing but fried or steamed snack served during a meal. The importance of a Farsan in a Gujarati Thali is immense. Most famous ones are Dhokla, Khandvi, Patra, Ghughra, Lilva ni Kachori et all. These fried or steamed snacks often provide the essential oil/grease one needs for proper functioning of the human body. People usually refrain from fried food these days but oil/butter/ghee in the right quantity is often recommended by health experts. Farsan is so important to Gujaratis that when they go out to eat a Thali in a restaurant, they decide where to eat it based on the restaurant serving their favourite farsan & misthan on that particular day. People will call all the Thali serving places about which Farsan is on the menu and then go to a specific place that is serving their favourite Farsan that day.
All in all, Gujarati Thali just like any other provides proper nutrition and is very healthy in it’s basic authentic form. Yes, it can be diluted with other things based on people’s preferences like having a Paneer curry in commercial Thali serving places these days. I personally refrain from such places that serve Gujarati cuisine near me having other dishes rather than proper Guajrati dishes.
In the next blog post I am going to give a Gujarati cuisine list and best Gujarati Cuisine serving restaurant in Ahmedabad.
Looking for a quick, healthy recipe? Check out the recipe of Moong Dal Cheela aka Moonglet