Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The rustic platter

If you are one of those craving something spicy and hot in Gujarat when your palate does not approve of the sweetness in Gujarati thali, Kathiawari cuisine comes to the rescue.
Published: 27th May 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th May 2018 07:30 PM
Express News Service
If you are one of those craving something spicy and hot in Gujarat when your palate does not approve of the sweetness in Gujarati thali, Kathiawari cuisine comes to the rescue. And no matter how good the Kathiawari thali is in any other town of Gujarat, you will get the most authentic when you travel to the place it belongs to—Kathiawar peninsula. In the interiors of the semi-arid land of western Gujarat, where water is scarce and cultivation of vegetables is less, the hardy people have used ingenuity in preparing assortment of delectable food. 
Traversing the roads while visiting the Devbhoomi, Dwarka, where Krishna ruled; Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace Porbandar; the historic Junagadh; and Asiatic lions’ last refuge, the Gir Forest Reserve, don’t miss the lonely dhabas in the dusty landscape, for you don’t know what authentic Kathiawari thali is there on the menu for you. However, be warned that Kathiawari food is an acquired taste and the rustic flavours might not be for everyone’s liking, especially on roadside dhabas and in obscure villages. But hospitality of the locals makes you experiment. Looking for a place to eat as the car pulls outside a dhaba on way to Dwarka from Rajkot, the freshly plucked heaps of radish with green leaves intact look appealing on tables. And it looks so authentic as locals clad in traditional white dress topped with white pagdis arrive and sit down for lunch. 
The spicy Kathiawari food is generally accompanied by tadela marcha (fried green chillies) but bajra rotla dipped in kadhi with chhachh (buttermilk) is the best body coolant for summer. The Kathiawari thali and farsan (snacks) are vegetarian and no meal is complete without milk products.         
The most distinctive feature of the food is liberal use of garlic, onion and chilli, and every meal includes chhachh, lassi, papad, and jaggery with dollops of shudh ghee. Those with sweet tooth can have the laddoos and syrupy jalebis on offer. There is assortment of seasonal vegetables with spices and besan (chickpea flour). In contrast to the sweet Gujarati food, no sugar or jaggery is used in vegetable preparations in Kathiawadi cuisine. 
The most popular food items include patras that are made using colocasia leaves, gram flour and spices, debras that are prepared using wheat flour mixed with spinach, green chillies and yogurt, and are usually eaten with chhundo. The list is endless as there is gaanthiya that is served with Rajkot sweet chutney and fried chillies, dhokla, and dhokli. Kathiawar also has a special methia masala (dry powder made of fenugreek seeds, chilli powder and salt) that is sprinkled on raw vegetables to enhance their flavour. A Kathiawadi thali highlights a lot of flavours and textures.
A dhaba in between Somnath and Junagadh serves a Kathiawadi thali with so many varieties that only a spoonful of each vegetable is enough to satisfy your hunger. To balance deep fried mirchi and spicy vegetables topped with sev (made of besan), there is moong khichdi and appetising kadhi. Khichdi-kadhi combination is a staple Kathiawadi fare. The hot rotlo (large thick rotis made of millets like jowar or bajra and maize) straight from the tawa are served with white butter. The earthy aroma of the melting butter on rotlo is enough to drool over the rustic fare. The big roasted papad, salad of raw onions, tangy chutneys and pickles are star accompaniments in the thali. 
Cabbage, potato, tomato, onion, brinjal, ladies’ finger, fenugreek and chillies make their presence felt with lots of besan in the form of kadhi or sev (deep fried noodles made of besan) sprinkled on curries. Owing to scarcity of green vegetables, one even finds papad in curries in the form of papad ki subzi.
Those not attuned to the names of vegetable preparations in Kathiawar could find them to be tongue-twisters, but the meal that concludes with a paan will stimulate your taste buds for sure.

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