Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you would probably know that the husband and I love trying out local vegetarian dishes wherever we travel to. We are suckers for exploring the foods popular at various destinations. We often bring back local ingredients (and sometimes recipes) from the places we visit, and using them in our home kitchen. This Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi that I’m going to write about today, is one such instance.

In the heart of what is known as ‘Old Srinagar’, in an area called Nowhatta, there stands a majestic specimen of Mughal-era architecture called the Jamia Masjid. We had a lovely time walking around the mosque, trying to fit the beautiful architecture into frames on my camera, from different angles. It was also a treat checking out the various little shops around the mosque, selling spices, apple chips and cockscomb and walnuts and different ingredients indigenous to Kashmir, clothes, tea sets, shoes and cutlery, among other things. It was at one of these little stores that I came across the Kashmiri black moth daal. I absolutely had to pick up some, to cook with later. From these shops, I also bought some beautiful Kashmiri ver masala and dried mint, all of which I have used in this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi.

The black moth daal from Kashmir is packed with various nutrients, and has an earthy taste to it. The Kashmiris typically use these lentils to make daal or cook it in combination with meat or vegetables. I decided to use them in this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi, a one-pot meal that is awesomely delish, very easy to make yet full of flavour.

Here’s how I made this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup Kashmiri black moth daal
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. A small piece of Kashmiri ver masala
  6. 4 green chillies
  7. 1 medium-sized onion
  8. 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  9. 1 small capsicum
  10. 6-7 beans
  11. 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  12. 5-6 cloves garlic
  13. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  14. 1 tablespoon oil
  15. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  16. 1 tablespoon dried mint

Method:

1. Soak the Kashmiri black moth daal for about 20 minutes in warm water. When done, drain out the excess water and keep aside.

2. Peel the ginger and garlic. Grind them to a paste in a mixer. Keep aside.

3. Chop the onion length-wise. Peel and chop the carrots into batons. Remove strings from the beans and chop into batons. Chop the capsicum into cubes. Chop the tomatoes and coriander finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

4. Mix the Kashmiri ver masala in a little water, until completely dissolved. Keep aside.

5. Wash the rice well under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water. Keep aside.

5. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the chopped onions, carrot, beans and capsicum, the shelled green peas, and the ginger-garlic paste. Mix well. Saute on high flame for a minute or so.

6. Now, add the washed and drained rice and Kashmiri black moth daal to the pressure cooker.

7. Add in 3.5 cups of water, as well as salt to taste, the ver masala paste, the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and the turmeric powder. Mix well. Taste the water and adjust seasonings as needed.

8. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release manually.

9. When all the pressure has gone down, open the cooker and fluff up the khichdi. Mix in the dried mint and the finely chopped coriander.

10. Serve the Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi with plain curd or raita of your choice.

Notes:

  1. I used Sona Masoori rice to make this khichdi. You can use any other type of rice you want to.
  2. Adjust the quantity of water, depending upon how grainy or soft you want the khichdi to be.
  3. If you don’t have dried mint powder, you can add in a few torn leaves of fresh mint to the rice while pressure cooking it.
  4. The Kashmiri black moth daal imparts a lovely earthy flavour to this khichdi. If you don’t have any, though, it can be replaced with whole masoor daal – soak it the same way for about 20 minutes and then add it to the pressure cooker.
  5. The Kashmiri ver masala is a mix of 60-70 ingredients, including oil, Kashmiri red chillies, garlic, shahjeera and cockscomb. I would not suggest omitting this or using any other masala in place of this, as it would alter the taste of the dish.
  6. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and Kashmiri ver masala you use, depending upon how spicy you want the khichdi to be.

Do try out this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi, too! I’d love to hear how you liked it!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

 

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Chamba Chukh| Red Chilly Pickle From Himachal Pradesh

For this month’s Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, we food bloggers explored the cuisine of Himachal Pradesh, a land blessed with abundant natural beauty, with several beautiful indigenous foods.

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About Himachali Cuisine

The cuisine of Himachal Pradesh is simple, yet hearty and flavourful, many of the foods fermented and slow-cooked. There is considerable influence from the neighbouring Jammu & Kashmir, Tibet and Punjab on the food of Himachal Pradesh.

Considering a variety of leafy greens and vegetables are tough to grow on the harsh terrain, the Himachalis residing on the high hills (say, in Spiti or Lahaul) depend heavily on rice, meat, hardy grains like buckwheat, millets and barley, as well as dried lentils. In the foothills, seasonal vegetables and greens are consumed aplenty, ,where they are relatively easier to grow. As you move towards the south of the state, you will find more and more people tending to livestock and undertaking agriculture as a way of life – here, the consumption of dairy products is also higher. Wherever you go in Himachal Pradesh, you will find an utter devotion to different varieties of tea, including one called Tchaku Cha, prepared with butter, salt and milk.

The Himachali Dham – a meal consisting of a several courses, typically prepared by the Brahmin cooks of Kangra Valley called botis – is perhaps the best known thing from this state. Chana or Rajma Madra, an aromatic rice that is served with a mixed-lentil daal and khatta, and Mitha Bhaat are some of the dishes that typically form part of a Himachali dham. The dham is reminiscent of the Kashmiri Wazwan – both are multi-course meals fit for kings, but while the Wazwan is predominantly non-vegetarian, the dham is entirely vegetarian. Legend has it that centuries ago, Jaisthambh, the then king of Himachal Pradesh was so fascinated by Kashmiri Wazwan that he ordered his cooks to prepare a similar multi-course, vegetarian meal – and that is how the dham came about.

Chamba Chukh

For this month’s Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, I was paired with the talented Sujata Roy, who blogs at Batter Up With Sujata. She allotted me the two secret ingredients of cumin and tamarind, and I used them to prepare Chamba Chukh, a fiery dried red chilli pickle from the Chamba Valley.

The chukh has several variations throughout Himachal Pradesh, I hear. It is made in slightly different ways in different homes, though the basic ingredients remain the same. These days, ready-made bottled chukh is available in stores too, with their own little variations. Some people add honey and lots of dried fruits and nuts to it, while some prefer keeping it quite hot with not a hint of sweetness. The version I made is hot too, but I tried to even it out by adding lots of lemon juice and some jaggery. The result was a delectable chukh, which makes for a beautiful accompaniment to rotis, idlis and dosas, a lovely spread for nachos, pizzas, sandwiches and rolls. I love how it jazzes up a dull dish, adds a zing to otherwise bland dishes. The chukh travels really well too, and can be stored for up to a month.

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Here is how I made the Chamba Chukh.

Recipe Courtesy: Adapted from The Picky Bowl, with a few variations of my own

Ingredients (yields about 1 cup):

For the spice powder:

  1. 1 teaspoon dhania aka coriander seeds
  2. 1 teaspoon rai aka mustard seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon ajwain aka carom seeds
  4. 1 teaspoon methi dana aka fenugreek seeds
  5. 1 teaspoon jeera aka cumin seeds

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 cup dry red chillies
  2. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 2 tablespoons amchoor powder
  6. 2-3 tablespoons jaggery, or to taste
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  8. 10 fat garlic cloves
  9. Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
  10. 1/4 cup mustard oil
  11. 2 pinches of hing aka asafoetida

Method:

  1. Soak the dry red chillies in just enough water to cover them, for about 30 minutes.
  2. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for about 10 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the tamarind and extract a thick juice from the tamarind. Add a little more water if necessary. Keep aside.
  3. Peel the ginger and garlic cloves. Chop up the ginger. Keep aside.
  4. Now, we will get the spice mix ready. Get a pan nice and hot, and then lower the flame to medium. Add in the coriander seeds, mustard, carom seeds, fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds. Dry roast the ingredients on medium flame till they begin to emit a lovely fragrance, taking care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate, and allow to cool down completely.
  5. When the spices have cooled down entirely, grind them into a powder in a mixer. Keep aside.
  6. Once the dry red chillies have soaked for about 30 minutes and have softened a bit, drain out all the water from them. Transfer them to a mixer jar and add in the chopped ginger and garlic cloves. Grind to a paste. Keep aside.
  7. Heat the mustard oil in a pan till it reaches smoking point. Now, lower the flame to medium. Add in the spice mix we prepared earlier. Let it stay in for a couple of seconds.
  8. Now, add the ground dry red chilly paste to the pan, along with salt to taste, amchoor powder, jaggery, asafoetida, turmeric powder and the extracted tamarind paste. Mix well.
  9. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes, stirring intermittently. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  10. Let the pickle cool down completely. Now, mix in the lemon juice well. Store in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle.

Notes:

  1. Chamba chukh is typically made using mustard oil. I have used kacchi ghani mustard oil here.
  2. The amount of ginger and garlic I have used here was just perfect for our taste buds. You may use more or less of these ingredients, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
  3. Typically, sugar or honey is used to sweeten the Chamba chukh. I have used jaggery here, instead. If you want to keep the chukh fiery, you can skip the jaggery/sugar/honey altogether.
  4. Increase/decrease the quantity of lemon juice you use, depending upon your taste preferences.
  5. I have made this Chamba chukh tangier and sweeter than it traditionally is, to mitigate the spiciness, considering we don’t eat very spicy food at home.
  6. Some Himachalis also soak dry fruits – apricots, raisins and the like – in warm water for a while, grind them and add the same to the chukh. I haven’t.
  7. You may add 1 teaspoon fennel aka saunf to the spice mix, for more flavour. I skipped it.
  8. Typically, Kashmiri chillies or Himachali fresh green/red chillies are used to make this Chamba chukh. Here, I have used a mix of the hot, round Guntur chillies and the less spicy, long Bydagi chillies.
  9. Refrigerated in a clean, dry, air-tight container, the pickle stays for over a fortnight. Use only a clean, dry spoon to remove the chukh.

You like? I hope you will try out this Chamba Chukh recipe too, and that you will love it as much as we did!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Bread Pizza With Chutney| Indian-Style Pizza

I am the sort of person who always stocks a bottle of hot green chutney in her refrigerator. I make the chutney fresh weekly and store it – gorgeously green and fragrant with the mint, coriander, garlic, ginger, onion and lemon that goes into it – for use later. The husband and I absolutely adore this green chutney, and we love using it as a side to jazz up our meals. It makes for a great spread for sandwiches and wraps, and adds a whole lot of zing to chaats. I never thought of using it in a pizza, though, until CookingFromHeart posted about it on her Instagram feed. And, then, I absolutely had to go ahead and make it!

(Here are some dishes you can use the hot green chutney in: Haryana-Style Aloo Chutney Pulao, Ponk Bhel, Chaat Bruschetta, Bombay-Style Bhel Poori)

The Bread Pizza, before being loaded with cheese, before it goes into the oven!

I used whole wheat bread, my home-made hot green chutney, loads of veggies and a smattering of cheese to make the Indian-Style Pizza, and it turned out absolutely fantabulous! It was super-duper delicious and healthy (if you choose to ignore the cheese), and took minimal effort to make. This Bread Pizza makes for a wholesome dinner for busy weekdays or lazy weekends, when you want to cook something hearty without stressing yourself out too much.

Do try this out, will you? Check out the recipe!

Ingredients:

  1. Slices of bread, as needed
  2. Hot green chutney, as needed (see Notes to know how to make this)
  3. Pitted, sliced olives, as needed
  4. Capsicum slices, as needed
  5. Chopped onion, as needed
  6. Seedless cucumber, chopped into rounds, as needed
  7. A few pieces of broccoli, chopped fine
  8. Grated cheese, as needed

Method:

  1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
  2. Toast the bread slices for 4-5 minutes, at about 170 degrees. They should turn slightly crisp.
  3. Spread the hot green chutney evenly on the toasted bread slices.
  4. Arrange the cucumber roundels, sliced onion and capsicum, broccoli pieces and olives evenly over the bread slices.
  5. Top the bread slices with grated cheese.
  6. Place the prepared bread slices back in the oven. Bake at about 170 degrees for 4-5 minutes or till the cheese melts and the veggies have slightly cooked.
  7. Serve hot.

Notes:

  1. I have used whole wheat bread to make the base for this Indian-Style Pizza. You can use any variety of bread you prefer, or even home-made or store-bought pizza base.
  2. Here, I have used the vegetables that I had handy in my kitchen. You can use any veggies that you please. Zucchini, baby corn, sweet corn, mushrooms, tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes are some vegetables that would go well with this Indian-Style Pizza. I avoided using jalapenos on the pizza because the chutney I have used is already quite spicy.
  3. I have used Amul processed cheese to make this Indian-Style Pizza. You may use any variety of cheese that you prefer.
  4. Here is how I make the hot green chutney.
  5. I made this Bread Pizza in my Morphy Richards OTG. You can even make this on a dosa pan, on a gas stove.
  6. I have not mentioned the quantities for any of the ingredients here. You can use as much or as little of the ingredients as you prefer, depending upon your personal taste preferences.

I hope you will try out this Bread Pizza too, and that you will love it as much as we do!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Recipes using bread’.

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Mixed Vegetable Roti With Home-Made Multi-Grain Atta

Mixed Vegetable Rotis are my go-to dish, for those times when I want to make something healthy and filling at home, but want to cook just one dish. They are super wholesome, because I make these rotis with home-made multi-grain atta and put tonnes of veggies into them. The Gujarati touch I add to these rotis – ground garlic, ginger and green chillies, sesame seeds, a bit of curd and sugar – take the flavour up several notches. Some shredded mint leaves and finely chopped coriander goes in there too, hiking up the taste quotient even further.

These Mixed Vegetable Rotis are a great way to use up those gorgeous vegetables you get in abundance in the winter months. I make them even on summer days with whatever veggies I can scrounge. They are a big-time favourite at home, even with the bub, and a tasty way of sneaking in vegetables into your loved ones’ diet too.

With a raita of your choice or just some plain curd, these rotis make for a hearty meal. We often have them with a lovely pickle, or baingan bharta.

Here’s how I make these Mixed Vegetable Rotis.

Ingredients (makes 15-18 rotis):

  1. 2 cups multi-grain atta (flour)
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 2 green chillies
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. A few stalks of fresh coriander (dhania) leaves
  6. A fistful of mint (pudina) leaves
  7. A small piece of cabbage
  8. 1 small carrot
  9. 3-4 big cauliflower florets
  10. 5-6 big spinach leaves
  11. 1 small radish
  12. Red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
  13. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (til)
  14. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  15. 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar or to taste (optional)
  16. 1/2 cup thick curd (optional)
  17. 2 tablespoons oil + a little more to make the rotis

Method:

  1. Take the multi-grain atta in a large mixing bowl. Add in the sesame seeds, salt, sugar (if using) and turmeric powder. Add in red chilli powder, if you want to make the rotis slightly spicy.
  2. Wash the ginger well, and peel off the skin. Chop finely. Chop the green chillies finely as well. Grind the ginger and green chillies together coarsely in a mixer. Add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Peel the carrot and the radish, and grate finely. Chop the spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, mint leaves and coriander finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and curd (if using) to the mixing bowl.
  5. Mix the ingredients in the mixing bowl well. Add water little by little, only if needed. Mostly the curd and oil and the water the vegetables let out should be enough to bind the dough. Make a firm but soft dough.
  6. Now, heat up a heavy tawa on high flame. When water droplets begin to dance on the tawa, reduce the flame to medium.Meanwhile, make small balls out of the dough. Roll out one dough ball into a roti.
  7. Place the roti on the tawa. Let it cook on one side, and then flip it over. Spread a little oil on the cooked side of the roti, and a little around it. Let it cook evenly on the other side as well. When both sides are well cooked, transfer the roti to a serving plate. Serve hot with or without an accompaniment.
  8. Use all the balls of dough to make rotis, in a similar manner. Serve hot, with curd, raita of your choice or a nice pickle.

Notes:

  1. If you don’t have multi-grain atta, you can use store-bought or home-made whole wheat flour to make these rotis.
  2. You can coarsely crush the ginger and green chillies using a mortar and pestle, instead of grinding them in the mixer.
  3. Use the red chilli powder only if you think the heat from the ginger and green chillies will not be enough for your tastebuds.
  4. You may skip the sugar and/or curd if you want to.
  5. Coarsely crushed garlic cloves can be added to the dough as well. So can chopped fenugreek greens (methi).
  6. You can add in grated turnip to the dough, instead of the radish.

You like? I hope you will try out these Mixed Vegetable Rotis, and that you will love them as much as we do!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Dodh-E-Pather Aka Doodhpatri, The Valley Of Milk

In other news, we just got back from a week-long holiday in and around Srinagar, Kashmir. We had been considering a few destinations to go to before the bub’s summer holidays ended, which wouldn’t kill us with sunstroke, where the bub could enjoy herself and so could we. We finally zeroed in on Srinagar, and hooked up with a travel agent in the city. Working with them, I built a slightly off-beat itinerary than the done-to-death Srinagar sightseeing-Gulmarg-Pahalgam-Sonamarg plan that most tourists undertake. We have already done that in the past.

This time around, we wanted to venture deeper into Srinagar, dig into local food and experiences, and explore a couple of lesser-known destinations around the city. While I wouldn’t say we got exactly the kind of holiday we wanted, it was still a beautiful trip – we did visit some gorgeous places and made memories that will last a long, long, long time to come.

Here I am, with the first installment of travel stories from Kashmir – about our visit to a spot called Doodhpatri.

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When the husband, the bub and I embarked on our drive to Doodhpatri, some 40-odd kilometers away from Srinagar (where we were staying), little did we know that we would absolutely fall in love with the place. Neither did we know that Doodhpatri would force us to think deep and hard about human nature.

Located in the district of Budgam, Doodhpatri is a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous place. Think meandering meadows full of cows, sheep and goats. Think truckloads of soft green grass with very few people around. Think snow-clad mountains and freezing cold. Think natural springs and pine trees. Think nomadic shepherds tending their flocks and their squat mud huts. Exactly, that kind of place. Doodhpatri is not as well-known to travellers as, say, Gulmarg or Pahalgam, and has only recently started seeing tourist influx. As a result, the place still remains largely untouched, pristine, uncommercial – this also means that there are no restaurants of note or tourist activities of note here. There is a lot of virgin natural beauty, though, much to explore for the non-touristy traveller.

Locally called Dodh-e-Pather, the name of the place literally translates to ‘Valley of Milk’. The cattle here are renowned for the plentiful, rich milk (doodh) they yield, which is what gives the place its name.

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A shepherd tending his flocks, at Doodhpatri

It is an almost 2-hour drive from Srinagar to Doodhpatri, the road not in the best of condition at places, but decent enough. As you near Doodhpatri, signs of city life grow lesser and lesser, the vistas grow wider and greener, and the views become more and more stunning. When the snow-capped mountains come closer, they almost take your breath away.

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Our first sight of the snow-capped mountains and the gorgeous green plains of Doodhpatri

A few sharp curves and turns later, you come to a point beyond which no vehicles can go. Walk for a few minutes, and you reach a gurgling spring, the water milky white, humming along over rocks that have turned smooth with wear.

The beautiful spring at Doodhpatri

We spent a couple of hours at this point, just winding down, talking, eating, taking pictures and gazing at all the beauty around us. This is a hot spot for selfie lovers and photographers alike. You may even choose to don the Kashmiri costumes available for hire at the couple of make-shift stalls here, and get a photoshoot done.

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The milky white waters of the spring at Doodhpatri

The rustic wooden bridge across the spring stole my heart away. It surely was something straight out of a dream!

The rustic bridge that had me charmed

You can cross the bridge and walk along the plains beyond, soaking in the pure air and the prettiness of nature around you, or you could let a pony take you there. There is no dearth of horsemen here, who will plead and haggle with you to hire them for a look-around Doodhpatri on pony-back.

A bunch of horsemen in their traditional pherans, waiting for tourists to hire their ponies

Considering that the bub wasn’t too well when we visited Doodhpatri and the terrain looked quite rough too, we decided to skip the pony ride. We contented ourselves with just gazing out at the spring, snapping pictures of this and that. That, in itself, is quite an experience, let me tell you.

A barbecue guy we came across at Doodhpatri

There isn’t a single proper restaurant in Doodhpatri, like I was saying earlier, thanks to it not really being on the tourist grid. There are just a couple of shops here selling tea, coffee, chips, Maggi and the likes.

In fact, I hear the road we drove on did not extend till the stream, two years ago or so. One would have to get down at a certain point and hike a few kilometres to reach the stream! Now, considering increasing tourist interest in Doodhpatri, the road has been laid out further.

A small shop selling refreshments at Doodhpatri. I was charmed by just how pretty this shop looked!

There is a sharp drop in temperatures at Doodhpatri when it rains or when the mountain winds blow. In winters, the snow makes the place practically unlivable. The place, therefore, remains open only about 8-9 months a year. For 2 or 3 months every year – in the winters – the winding roads to Doodhpatri become inaccessible due to all the ice on them, and the place is therefore shut off. No one comes here then, not even the semi-nomadic Gujjar shepherds. There is no permanent structure here which is in use throughout the year – neither a home nor a shop nor a tourist activity.

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A Gujjar hut at Doodhpatri

You will find the small, squat mud huts of the Gujjars – the famous wandering shepherds of Kashmir – at Doodhpatri. These shepherds wander the mountains and plains of Kashmir with their flocks of sheep, horses, goats and cows in the winters, trying to find grass for them. They perform odd jobs – building construction and the likes – to earn some money.

In the summers, they build houses on the mountains and stay put for a few months with their families.

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A small Gujjar hut that we came across at Doodhpatri

When we visited, some of these Gujjars were selling snacks and refreshments for the tourists out of their huts. We walked along, fascinated by the structures, fascinated by the typical Kashmiri snacks some of them were offering.

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A stall selling the large traditonal pooris of Kashmir, called Khajla, which is typically eaten with semolina halwa. In the background are the dried pea-pakoras that are commonly available across Kashmir.

Neither the husband nor I had ever tried out the halwa-poori combination before, and we went on to do just that at Doodhpatri. My, it was mind-blowing – bites of the Khajla filled with the halwa!

We were snacking on some beautiful Maggi noodles cooked with vegetables at one such home when we noticed a sudden drop in the temperature. All too quickly, the wind started howling (that eerie way the wind has of howling in the mountains!) and the plastic chairs around us began to crash to the ground (I am not exaggerating!). It began to turn finger-numbingly cold, and the jackets and caps we were carrying with us offered no protection at all. The bub began to shiver. The Gujjar shepherd whose shop we were eating at was quick to invite us inside his house. We gratefully accepted.

The little fireplace inside the Gujjar home we visited

Inside, the hut was warm as toast. The man’s wife was busy cooking lunch for their family, and the wood fire was working wonders. I don’t know what did it – the thick, hand-made mud walls or the structure of the hut or the wood fire – but it was gorgeous inside. It was a cocoon, a separate world in its own. The howling winds outside did not even touch the inside of the house. The lack of electricity and the bare minimum of possessions inside the house kind of stunned us – it was a stark reminder of just how much we urbane folk cling to our worldly possessions day in and day out.

The family invited us to stay for lunch or at least for some tea, but we refused as we had already eaten. We did spend quite a bit of time sitting with them, chatting, warming our hands on the kangri (Kashmiri coal brazier) they were generous enough to share with us.

The kangri that saved us from frostbite in Doodhpatri

The husband and I had so many questions for the family and their way of life, and they were happy to respond to every single one of them. Snippets of the conversation still refuse to go out of my mind.

Hum 6 mahine yahan rehte hain, is ghar mein. Sardi mein 6 mahine hum parbat ke niche rehte hain.. majdoori karte hain..gay bakri charate hain.. kaam karte hain..,” the man told us. (‘We stay here, in this house, for 6 months. For the 6 months around winter, we stay in the foothills. We undertake labour and other odd jobs, tend to our cows and goats.’)

Yahan pe kuch nahi milta. Paani, aata, sabzi.. sab kuch neeche se le ke aate hain.. yahan par bahut zyaada thand padti hai na?,’ his wife said. (‘There is nothing available here. Water, flour, vegetables.. we get all of it from the foothills.. It’s too cold here, no?’)

Raat ko hamari gay aur bakri ghar ke andar rehte hain.. subah hote hi bahar chhod dete hain… woh chalte rehte hain, aur hum bhi saath chalte hain..,’ the man said. (‘We keep our cows and goats inside the house in the nights. As soon as morning dawns, we set them free. They walk around everywhere, and we walk around after them.’)

Chalna humare liye badi baat nahi hai. Humein aadat hai. Gulmarg se Doodhpatri ho ya Pahalgam se Sonamarg, hum chaltein hain..,’ the man stated. (‘Walking is not a big thing for us. We are used to it. From Gulmarg to Doodhpatri or fro Pahalgam to Sonamarg, we can walk.’)

The conversation was nothing short of enlightening. It set us thinking.

How hard would a life like this be, where you need to walk for kilometres on end just to fetch clean drinking water?

How many of the little things in my life I take for granted? Can I live a simple life like this, or am I too addicted to the complexities of my life?

How did these people cope up with so much hardship? Every single day? Did they even feel it was hard?

What makes these people stick to their roots? Do they ever wonder about the world beyond these hills?

Do they ever think about moving to an easier place, an easier way of living? Or does that thought never even cross their minds?

How different these people’s lives are from mine! And yet, we are all the same at the core of us – humans.

I don’t have the answers yet.

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Notes for travellers:

  1. Doodhpatri is a drive of about 2 hours from Srinagar. There are okay-ish roads some part of the way, while the roads in other parts are decent.
  2. It would be a good idea to carry some snacks/food while you visit Doodhpatri.
  3. Private cabs are the best way to reach Doodhpatri. You can hire one from Srinagar, where the nearest airport is located.
  4. The weather gets quite chilly at Doodhpatri at times, especially while it rains. You might want to carry a change of clothes, warm clothes, umbrellas and/or raincoats when you visit Doodhpatri.
  5. Pony riding is quite common among tourists, to see the sights in and around Doodhpatri. Walking everywhere might not always be possible. I would suggest going ahead with pony riding only if you are comfortable with the idea – there’s no fun in it if you do it half-heartedly or when you are scared.
  6. If you do decide to undertake a pony ride for sight-seeing, please do decide on the rates with the horsemen beforehand. Bargain if necessary, to fix a decent rate.

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Baked Mango Cheesecake (No Gelatin, With Cottage Cheese)

Mangoes are in season. Yay!

This is the right time to get hold of proper, good, juicy, ripe mangoes, according to me. We got the first batch of the season very recently, and are absolutely loving gorging on them. I simply had to make something using them, of course, which is how this Baked Mango Cheesecake came about.

I have adapted a recipe by Tarla Dalal ji to make this Baked Mango Cheesecake. It uses paneer aka Indian cottage cheese in place of the cream cheese that is commonly part of cheesecakes. There is no gelatin or agar agar used, and it is eggless too. This is, therefore, a great choice of dessert when you don’t have access to fancy ingredients.

I was surprised by just how beautiful the Baked Mango Cheesecake turned out – soft and rich and light all at once. It tasted gorgeous, the proof of this in the fact that the entire cheesecake got gulped down by family before the day was out. It is quite a simple thing to put together as well.

So, go on, try this recipe out. Give yourself and your loved ones a sinful summer treat!

Ingredients (yields 1 medium-sized cheesecake):

For the base:

  1. 10-12 biscuits
  2. 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons salted butter

For the middle layer:

  1. 200 grams paneer aka cottage cheese
  2. 200 ml sweetened condensed milk
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh curd

For the top layer:

  1. 1 small ripe mango
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 2 tablespoons sugar

Method:

We will first make the base for the Baked Mango Cheesecake.

  1. Break the biscuits roughly and place them in a mixer jar.
  2. Pulse the biscuits a couple of times, or till you get a fine powder. Transfer this powder to a mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the butter and the powdered sugar.
  4. Mix to form a soft dough.
  5. Line the bottom of a medium-sized cake tin with this biscuit dough. Make sure it is evenly lined, neither too thin nor too thick.
  6. Cover the cake tin and place in freezer for at least 20 minutes for the base to get firmer.

Meanwhile, we will prepare the middle layer of this Baked Mango Cheesecake.

  1. Crumble the paneer well and place it in a mixer jar.
  2. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and the curd.
  3. Grind till smooth. Keep aside.

Now, we will proceed to make the top layer of the Baked Mango Cheesecake.

  1. Remove the skin and seed of the ripe mango. Chop the flesh into cubes.
  2. Puree the mango cubes using a mixer.
  3. Place the mango puree in a pan, along with the water and sugar. Cook on medium flame till the puree thickens a little, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Set this mango puree aside and let it cool down completely.

Now, we will bake the cheesecake.

  1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
  2. Get the cheesecake base (which has had about 20 minutes of resting time) out of the freezer.
  3. Uncover and pour the paneer mixture (as prepared above) over the base.
  4. Place in oven and bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down completely.

Lastly, we will use the mango puree to make the top layer of the cheesecake.

  1. Spread the mango puree (as prepared above) over the cooled-down cheesecake. Use as much quantity as needed to spread it evenly, neither too thinly nor too thickly.
  2. Cover the cake tin and place in the refrigerator (not freezer) for about an hour, for the top layer to set well.

Now, the Baked Mango Cheesecake is ready!

  1. Unmould the cheesecake carefully, to ensure there is no breakage.
  2. Cut into pieces and serve immediately.

Notes:

1. I used milk biscuits to make the base of this Baked Mango Cheesecake. I didn’t have to add much sugar, since the biscuits were already sweet. Adjust the quantity of sugar you use in the bottom layer, as per your personal taste preferences. Honey can be used instead of sugar, too.

2. I have used salted butter to make the bottom layer, because I like a slight saltiness to it. You may use unsalted butter instead, if you so prefer.

3. For the middle layer of this Baked Mango Cheesecake, I have used store-bought Milky Mist paneer. You may use any other brand of paneer that you prefer or even home-made cottage cheese, instead.

4. I have used Amul Mithai Mate (sweetened condensed milk) to make the middle layer.

5. Use fresh curd that is not sour, to make the middle layer of this Baked Mango Cheesecake. The curd, apparently, helps in proper setting of the cheesecake.

6. I didn’t feel the need to add any sugar to the middle layer here. The condensed milk-paneer-curd mixture was just the right amount of sweet for us. If you want to, you may add some sugar to the middle layer as well.

7. I have used fresh, ripe mango to make the top layer of this cheesecake, because the fruit is in season (and everyone at home loves it). You can use some other fruit instead, too – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, for instance. Adjust the quantity of sugar you use to make the top layer, depending upon how sweet the fruit is.

8. Use as much mango puree (as prepared above) as you need, for the top layer of the cheesecake. Any leftover mango puree can be stored in a clean, air-tight container and kept refrigerated for 3-4 days. This can be used to top up pancakes, ice cream, cakes, puddings and other desserts.

Do try out this Baked Mango Cheesecake recipe, and let me know how you liked it!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Cakes’.

I’m sending this to Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Thai-Style Poha

Bored of having poha the usual way? Try out this Thai-Style Poha, a refreshing take on the classic Indian breakfast dish!

The Thai twist adds a whole lot of flavour to the poha, making it a lovely change from the usual. This fusion dish is just perfect for those days when you want to eat something slurpaliciously yummy, but don’t want to make too much of an effort. Thai-Style Poha isn’t a tough dish to accomplish.

Here’s how to make Thai-Style Poha, my way.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 2-1/2 cups medium thick poha
  2. 1/4 cup peanuts
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. About 3 tablespoons raw cane sugar or to taste
  6. 1 small carrot
  7. 1 small capsicum
  8. 1 small onion
  9. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  10. 3 green chillies
  11. 1 tablespoon oil
  12. 1 tablespoon sesame
  13. Juice of 1-1/2 lemon or to taste
  14. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves

Method:

1. Dry roast the peanuts in a pan, on medium flame, till crisp. Transfer to a plate and let them cool down completely.

2. Finely chop the coriander, onion and capsicum. Peel the ginger and chop very finely. Peel the carrot and grate medium thick. Chop the chillies very finely. Keep aside.

3. Place the poha in a colander and wash gently under running water. Let it rest, and let all the water drain away.

4. When the water from the poha has completely drained away, fluff it up gently. Keep aside.

5. When the roasted peanuts have cooled down completely, pulse them a couple of times in a mixer, for just a second. Don’t powder the peanuts completely – just crush them coarsely. Keep aside.

6. Heat the oil in a pan. Turn the flame down to medium and add the sesame seeds. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

7. Add the chopped onion, green chillies, ginger, capsicum and grated carrot. Cook on medium flame for a minute, or till the veggies are mildly cooked and still retain a bit of a crunch.

8. Add the soaked and drained poha to the pan, along with salt and raw cane sugar. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for a minute.

9. Add coarsely crushed peanuts, chopped coriander and lemon juice. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Switch off gas. Serve immediately.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

I hope you will try making this Thai-Style Poha too, and that you will love it!

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I’m sending this to Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles

The Montessori school my daughter goes to follows a lovely system for snack time. One set of parents send snacks for all the 12-odd children in their child’s class, every day. The snacks are supposed to be home-made and healthy. There’s a rotation system in place, ensuring every parent gets a turn once a month. I love how this system exposes kids to tastes beyond those of their homes, how this brings about a learning of what foods each kid favours. Yes, there are a few pitfalls to this system too, but I think the advantages far outweigh them. Why am I talking about this? Because the recipe I’m going to share today – Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles – came about because of this snack system.

The bub returned all happy from school one day, having discovered a new-found love for vegetable noodles. This surprised me, because she had been used to only South Indian snacks – idlis, dosas, pongal and the like – before then. This instance made me pour more thought into what I cooked for her, to get my creative juices flowing, to experiment wildly, to come up with healthy yet satisfying and delicious meals for her. To me, ‘noodles’ had always meant a sauce- and oil- and calorie-laden dish, but this instance had me thinking up ways to make them healthy, yet finger-lickingly good. A few trials and errors later, these fusion Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles were born, something that is now a regular at our table and is much loved.

I make this dish using wheat noodles, with no sauces or any other bottled products. Just a hint of home-made garam masala and freshly ground black pepper add oomph to the noodles, as does the bit of raw cane sugar I put in. Further, I fortify the noodles with loads of veggies. Lots of yum, the simple, healthy and desi way!

Here’s how I make these Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 150 grams hakka noodles
  2. A small piece of cabbage
  3. 1 small carrot
  4. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  5. About 3 large florets of cauliflower
  6. 5-6 beans
  7. 1 small onion
  8. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  9. Salt, to taste
  10. 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon oil
  11. 2 generous pinches of black pepper powder
  12. 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  13. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Method:

  1. Fill a pan about 3/4 with water, place it on high heat and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Break the noodles and add them to the boiling water. Let the noodles cook on medium flame till they are soft, but not overly mushy (al dente).
  2. At this stage, switch off the gas and transfer all the noodles to a colander placed in the kitchen sink. Immediately run cold water over the noodles, to stop the cooking process. Let the noodles rest, and let all the water drain away.
  3. Meanwhile, we will prepare the veggies that we need to make the noodles. Peel the carrot and remove strings from the beans. Chop the onions, capsicum and cabbage length-wise. Chop the coriander, carrot and beans finely. Chop the cauliflower florets into medium-sized pieces. Keep the veggies aside.
  4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add in the chopped onion, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot and beans. Add a bit of salt and a pinch of black pepper powder. Cook on medium flame till the veggies are cooked, but still retain a bit of a crunch. Stir constantly, to ensure that the veggies do not get burnt.
  5. Now, add the cooked and drained noodles to the veggies in the pan. Add some more salt, one more pinch of black pepper powder, the garam masala and the raw cane sugar. Mix thoroughly, but gently. Let everything cook together for a couple of minutes. Switch off gas.
  6. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Serve piping hot, on its own or with a bit of tomato ketchup drizzled on top.

Notes:

1. I used 1 packet of Ching’s hakka noodles, which is equal to 150 grams. They are, apparently, made of wheat as opposed to the regular maida-based noodles.

2. Since I was cooking this for the bub, I have avoided using any kind of sauce. You may add green/red chilli sauce, tomato ketchup and/or soya sauce, if you want to. You might want to skip the sugar in that case, since the tomato ketchup has added sugar too.

3. I have used garam masala and coriander here, for an Indian touch, and we absolutely love it. If you are using sauces, you can skip these two ingredients.

4. These vegetable noodles taste great if the salt is just a tad on the higher side. However, be careful while adding the salt, so as not to make the noodles overly salty.

5. Adjust the quantity of pepper powder you use, to suit personal taste preferences.

6. You can use any veggies that you have on hand, to make these vegetable noodles. I have skipped adding ginger-garlic paste here, but you could add it in as well.

7. Make sure the noodles are cooked al dente, before adding them to the veggies. Remember that the noodles will cook some more with the veggies. Overcooking the noodles will lead to a mushy end result, which might not taste great.

You like? I hope you will try out this recipe, and that you will love it too! Do let me know your thoughts, in the comments.

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I’m sending this to Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

New Menu Tasting At Mainland China, Indiranagar

Mainland China needs no introduction, I am sure. The chain of restaurants has created a name for itself in serving good-quality Chinese fare. The husband and I love a Chinese meal occasionally, and have often headed to Mainland China for the same. So, when Mainland China recently introduced its new menu, I was thrilled to be a part of the tasting process at their Indiranagar branch, along with a few other food bloggers. We ended up having a delightful experience!

Location, decor and ambience

This was the first time I visited the Indiranagar branch of Mainland China, located on the bustling 100-Foot Road. It wasn’t difficult to find at all.

I loved the fact that there is ample parking available here, and valet parking is offered as well.

The interiors are simple and understated, classy and beautiful. The place is spacious, good for get-togethers with friends and/or family.

The new menu at Mainland China

The new menu at Mainland China leans more towards Pan-Asian fare, and has some great options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The menu is quite extensive and, I am sure, has something for everyone. Old favourites have been retained, and new flavours have been introduced. We were presented with some signature offerings from the new menu, of which I had the pleasure of tasting the vegetarian dishes.

#newmenunewflavours

Here is what I tried out from the new menu at Mainland China.

Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup: We started our meal with a vegetarian version of Tom Yum, which was nice, but not brilliant. The broth was flavourful and aromatic, with a generous amount of ingredients added in. However, the soup could have done with a bit more body, IMHO. I loved the slightly thick, more rounded Tom Yum that I had at Misu, and tend to hold that up as a standard against which all Tom Yums are measured. On that scale, this Tom Yum Soup fell a wee bit short.

Corn Chilli Pepper With Kaffir Lime And Salt: This made for a lovely starter, the corn nice and crispy without being overly chewy, the hints of chilli and kaffir lime coming through beautifully in every bite. I absolutely loved the presentation of this dish in a wine goblet, too!

Top Left: Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup; Top Right: Corn Chilli Pepper With Kaffir Lime & Salt; Bottom Left: Truffle Oil-Flavoured Zucchini Roll; Bottom Right: Crispy Lotus Stem With Curry Leaves & Black Pepper; Picture Courtesy for the corn and lotus stem dishes: Kasalsfoodsprings

Truffle Oil-Flavoured Zucchini Roll: These rolls were perfectly cooked, with a crispy exterior and a lovely, mild zucchini stuffing within. Taste-wise, these could have done with more flavour, I felt. I couldn’t sense any truffle in the rolls, though.

Crispy Lotus Stem With Curry Leaves And Black Pepper: This one tasted absolutely delish, and was the star of the meal for me. The lotus stem was sliced really fine and was fried well, the Chinese-style sauce it was cooked in really flavourful. The idea of adding curry leaves, sort of, didn’t really go with the concept of Chinese cuisine, but they didn’t seem out of place in the dish – they seemed to lend themselves to the whole, without hampering the overall taste of the dish.

Corn & Water Chestnut Dumplings: These dumplings were so very well done, beautiful inside and out! They were exquisitely delicate, the green outer shell delightfully paper-thin. The corn-and-water-chestnut filling was subtly spiced, mild, and very delicious. These come highly recommended – don’t miss them whenever you visit Mainland China!

Left: Corn & Water Chestnut Dumplings; Top Right: Edamame Dumplings With Truffle Oil; Bottom Right: Orange Piroshka

Edamame Dumplings With Truffle Oil: The next set of dumplings presented to us had a lovely, subtly spiced edamame stuffing. The outer shell was, again, brilliantly thin. I absolutely loved these dumplings too!

Orange Piroshka: From the extensive list of non-alcoholic beverages available at Mainland China, I chose the Orange Piroshka, a cooler made with orange juice and mint. I absolutely loved it! The drink was a beautiful medley of sweet and sour, quite refreshing and beautiful. I loved how the Orange Piroshka didn’t feel like a commercially-bought-flavoured-syrup-infused drink that is so very common with mocktails in several restaurants.
Japanese Wheat Noodles: A very interesting addition to the eatery’s new menu, the Japanese Wheat Noodles were absolutely lovely! Similar in looks to ragi vermicelli, they had a beautiful, beautiful texture. They tasted delicious, with subtle flavours, mild and soft. Such a refreshing change from the Hakka Noodles that you commonly find at Chinese eateries! This is another dish that I would highly recommend you to try out here!

Left: Japanese Wheat Noodles; Top Right: Vegetables & Edamame Fried Rice; Bottom Right: Lemongrass Vegetables In Fresh Cilantro Sauce

Steamed Chinese Greens And Tofu In Mild Ginger Sauce (not in pictures): This dish was well done too. Mildly spiced, none of the flavours of this dish overpowered the others. I am not particularly fond of the smell of steamed Chinese greens, and this dish was no exception. Taste-wise, I wouldn’t say I was bowled over by this, but I did like it.

Vegetables & Edamame Fried Rice: This was a refreshingly new take on the good ol’ fried rice, a well-executed twist. The rice was mild and subtle, well cooked and a pleasure to eat. Compared to the soya sauce- and black pepper-laden fried rice that we are used to, this rice was very mildly spiced, and loaded with veggies.

Lemongrass Vegetables In Fresh Cilantro Sauce: We ordered this to go with the fried rice, and were pleasantly surprised by the lovely taste of the dish. I was sort of worried if the lemongrass and the cilantro in the dish would overpower the dish, but they absolutely did not. Everything in the dish was very well-balanced and, overall, the dish was mild and well turned out. It made for the perfect accompaniment for the rice.

Chocolate Dome With Warm Chocolate Sauce: For dessert, we opted for a chocolate dome that melted when warm chocolate sauce was poured over it, revealing a base of vanilla ice cream, chocolate brownies and salted popcorn underneath. This was an absolutely blissful delight for a chocolate-lover like me – different tastes and textures melding together to create a lovely dessert. Another must-try here!

Top: Warm chocolate sauce being poured on the chocolate domes; Bottom: That’s how the dessert looks after the chocolate dome has melted!

In hindsight

I loved most of the dishes I sampled from the new vegetarian menu, and my fellow non-vegetarian diners were pleased too. I am definitely eager to try out more of the new dishes that Mainland China has introduced!

Prices here are on the higher side, but the quality of ingredients, execution of dishes and their taste totally make up for it. Service is courteous, warm and friendly.

The next time you crave for Chinese (or Asian) fare, why don’t you head to Mainland China? Do let me know how you like the new menu!

Street Food Journey In Ahmedabad

Whenever I think about Gujarati food, the first thing that pops into my head is the famous Kareena Kapoor dialogue from 3 Idiots – “Tum Gujarati log itne cute hote ho … par tum log ka khana itna khatarnak kyun hota hai?dhokla, fafda, handva, thepla … aise lagta hai jaise koi missiles hai!

Having grown up in Gujarat, the names of Gujarati snacks are as familiar to me as the back of my hand. This dialogue made me realise that the same might not be so for the rest of the world. Later, when I began travelling across India, I realised that a whole lot of the gorgeous Gujarati snacks I grew up eating are not even known by most people or, worse, are mixed up. No, people, khaman and dhokla are not the same, khamni and khandvi are not just different names for the same thing!

So, this post is a little attempt at demystifying the beautiful thing that Gujarati food is. This is an account of some of the street food that we tried out on our recent visit to Ahmedabad. Of course, this is not all there is to Gujarati food – I have barely scratched the surface here. These just form part of the proverbial iceberg!

Now, let’s check out all the street food we hogged on in Ahmedabad, shall we?

  1. Khaman from Radhe Khaman

Pillow soft, juicy, absolutely delicious steamed cakes made from gram flour (besan) – that’s khaman for you. Slightly sweet and sour, khaman seasoned with fried green chillies, lots of finely chopped fine coriander and mustard, is a common snack across Gujarat. They are a popular breakfast item as well. Don’t be fooled by how delicate they look – they are quite filling!

In Gujarat, khaman is commonly served with a delicious runny chutney made of gram flour, and/or a dry salad made with raw papaya (called ‘kachumber‘).

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Plain Khaman from Radhe Khaman

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Growing up, I used to love the fluffy, juicy khaman that Mehta Farsan House at Vadilal used to serve. On our last visit to Ahmedabad, though, I came to know that Mehta – a childhood landmark for me – doesn’t exist any more. 😦 So, we gorged on khaman brought home by a cousin from Radhe’s, another popular joint in the city, and they were absolutely blissful! Radhe’s apparently offers a whole lot of varieties of khaman, but we were content to stuff ourselves with the simple, basic Plain Khaman.

Raipur Bhajia House and Das Khaman are two other places in Ahmedabad which serve simply beautiful khaman.

2. The Gujju-fied version of pizza at Jasuben’s Old Pizza

Decades ago, Jasuben, a Gujarati homemaker started making ‘bhakri pizzas’ – little pizzas with a home-made semi-crunchy crust, smeared with a very desi sweetish gravy, doused with a generous amount of grated cheese, and baked in a gas oven. These pizzas became hugggeeelyyyy popular, and Old Pizza came into existence in Law Garden, Ahmedabad, to sell these pizzas to the general public. Today, there are scores of Old Pizza outlets all over Ahmedabad, and several other restaurants offering these bhakri pizzas. The popularity of Old Pizza shot through the roof after Prime Minister Narendra Modi once called it a great example of female entrepreneurship.

These pizzas have always been a huge favourite with me. I absolutely couldn’t miss checking them out on our Ahmedabad trip! The quality and the taste of the pizzas was just the same as I remembered them to be, and I fell in love with them all over again! 🙂

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Italian Pizza at Jasuben’s Old Pizza

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: You can try this out at any of the Old Pizza outlets in town, including the original Law Garden one. We visited the outlet at Prahlad Nagar.

3. Dalwada from Ambika Dalwada

Gujarati dalwada taste absolutely fantastic, especially if you have them on a dark, rainy day. They are deep-fried balls of a special batter made from broken moong, with the skin on. They are typically served in a newspaper cone, with salt-doused thinly sliced onions and fried green chillies.

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Dalwada from Ambika Dalwada

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: I think Khadawala, a little street-side stall near Ellis Bridge, made the bestest of dalwadas in Ahmedabad. Sadly, Khadawala doesn’t exist any more. Gujarat Dalwada and Ambika Dalwada are the two next best outlets, if you want to try out this Gujarat-special snack, with several branches across the city. The dalwadas here are quite different from those at Khadawala, but they are pretty good too.

4.  Dabeli at Jay Bhavani

It would be very tough for me to choose just one favourite from all the lovely Gujarati snacks I have grown up eating. If I simply had to, though, dabeli would rank among the top three for sure. That sweetish potato filling, that fine sev, those pomegranate arils and gorgeous tangy and spicy chutneys all fit into a buttered and toasted slice of pav – that’s heaven!

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Dabeli at Jay Bhavani

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Most street-side carts in Ahmedabad will do a great job of making the dabeli, I can say from experience. I am not sure if the carts I grew up eating them from exist any more, though. Jay Bhavani makes it really, really well, if you’d like to try this out, and they are at multiple locations throughout the city.

5. Buffvada at a roadside stall in Dhalgarwad

Buffvada is, basically, fasting food in Gujarat. A shell made of potatoes and arrowroot flour is stuffed with a filling made of dry fruits, nuts, coconut, ginger and green chilly, sometimes pomegranate seeds too. This is then deep-fried to perfection. Bliss in every bite, if you ask me.

The buffvada that we had at a roadside stall in Dhalgarwad

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Sadly, it is not very easy to find buffvada in Ahmedabad, especially when there are no festivals around the corner. Very few places make this, and fewer still make it the right way. Mehta Farsan House at Vadilal used to do some really love buffvadas but, considering they have closed down now, we tried them out at a tiny road-side stall in Dhalgarwad and found them just about average. If you want to sample them, I would suggest you head to any of the various Das outlets in town – I understand they make some killer buffvadas, from what I’ve heard!

6. Neera from any roadside stall

Palm nectar or the sap extracted from palm trees is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Not only is it loaded with health benefits, but tastes absolutely scrumptious as well. Locally called neera, the sap is extracted before sunrise and is sold off at roadside stalls before noon, before it begins to ferment. It is typically available in the winter months – knocking down a couple of glasses of cold, cold neera on a cold, cold winter morning is an experience in itself!

The neera we tried out at a roadside stall in Gota, Ahmedabad

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Go to any of the government-recognised neera stalls by the roadside in Ahmedabad, and you are sure to get a genuine, good glassful. The authentic stuff tastes absolutely lovely, cool and sweet. Beware of fake stalls that sell sugar water in the name of neera – they exist too!

7. Ragda Pattice at Swastik, Municipal Market

Ragda Pattice would rank right up there, among my top three favourite Gujju snacks. For the uninitiated, I would say this is the Gujarati version of aloo tikki chaat – potato patties pan-fried till the outer shell is crispy, then dunked in a lovely sweet-spicy gravy made of peas, served with a generous dose of chopped onions and coriander, sweet tamarind chutney and spicy green chutney. If you haven’t tried this out, you are seriously missing out!

Ragda Pattice in the making at Swastik, Municipal Market

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: My family and I have been eating ragda pattice at Swastik, a roadside stall in Municipal Market, ever since I was a kid. I have seen the same gentleman making it over the years – he has grown older, and we have too. On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, we headed back here for our fill of ragda pattice and, I am absolutely thrilled to report, it still tastes the same – out-of-the-world delish. Don’t go by the shabby look of the place – just go ahead, trust me, and grab a plate. This guy makes the best in Ahmedabad! He takes pride in the fact that he uses only pure Amul ghee to make them, too!

8. Dal Pakwaan at Jay Jhulelal, Vastrapur Lake

Crisp, fried pooris (pakwaan) served with a delicious tempered chana daal gravy (daal) is a common breakfast combination in Sindhi households. I tried it out for the first-ever time, on our recent trip to Ahmedabad, and absolutely loved it. The flavours were so subtle, yet so beautiful!

Dal Pakwaan at Jay Jhulelal, Vastrapur Lake

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: A cousin of mine insisted on dragging me to this little outlet near Vastrapur Lake, called Jay Jhulelal, which apparently makes the best Dal Pakwaan in town. I am so thankful he did that – the dish we sampled there was such a beauty, inside and out! I’d recommend you to visit the same place if you wish to try this dish out – I’m not sure of where else you get good Dal Pakwaan in the city.

9. Sev Khamni, Khandvi and Idada at Das

Sev Khamni is yet another gorgeous, gorgeous Gujarati snack that I can have any time of the day. Chana daal is soaked for a few hours, then ground and cooked with chosen spices, to be served with a generous dousing of pomegranate arils, coriander and fresh coconut. Love! (Click here for the Sev Khamni recipe on my blog!)

Khandvi refers to thin, thin, thin rolls of cooked chickpea flour (besan) batter, beautifully salted and slightly sour in taste, tempered with loads of coriander, mustard, fresh coconut and sesame seeds. It requires loads of finesse, practice and patience to make, but it well worth the effort!

Now, Idada refers to steamed cakes of a white batter made of rice and urad daal, not unlike idli batter. Commonly served with a tempering of mustard, sesame and coriander, pillowy Idada or White Dhokla are an absolute pleasure to eat.

Each of these three Gujarati snacks – Sev Khamni, Khandvi and Idada – are super healthy, cooked with minimal or no oil (except for the fried sev, of course)!

Left: Sev Khamni; Top right: Khandvi; Bottom right: Idada; all at Das

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Das is a great place to hog on any of the above three old-world Gujju snacks. There are several outlets across the city – take your pick!

10. Chana Jor Garam off a roadside stall

Chana Jor Garam, I’m sure most of you already know. It is probably not the healthiest of snacks, but God, it is so delicious!

A Chana Jor Garam vendor outside Kankaria Lake

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Pick up a newspaper cone brimming with Chana Jor Garam from any of the several road-side vendors selling it in town. Most of them make it well – you can customise it to your liking too – and it isn’t too expensive either!

11. Chaats at Honest

I’ve grown up eating the most delectable of paav bhaji, pulao and chaats at Honest. Back then, they used to have just a couple of outlets – now, they seem to have mushroomed all over the city! I absolutely had to go and try out Honest, on our last visit to Ahmedabad, but I ended up utterly disappointed with most of the food there. Prices seem to have quadrupled, while the quality of the paav bhaji and pulao seems to have gone down four times. 😦 The chaats that I tried out here – Bhel Poori and Chatni Poori – were still lovely, the way I remember them being all those years ago. Some school friends that I spoke to echoed my thoughts about Honest exactly – that the taste and quality of the food has, indeed, drastically gone down. Many of them now don’t go to Honest any more. They rather prefer going to small road-side stalls near their homes for their paav bhaji and pulao fix.

Wondering what chatni poori is? It is a cross between sev poori and pani poori, a gorgeous confection that I am not sure if you get outside of Gujarat. The small, round pooris that are used to make golgappas form the base of the chatni poori, which is served with assorted chutneys, lots of fine sev, onions and coriander. Had at the right place, it tastes absolutely lovely.

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Top Left: Pav Bhaji; Bottom Left: Pulao; Top Right: Bhel Poori; Bottom Right: Chatni Poori; all at Honest

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Considering the utterly forgettable paav bhaji and pulao I had at Honest, I definitely would not be recommending them. I think you would be better off trying these from the small carts that litter most alleys of Ahmedabad.

Go to Honest for the chaats, though, especially the chatni poori. If you are a chaat freak like me, I am sure you will love it. Of course, there are a lot of other places that will serve you glorious chaat in Ahmedabad, but I speak only of Honest because that was the only place where we tried them out, in the limited time we had available to us.

12. Kulfis at Asharfi

Asharfi is an age-old establishment in Ahmedabad, one that has wowed generations of citizens with its creamy, delectable kulfi. Like Honest, Asharfi outlets too seem to have mushroomed all over the city. Thankfully, the taste and quality of the kulfis we tried out at Asharfi still remains great, as it always used to be.

Top Left: Anjeer Kulfi; Bottom Left: Roasted Almond Kulfi; Right: Pista Kulfi

Best places to try this out in Ahmedabad: Don’t miss the old-world kulfis at Asharfi, whenever you get a chance to visit Ahmedabad. The Chocolate Kulfi, Pista Kulfi, Sitaphal Kulfi and Mixed Kulfi are personal favourites – they come highly recommended!

Well, that’s all about our street food journey in Ahmedabad! I hope you enjoyed reading the post!

So, the next time you visit the city, you know where to head to, for a happy tummy, eh?