Way before Pokeman and Harry Potter, we had grown up on tales of the epics. We spent hours engrossed in tales from Indian mythology and history told in illustrated comic books. One of the most exciting set of stories was that of the Rajputs of Rajasthan and their stories of adventure and valour. Years later when I visited Jaipur in Rajasthan, I was as interested in seeing the forts as I was in the local food scene there.
Rajasthani food is synonymous with the Dal Baati Churma. It’s a heavenly concoction of dal (boiled lentils with spices), baati (wheat rolled into dough, either fried or baked) and churma (crushed wheat with ghee and sugar ). There are a variety of ways of eating the Dal Baati Churma, the most preferred ones is by dipping the baati into the dal and then into the churma or breaking the baati into small pieces and mixing it with the churma and dal. The richness of the flavours combine with each other and makes for a heavy but satisfying meal. Since Rajasthan is where the dish originated from, it’s only natural to find the best restaurants here, serving the most delicious Dal Baati Churma.
Chokhi Dhani is a sort of Rajasthani Disneyland meets a Suraj Bhansali set affair. It is located outside Jaipur city and consists of a faux village setting recreated for tourists, an all-in-one cultural spectacle, with village-themed ambience and loads of activities to keep guests busy. But did you know that they also serve the most delicious and authentic Dal Baati Churma. There are three types of Rajasthani dining available here …. Traditional, AC Royal and Multi-Cuisine Buffet. The former two offers Rajasthani cuisine while the latter offers different cuisines. Over 25 different varieties of dishes are served on your plate, including the cult favourite Dal Baati Churma. Eating this is a multi-textural and multi-sensorial experience. It is a very heavy dish, served with plenty of ghee. Crush the round wheat flour-based balls (bati), add the dal (lentils) to them and douse this with ghee. Here they are served with chutneys like the red garlic chutney and papads on the side.
The constituents of the bati are different from house to house. While wheat flour is used in most houses today, some still use the traditional favourite of bajra (pearl millets) and lentils used in the dal, vary from region to region. In the earlier days one would use dals grown near their villages, moong in some cases, channa in other. Today panch dal ke mel (mix of 5 dals) is what’s popular. There are variations in the churma too with some people even making rose and orange flavoured ones these days.
In earlier times, pilgrims and hunters would carry bags of dal and bajra on their travels and make dal bati churma when on the move. This one dish meal was convenient to eat while traveling as one didn’t need too many utensils.
The use of healthy grains like bajra, the proteins provided by the lentils in the dal and the nutritious and detoxifying properties of ghee were all prized for giving a healthy and nourishing meal for those on the move.
How evolved was ancient Indian food technology! Today we have Indian food manufacturing giants borrowing foreign technology to make instant noodles and they get excited about that. To me the entire thought behind dal bati churma as a food-on- the-go and its convenience and health benefits, is pretty fascinating. Our native ingenuity has been part of our traditions for a very long time!
Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned by the food and beverage companies from the rich culinary heritage of Rajasthan!