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My Jodhpur | Childhood Chapter

Bougainvillaea in my hair, happiness in my heart
Bougainvillaea in my hair, happiness in my heart

What I discovered about local food in Jodhpur

What one loves in childhood,

stays in the heart forever

– May Jo Putney

With a little red bag and lots of excitement filling my heart, I boarded Mandor Express from Old Delhi with my parents. We were headed for Jodhpur, a city of my childhood.

We always travelled by Mandor Express whenever we would visit my maternal grandparents in Delhi. As a kid, travelling by this train meant gorging on jim-jam cookies, frooti and Railway Cutlets. However this time, it was just an insipid Burger that we got from McDonald’s.

Also, it was time to take Gurjas to my childhood home, the school I went to and introduce him to the food I love so dearly. I’ve told him numerous stories about the city and the life I once lived there – the life of running around in tunics, watering the plants with my grandfather, playing cricket (with a plastic bat) with Saurabh, troubling my sister in school and dancing on Marwari songs.

I was born in Amritsar (Read: Places to eat in Amritsar), however, soon after, my parents moved to Jodhpur. For all the Marwari helpers we had at home, we were a strange Punjabi family. No matter how much my Maaji (Grandmother) tried to teach my sister and I, Gidha (traditional Punjabi folk dance for girls) we would end up dancing on Marwari tunes. She will force feed us Sarson Ka Saag while we would crave for Besan Ke Gatte. Saurabh, who was still a toddler, learnt how to finish a Mirchi Bada before he learnt to form a complete sentence.

As a kid I (obviously) never realized how special this time was and how amazing this city is with its food offerings. I remember we used to carry packets of Namkeens for all our relatives, each time we went for holidays. Even today, with Namkeen Bhandars abound in the city, the strong flavours of garlic and heeng or the crunch of sev (in all shapes and sizes) are omnipresent. While Jodhpur is renowned for Pyaaz kachori, Mirchi Bada, Daal Bati Choorma, Saangri, Makhaniya Lassi however, the city has much more to offer.

So many years later and after having grown up, I understood that food in Jodhpur is supremely delicious, rich and striking. A land of complete contrast, the city offers a range of fiery curries to utterly sweet lassis. Popularly known as ‘The Blue City’, due to scarcity of water, the city relies majorly on dairy to make traditional Rajasthani food. Ghee and curd is ubiquitous to many traditional dishes. And one can learn how to cook delicious food with locally grown spices from them. Today, locally grown Mathaniya red chilies have become world famous. Bhavnagri chilies are synonymous with the supremely popular Mirchi Bada. So, if you’re fond of spicy food, Jodhpur’s food will make you really happy. There’s plenty of Chaach or sweet Makhaniya Lassi to dowse the spices.

Rajasthani Thali - Gypsy
Rajasthani Thali – Gypsy

Also, this time, beyond the kachoris and badas, I discovered local dishes such as Rabori Ki Sabzi, Gulab Jamun ki Sabzi, Mangori Ka Saag, Govind Gatte, Kheech and Lehsun Kofta. These dishes are largely found in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner but no so much in Jaipur and other cities in Rajasthan. I absolutely loved Rabori Ki Sabzi, which was made with soft Papad in a curry made with yoghurt, ginger-garlic, onions, tomatoes and ghee. I had it with Bajri Ka Sogra and this was just the kind of food I had dreamt of eating. Another discovery, which I fell in love with, was Lehsun Kofta. This deep fried fat snack is made with potato filling, seasoned with chilies, onions, salt, nimbu ka sat and of course, tons of solid garlic cloves.

While I really love this delicious vegetarian Marwari food but there is also Rajputana food (which is predominantly non-vegetarian) that I absolutely adore. The fiery, deep rich curries such as Laal Maas, Safed Maas and Junglee Maas are a delight for all meat-lovers. Earlier, due to lack of vegetation, these curries were prepared with meat of hare, wild boar, game birds or deer along with local chilies and dry fruits. I was told, the women in the family never cooked any meat. Today, these curries are mostly prepared with Mutton and are widely available at many restaurants in the city. (Read: Best Places to eat in Jodhpur)

Also widely found here, are dishes made with Khoya (dried milk solids). In the fascinating lanes of The Blue City, there are dozens of dairy shops selling khoya in bulk. As a result people here make curries with khoya along with cashews and dunk unsweetened Gulab Jamun, Rasgollas, chakki etc in them. This style of curry is vastly different from the spicy – tangy curries I have always associated Jodhpur with. The curry, though mild in taste, has crazy amount of ghee!

And for the sweets, one can’t come back from Jodhpur without having Mawa Kachori, Malpua, Kulfi and Besan Ki Chakki. I was at Karuna Aunty’s (my mother’s best friend from Jodhpur) place when we were served homemade Daal Baati Choorma, Besan ke Gatte, Chaach and finally for dessert – Besan ki Chakki. The coarse texture, a hint of cardamom and just the right amount of sweet made this a heavenly dessert. To me, it tasted almost as similar to Moong Daal Halwa, another sweet delight available throughout Rajasthan and one of my all time favourite Indian sweets.

Me at my old house in Jodhpur
Me at my old house in Jodhpur

After three long days of feasting on delicious food from every nook and cranny in the city it was time to board Mandor Express one more time. Of course, now, besides my little red bag, there were boxes of Koftas and Kachoris. And oh, also a heart that was filled with the joy after revisiting my childhood home, my first school, savouring my favourite food and making memories with Gurjas in the my all-time favourite city.

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