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Rajasthani Cuisine – Indulging the Taste Sense

Rich with the heritage of royal dynasties and need of people, Rajasathani cuisine is a nice blend of both nutrition and elegance. The cereals and milk based products find dominance in the Rajasthani food as a result of dry and arid terrain of the region, which are enough to water your mouth with temptation.
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Rajasthani Cuisine
The cuisine of Rajasthan is a product of its geographical, historical and cultural background. Though the emphasis is more on nutrition than on fuss and
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ostentation, give the harsh climatic conditions, the people of Rajasthan have produced so much variety from so little. The war- like lifestyle of the Rajputs and the unavailability of ingredients in this desert region influenced the eating habits of the people; food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating war preferred, more out of necessity than choice.

Given the fact that more than half of Rajasthan is made up of desert, there is very little that grows here and fresh vegetables were unheard of in the pre-communication days. Improved means of transportation and communication changed all that and now more fresh vegetables and fruit are available by the day but not less than 30 years ago there were only hardy desert vegetables and cereals.

Factroid
In days of yore, the palaces of Rajasthan each has their secret recipes for special brews to fight the winter chill. Recently, the government gave permission to bottle some of these for public consumption. So, rejoice, ye commoners, try a nip of the unique 'Kesar Kasturi Liqueur', made from saffron and "20 other exotic ingredients".
Thar, the Great Indian Desert, immortalised in song and folklore as Marusthali (The land of Death) lies in north-west Rajasthan, but not all of this state is wasteland. The Arawali hills, the oldest geographical feature of the Indian-subcontinent, is a rocky spine that divides Rajasthan into two regions of startling contrasts: one is barren while the other has lakes, forests and fertile land.

Popular Rajasthan Food
The desert region comprises Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner. The land here is unyielding, rainfall is scanty and vegetation comprises patches of grassland, dry shrubs and stunted trees. Crops cultivated are hardy cereals like Millet (Bajra) and barley (jowar). It's hostile, harsh and merciless region yet culturally the more interesting side of Rajasthan.

While we eulogise about Rajasthan`s glorious past comprising Maharajas and Maharanis and brave Rajput warriors who spent months away from home conquering unfriendly terrain to establish their kingdoms, there was more to their lives than that.

Their main battle was that of survival against the extreme climate, droughts and the lowering of water tables, the hot sand dunes and dust-laden winds that ensured that cultivation was next to impossible. Yet the people created some of the most sumptuous food from the little that was available.

They conquered the desert with their spirit and built their forts & palaces here. They controlled the caravans on the desert trade routes, levying a tax on the traders for their safe passage. Though these traders came new spices, new ingredients and flavours that enriched the local cuisine. Today the cuisine of the desert is considered unique and among the most interesting in the country.

Adding Flavor of Available Vegetation
Till or gingelly, used primarily to extract oil, is another crop that grows here and finds its way into the foods of Marwar. Kair- sangri curry cooked in tilli ka tel or gingelly oil, is one of the favorite dishes from Rajasthan. Kair ( capparis decidna ) are small green berries that appear on shrubs. These Kairs are rich in minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, as well as protein and carbohydrates, kair is usually cooked as vegetable with sangri, the leguminous fruit of the khejri ( Prosopis cinararia ) tree. This is most important tree in this desert biome, the root system of which go seventy feet deep, so that it can withstand seven years of complete drought. During the blazing months of June and July, slender green pods called sangri appear which are plucked and cooked as vegetables or stored for latter use.

Famous Rajasthani Dishes
In a land where ordinary vegitables like potatoes and cauliflowers can not be grown, the people of Marwar have learnt to supplement their diet by using whatever the environment has to offer, be it from a tree, a bush, a plant or a creeper. For instance, kachri ( cucumis melo ) , fofliya (citrullus lanatus ), khumattiya and gawar ( cyamopsis tetragonoloba ) are all regarded as vegetables. Besides several types of melons and cucumbers that exotic. These robust desert people have also perfected the skill of drying vegetables. Thus fresh green chilles ( rich in vitamin A & C ) or dry red ones are integral to their diet and are made into snacks, curies, pickles and chutneys. One reason why they consume enormous quantities of chillies is because they grow them.

The Taste Of Rajasthan
Rajasthan has given birth to legendary kings and queens, who were great gourmets and so were their kitchens. They boasts of many fine kitchen-both within the palaces and outside the palaces.
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In most of the royal kitchens of Rajasthan, the preparation of food was always used to be a serious matter and was raised to the level of an art form. Hundreds of cooks worked in the stately palaces and kept their recipes very close to their heart. Some recipes were passed on to their sons, whereas the rest were lost in the passage of time. Rajasthani cuisines are world renowned for its smell and taste. Most of its dishes and curries have its own style of cooking and the availability of ingredients in the region. According to Rajasthanis, they prefer those foods, which could last for several days and could be eaten without heating. It is more out of necessity than a choice of one. Due to the scarcity of water, the milk, buttermilk and clarified butter have made their way to cook in most of the desert belt like Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, and Bikaner. Which is one of the foremost reason, why innumerable cuisines are made of sweet and salts.

Foremost Rajasthani Delights !!!
Most of the Rajasthani cuisine are vegetarian and also combine southern flavor to northern taste of India. The spice content is on the higher side, even by Indian standards. Rajasthani's also relish Ghee which is an integral part of their many preparations. The most popular dish of Rajasthan is Dal-Bati, which is a spicy lentils and is prepared with baked balls of wheat and lots of Ghee in it. Gram flour is a major ingredient in Rajasthan, used to make some of the best delicacies like Gatta ki Sabzi and Pakodis. Whereas, powdered lentils are used for Mangodi and Papad. The most common preparation of daily meals are done from Bajra or corn, which is used all over the state of Rajasthan for making dishes like Khichdi and Rotis. Most of these meals are savored with various chutneys, made from locally available spices like turmeric, coriander, mint and garlic, which are authentic in taste.

Factroid
Rajasthan cooking is incomplete without the added flavour of Chilies. When still green, these chilies are cooked as a vegetable - hot but manageable, but when dried and powdered, it become a staple in all Rajasthai kitchens. The Nagauri chilli is famous for its deep red color, and Rajasthan's famous laal mass or red mutton curry, is only cooked with Nagaur chilli powder to give it its beautiful red tinge.
Lal Maans and Safed Maans - Meat Speciality
The immense scarcity of water and thus low vegetation in Rajasthan made Rajputs to incline towards non-vegetarian food thus resulting in discovering some mouthwatering dishes. The famous two preparations that came out of the Rajput kitchen and still tasted with equal dignity are the two meat specialties Lal Maans (red meat) cooked in heavy spice and chili and Safed Maans (white meat) prepared with almonds, cashew nuts and coconut.

Camel Milk Tea
A land where camel is the only animal, available in abundance has made people to utilize it in every possible way and the idea of having camel milk is no wonder. The tea made of camel milk is hugely popular among the rural people of Rajasthan where the extreme water scarcity is no hidden fact. Initially the tea may taste a little different to non-camel-milk tasters but no camel fair in Pushkar or Bikaner is can be imagined without this unique tea preparation. We suggest you to give it a try for a unique experience.

Chutney
Chutney are a complete subject by themselves in Marwar. There are many kinds, each made differently though the most popular are those made with garlic, onion, kachri and of course, chillies. The secret of making red chilli chutney is to grind it very finely on a stone to release all the cellular capsaicin, its fiery element. Once the chilli past becomes as smooth as cream, it is cooked in oil which kills the capsaicin and removes the sting. Besides adding salt to taste, some garlic, onions or kachri, which acts as a land deprived of tomatoes, can be used enhance the flavor. The dominant flavors of rural Marwar are sour and salty. Sweet have a low priority natural in a land that imports all its sugar and Jaggery.

Famous Snacks Corner!!!
Rajasthan is also famous for its wide range of snacks, which varied from cities to cities in taste, colour and sizes. Some of them are Bhujiya, Bread Bajee, Bread Bonda, Breadfruit Bajee , Cabbage Vada, Carrot Vada, Chilly Bajee, French Fry

Mint Pakoda, Mushroom Pakoda, Onion Bajee, and Potato Bajee. Most of these snacks are prepared in such a way that, they last for several days without getting waste. Rajasthani's often have them as a refreshments with tea, cold drinks and coffees. These tasty snacks are easily available throughout Rajasthan and for most of the enthusiastic wanderers, its none other than a munches.

Rajasthani Sweets
Rajasthani sweets (Mithai) are mind blowing, its a conglomeration of milk, sugar and flour-based confectioneries, originating from the Rajasthan rural establishments. Rajasthani sweets are normally very rich in sugar and take a long time to prepare. Popular Rajasthani sweets comprise of laddu, kaju barfi, gulab jamun, Rasmilai, jalebi and rasgulla, which are mind-bending in its own way. Most of these sweets are eaten by Rajasthani's after the meals as a desserts. But still, there are some cities, where sweet dishes are never referred to as desserts, because unlike desserts which are had after the meal, Rajasthani sweets can be savored before the meal, with the meal and after the meal. One will be surprised to see the sweets of Rajasthan, which come in a large variety of shapes, colours and sizes. Thus, it has a great significance in Indian culture. These beautifully made sweets are also presented at the time of weddings and celebrations.

The variety of sweet dishes varied from one another and one can relished as much as the spicy curries in Rajasthan. To name a few, Besan-chakki is very popular sweet dish made of gram flour. Corn is a used in a lot of preparations both spicy and sweet. A popular sweet dish made of corn and milk is jhajariya. If we talk about cities, that are famous for its unique sweets dishes, then Alwar is popular for its Mawa, Pushkar is famous for Malpua, Jaipur popular for Mishri Mawa and Ghevar, Ajmer for Sohan Halwa, Beawar famous for its Til Papdi, Jaisalmer for Sweet Laddoos, Udaipur and Loharu popular for its Dil Jani and Tonk and famous for its Sawaiyan.

The Rural Food of Marwar : Millet & Milk
Marwar, comprising the Western districts of Rajasthan - Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and Nagaur - constitutes part of the Thar Desert. This is a land of sand and grit with sparse vegetable, fierce dust stroms and blazing sunshine.
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The rain fall is scanty and temperatures vary from 49 degrees Celsius in summer to minus 2 degrees in winter. Yet this arid, inhospitable land is inhabitated by more than twelve million people, making the Thar, one of the most densely populated deserts of the world.

Marwar is home to the Rathore and Bhatti Rajput warrior class of people as well as the business communities of Jains, Oswals and Banias who are essntially city and town dwellers. The countryside is inhabitated by several castes and tribes like the Rikas , Rebaries, Kalbelias, Bhils and Meghwals. However the predominant peoples of Marwar are the Rajputs, Jats and Bishnois who are pastoral and semi agriculturist and tend cattle throughout the year. During the brief rainy season, when the desert blooms, they also cultivate at least one crop. Their food, as well as their economy revolves around the basic desert cereal, millet and cow's milk and its by products.

The milk that the Rathi, Tharparker and Nagauri breed of Milk cows yield is not large in quantities but the quality is very high in its fat content. The milk of Marwar is famous for producing pure ghee that is distinctly granular and yellow in color with an irresistible aroma. Ghee is also important not only for the flavour it adds to the local cuisine but also for the quantities used which indicate a person's social status. Ghee is also considered a panacea for all illnesses.Village ladies also churn butter in a large earthen pot. They would stop every now and then to scoop out soft, fluffy, white butter from the pot and place it in a brass container. Then, rubbing her buttery hands over her face and arms like some sort of beauty treatment, they place the container of butter on a fire fuelled by cow dung cakes. Several hours later, the butter heated slowly over low temperatures melted gradually into ghee.

After removing the butter, the chaachh or buttermilk remains in the pot. People take large glass of salted buttermilk sprinkled with roasted jeera or cumin seeds. No meal in Marwar is complete without millet or bajra. This truly amaizing cereal is more nutritious than wheat, corn, maize, barley, sorghum or rice. Yet it can grow in the most arid conditions, with very little water. Its root system allows it to absorb whatever moisture the scanty rainfall provides, making it a essentially a tropical crop cultivated during the mansoon. Among all cereals, millet has the highest calorie value, containing approximately 12 percent fat and 67.5 percent carbohydrates besides fiber, calcium and other minerals. Millet undoubtedly is excellent for the human constitution and fordigestion.

Staple food of Marwar.
The women of Marwar painstakingly grind the millet into flour on stone mills rotated by hand. This powdered flour is then kneaded with water and either rolled into small balls called batties or rounded and flattened into rotis which are baked over the fire. This bajara ki roti, colloquially called sogra, constitutes the The rural Marwari uses bajra to make a variety of special dishes. For wholesome meals, bajara is stone crushed or pounded with a wooden mallet into finer particles to make kheech or kheechro which is greatly relished when accompanied by ghee, yogurt and jaggery. Bajara mixed with buttermilk in an earthen pot and cooked over dying embers all through the night results in the classic desert dish, raab or rabri, which is eaten for breakfast next morning. This combination can be prepared in different ways to suit changing seasons and individual tastes.

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