Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Gujarat is shaped a little like a Rhinoceros head, with a massive horn jutting out into the Arabian Sea. Gujarat became a state May 1, 1960—it had formerly been a part of Bombay State, which split into Gujarat and Maharashtra states. Gujarat is situated on India’s northwest coast, some 400 miles from Mumbai and is renowned for flavorful and sophisticated vegetarian fare. The terrain and climate are extreme, from the salt marsh and parched desert in the northwest to the lush green land in the southeast. This is one of the richest states, culturally and economically and is home to a large trader class. It is likely a Gujarati, with the surname Patel owns your neighborhood Indian grocery store. Gujarat is divided into roughly three regions, each with distinct climates.  Kathiawar Penninsula in the west is dry and flat, dotted with worn sandstone hills and is famous for its dairy products and pickles. Pulses and hearty millet and wheat breads are staples, often enriched with chopped spinach, ginger and a little yogurt, served with sweet grated green mango chutney. Central Gujarat has rich soil where various grains, vegetables and sugarcane are cultivated. Sugarcane juice is boiled down to make thick cakes of brown sugar and small lumps sweeten numerous savory dishes. Battered vegetable fritters found throughout India originated here and shallow-fried chapatti called thepla are staples. Popular snacks are steamed split pea flour cakes called dhokla and savory crunchies called farsan, many based on chickpea flour. South Gujarat gets bountiful rain and the regions vegetables, including chilies are grown here on vads (family farms).  The food is spicier and more sugar is used in cooking giving dishes a tangy-sweet flavor. Green chili-ginger paste, red chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek leaves, hing, mustard seeds and sesame seeds are popular seasonings. Sesame oil is favored for cooking and coconut products are used in moderation. Undhiv is a mixed vegetable and bean stew in a creamy coconut sauce, baked in upside down clay pots buried in the ground. Salads based on shredded cabbage or sprouted mung beans with grated coconut and sizzled spices accompany most meals.

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