The hills of north India have had their first snowfall and the north-western state of Rajasthan has started being a recipient of the chilly winds that descend upon the plains from the snow-capped mountains. There is a nip in the air all across the state and the hill station of Mount Abu has already started recording single digit temperatures. Though it is still early winter, the sweaters and woolens are out and the morning sun shine has started providing welcome relief.
With summers being pretty harsh here, winter is a time that is looked forward to by a large number of inhabitants of the colorful state of Rajasthan as well as tourists. The Great Indian Desert, popularly known as the Thar Desert becomes a hot bed of fun dipped with cultural activities on account of the various festivals that are held here during the winters like the Pushkar Animal Fair and the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer to name a few. If fun is the prevailing mood during winters, could food be far behind?? Ethnic Rajasthani cuisine is very diverse and some delectable dishes like Laal Maans or “Red Meat” from the Rajputi culinary art stable are a magnificent riot of herbs, spices and fiery chili that hot up even the chilliest of days. Hot Daal and Baatis crushed in copious amounts of desi ghee (clarified butter), arguably the most ethnic of the Rajasthani dishes, too make up for a wonderful winter diet. But the above mentioned dishes though more apt for the winters, are available and relished by people all through out the year.
So what might be the dishes that the state offers specifically during the winters? Looking around the gastronomic landscape, I have been able to list 5 items which could qualify to be Winter Gastronomic Delights of Rajasthan.
1) Raab- Also known as Raabdi, a glass of hot Raab is just the thing to fight back the winter chill. It is essentially a concoction of millet (bajra)flour and buttermilk which is heated and fermented. For this hassle free dish, bajra flour and buttermilk are put in an earthen pot and mixed to make a thick sauce. This is then left to simmer over a slow flame for several hours till it is completely boiled and the flour fully cooked. It is then eaten usually as a soup. A variant “Makki ki raab” or the corn raab is also popular in which boiled corn kernels are added on to the soup.
2) Bajre ka rotla dripping with ghee with jaggery and Lahsun chutney- A favorite winter dish all across Rajasthan has to be the combination of Bajre ka rotla (a millet based Indian bread), gur (sugarcane/date jagerry) and lahsun (garlic) chutney. The hot rotlas are smeared liberally with ghee and the melting ghee on the rotlas along with the sweet taste of the jaggery and the pungent spicy garlic chutney offer a unique flavor which is out of this world.
3) Moong Dal ka Halwa- Come winter and households, wedding menus and sweet shops all across the state dish out this favorite winter sweet dish. The high caloried Moong dal ka halwa is a lentil based sweet in which the lentils are grounded into a paste, sweetened with milk and sugar and cooked with lots of ghee and served hot with dry fruits as garnishing and topped with some more ghee. It is widely believed that the halwa keeps the body warm and protects it from the severity of winter.
4) Goond Ka Ladoo- Again a winter specific sweet dish, this nutritious delicacy is traditionally eaten with relish and as a shield against the bitter cold as it provides heat to the body. Goond in the local language means gum and ladoo is a ball shaped sweet and in this dish which is a mixture of edible gum and wheat flour, the wheat flour is roasted and the edible gum is deep fried with ghee to which sugar, cardamom powder and in some cases, dry fruits are added. This mixture is then rounded up into balls which are sweet delicious and nutritious.; your protection “sweet” from the vagaries of winter.
5) Gajar Ka Halwa- What better to round off the top 5 winter gastronomic delights of Rajasthan, than the ubiquitous Gajar ka Halwa. Though technically not ethnically Rajasthani, this carrot based sweet with a consistency of a very thick pudding is devoured with relish by one and all in the state, during the winters. Carrots are grated and mixed with milk and sugar and cooked with ghee with continuous stirring. Garnished with fried dry fruits and raisins, a spoonful of hot gajar ka halwa on a cold winter night is a pure bliss for the body, mind and more importantly, the palate…
Wishing all a delightful winter with the winter gastronomical delights of Rajasthan!!