Taste of Gujarat: Exploring Traditional Gujarati Delicacies

Hira Shaikh
May 22, 2024
 min read

For authentic Indian vegetarian food, we recommend trying Gujarati cuisine. Among the various regional cuisines of India, Gujarati cuisine stands out for its diversity and rich flavors. It is known for its balanced taste, skillfully combining sweetness, tanginess, and spiciness to create delicious dishes.

Gujarat is predominantly a vegetarian state, influenced by its large Hindu and Jain populations. Gujarati cuisine highlights the region's abundant agricultural produce and adapts to the seasonal availability of vegetables and fruits.

Grains such as wheat, millet, rice, and pulses like lentils and chickpeas, are fundamental ingredients in many Gujarati dishes. Common spices in Gujarati cuisine include mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, asafoetida (hing), coriander seeds, fenugreek leaves, sesame seeds, dry mango powder, carom seeds, garam masala, and red chili powder. Due to the dry climate in Gujarat, jaggery (gur) is often added to food to help maintain hydration.

Yogurt is a common component in Gujarati cuisine, adding creaminess and tanginess to dishes. Steamed basmati rice typically accompanies any meal. Gujarati dishes are often steamed or cooked with minimal oil, keeping them healthy while preserving the ingredients' natural flavors. Tempering (vaghaar) is essential, with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves used to add aromatic depth to the dishes. Pickles (achar) and chutneys made from a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices are popular condiments served with every meal.

"Farsan" refers to a variety of savory snacks. These snacks are enjoyed as part of meals but are commonly served during religious occasions, celebrations, and festivals. Farsan can be steamed, fried, or baked, which is crucial in a Gujarati thali.   

Thali is a key element of Gujarati cuisine. A Gujarati thali is a platter offering a variety of dishes in small portions, all served at once. It includes Indian bread such as rotli, thepla, or puris, farsans, rice, vegetable dishes (shaaks), dal or kadhi, pickles, and dessert.

The thali is a fundamental aspect of Gujarati dining culture, presenting a balanced and comprehensive meal that encompasses a variety of flavors and textures. It reflects the cultural emphasis on enjoying a diverse and nutritionally complete diet in a single meal.

Gujarati cuisine offers a diverse array of dishes. We highly suggest sampling the following delicacies:

1. Dhokla

Dhokla is a savory, soft, and fluffy steamed cake made from chickpea flour. Enjoyed as a farsan (snack) throughout the day, it combines gram flour, semolina, and various spices. Once the batter is thoroughly steamed, it is tempered with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, hing, curry leaves, green peppers, and cilantro. Dhokla is typically served with mint chutney and tamarind chutney.

2. Handvo 

Handvo is a savory cake made from fermented rice and lentils such as urad dal or chana dal, combined with fresh vegetables like bottle gourd, carrots, zucchini, or spinach. The batter is seasoned with mustard seeds, sesame seeds, baking soda, sugar, lemon juice, green chilies, hing, turmeric, and chili powder.

A tempering of mustard seeds, sesame seeds, and cumin seeds is added to the batter before baking. This savory delight is crispy and golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Though time-consuming to prepare, the taste of Handvo is well worth the effort.

3. Khandvi

Khandvi is a delicious Gujarati snack made from a batter of besan (chickpea flour) and yogurt, mixed with ginger paste, turmeric, salt, and water. The batter is cooked in a non-stick pan over medium heat for 7-8 minutes until it reaches a thick and smooth consistency. It is then spread thinly on a flat surface and tightly rolled into bite-sized pieces. A tempering of sesame seeds, mustard seeds, and green chilies is added on top, and it is garnished with grated coconut and cilantro. Khandvi is not only visually appealing but also known for its melt-in-your-mouth texture.

4. Fafda

Fafda is a beloved snack, especially popular during Diwali and Navratri. Made primarily from chickpea flour, it's seasoned with turmeric, baking soda, salt, carom seeds (ajwain), and asafoetida (hing). This crispy fried treat is traditionally served with Jalebi, a sweet, syrupy dessert. The combination of savory Fafda and sweet Jalebi is iconic, embodying the essence of Gujarati snacking culture.

5. Thepla 

Methi thepla is the most common and is freshly made daily at Patel’s Fresh Kitchen inside the store. Methi thepla is made by using methi leaves (fenugreek leaves) and a combination of flour such as wheat flour and gram flour and various spices and herbs.  Other types of thepla include mooli and lauki (bottle gourd). Thepla is served with yogurt, chutney, or pickle (achar). 

6. Undhiyu

Undhiyu is a classic winter delight, celebrated for its rich, hearty flavors. This one-pot, slow-cooked vegetable curry is made with an assortment of seasonal vegetables such as green beans, unripe bananas, eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantains, and yams. Undhiyu is best enjoyed with pooris and shrikhand.

7. Bateta Ringan Nu Shaak

Bateta Ringan Nu Shaak also known as aloo baingan is a vegetable curry made with eggplant and potatoes in a spicy and aromatic tomato-based sauce. This a a staple in Gujarati households and served rice or roti. This dish is loved for its simplicity and the comforting flavors it brings to the table. 

8. Khichdi

Khichdi, also known as khichri, is a beloved comfort meal cherished by many. To prepare it, cumin, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, and garam masala are sautéed in a heated pan. Pre-soaked rice and moong dal are then added to the aromatic spices, along with salt. The mixture is cooked on low heat until the rice is tender and fully cooked. A dollop of ghee is added on top for extra richness. Khichdi is typically served with mint chutney, yogurt, or pickles. This dish is not only delicious but also hearty and healthy.

9. Mango Raas

Mango Raas also referred to as Keri No Ras, is a treasured delight in Gujarati cuisine and a standout feature of the summer mango season. This dish is ideally prepared using Alphonso or Kesar mangoes, known for their rich flavor. It consists of a thick, sweet mango pulp that can be enjoyed both as a dessert and a dip. Keri No Ras pairs wonderfully with puri, making it a must-try during mango season.

As you delve into Gujarati cuisine, keep in mind that every dish narrates a tale of traditional heritage and culinary devotion, passed down through generations. When you find yourself yearning for the comfort of homemade food, consider trying the dishes listed above. They are sure to satisfy your appetite and enrich your soul.

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