The cuisine of Gujarat is a multi-flavor cuisine arising from the state’s cultural diversity. The flavors of Gujarat range from sweet to sour, spicy to pungent and speak loud of a mouthwatering contradiction. In other words, the culinary traditions of the state are a heady mix of varied textures, colors and flavors that’ll leave one smacking his lips. In fact a platter served with Gujarati food is both a visual treat as well as a treat to your palate.
Though the long coastline of Gujarat creates a provision for a vast array of sea foods, yet the preponderance of Jain culture in the state has led to the cuisine of Gujarat being predominantly ‘vegetarian’. Actually the religious ideologies prevalent in the state have led to Gujarati cuisine being a large-scale vegetarian cuisine. However, there are certain communities in the state like tribal communities such as Khojas, Bohras or Muslim communities who have incorporated non-vegetarian items such as mutton, chicken, eggs, seafood etc. into the Gujarati cuisine.
Interestingly, the cuisine of Gujarat is not the same everywhere in the state. It differs from region to region and is strongly influenced by factors like weather, lifestyle, topography, vegetation and location. For instance, there is less of sugar and more of spices, in the cuisines of Southern Gujarat as it is strongly influenced by the Maharashtrian cuisine. Also, jowar is the main grain consumed in that part of Gujarat. In Saurashtra or Kathiawadi Cuisine, garlic is used in almost every dish. Natives of both Saurashtra and Northern Gujarat depend heavily on Maize and Bajra. In the foods of Baroda, you would find a mix of almost every type of tastes and flavors. This exotic blend is mainly due to the location of the city.
Thus, Gujarati cuisine well defines the truth in the proverb ‘Variety is the spice of life’. A tourist to Gujarat will miss something big if he or she hasn’t sampled the typical Gujarati Thali or the street foods of Gujarat, famous worldwide.
The Key General Attributes of Gujarati Cuisine
- Most of the Gujarati dishes come with a sweet undertone that comes from the generous use of jiggery or sugar. Tangy, salty and spicy flavors too are a part of the flavors range of a typical Gujarati cuisine which is diverse and delectable.
The sweetness of Gujarati vegetable preparations beats the insipidness of the otherwise insipid vegetables.
- Use of spices in the various dishes is subtle and brings about a subtle flavoring
- Cooking methods vary from region to region and one dish to the other. Some dishes are stir fried while others steam cooked while some others fried deep in oil. Vaghar, also known as Chaunk is a cooking method undertaken occasionally to get specially enhanced flavors of the dishes. In this method, whole spices plus other ingredients are fried generously in ghee or clarified butter and then the fried spices are poured into the boiled lentils or veggies along with the surplus ghee. This cooking method not only enhances taste and flavor but also the digestive quality of the food.
- Cuisine of Gujarat makes a generous use of lemons, limes, tomatoes, salt and sugar to check dehydration especially in the summer months when temperatures hover around 45 degree C- 50 degree.
- The common ingredients used in cooking throughout the length and breadth of Gujarat include sugar, coriander, gram flour, ghee, chaat masalas, yoghurt, Rotis/Chappatis made of wheat flour, gram flour, bajra, maize.
- Meals are mostly accompanied by chaas or homemade buttermilk and homemade pickles.
- Rice production is not so abundant in the state. Hence, rice does not make a major part of Gujarati cuisine. The natives are more dependent on Chappatis/Rotis.
What Is Gujarati Thali All About?
The classic thali of Gujarat is a wholesome platter of several authentic Gujarati delicacies served together on a large silver plate; i.e. ‘thali’. The food presented on the plate depicts an enticing assortment of colors and textures and also encompasses a vast range of tastes and flavors. Variety in texture ranges from wet to dry, from granular to smooth, from coarse to grainy. Variety in colors consists in almost all the colors of a rainbow ranging from the green of veggies, yellow of the turmeric, red of the tomatoes, brown of the pulses, whiteness of the yoghurt-based dishes and the like. The vast assortment of tastes that the thali consists in includes tastes like sweet, bitter, sour and hot. Thali is actually a meal enjoyed in the company of a vast array of chutneys, pickles, and raw veggie salads. The various items in a typical Gujarati thali may be listed as follows:
- Green vegetable
- Farsans (fried snack and steamed snack like Khakras, Dhebras )
- Gourd shaak or tuber ( vegetable and spice mix in a dry or watery curry form )
- Kathol (braised pulses such as dry peas, chickpeas, beans )
- Dahi Kadhi; a yoghurt-based pulses soup
- Steamed rice/Khichdi ( rice & lentil soup )
- Dal (Tuvar dal)
- Raita/Sweet Shrikhand
- Desserts (Shirkhand, halwas, basundi)
- Breads like Bajra rotla, wheat rotla, bakhris, theplas, paranthas, puris (it could be the spicy masala puri)
- Salads dressed with vinegar/curd
- Chutneys & Pickles
When it comes to tasting Vegetarian food in Gujarat, you cannot just do without the thali. If you wish to savor the best thali meal in Gujarat, go to Vishala, a restaurant located at a distance of 5kms from the city of Ahmedabad. A visit to Vishala is an experience in itself. You can catch a glimpse of the most authentic Gujarat at Vishala. It is like a small village housing a museum and showcasing the crafts and culture of Gujarat in the most fabulous way. Cultural performances and puppet shows will keep you thoroughly entertained while you are at Vishala. You can, at the same time, chomp on the authentic Gujarati meal served on plates of stitched leaves.
What Are The Staples Of Gujarati Food?
Thali is an occasional savory and is no doubt, a luxurious meal that includes the best in Gujarati cuisine. Rice-Lentil preparation; i.e. the Khichdi or steamed vegetable based dishes, Tuvar dal and Rotis/Chapatis made of Jowar, Bajra, Maize etc are the daily staples in most Gujarati households. Homemade pickles, salads and buttermilk are enjoyed with these food items almost each day.
Spices used in Gujarati dishes add to the dish its characteristic flavor and taste. The seasonings and spices commonly used in Gujarati cuisine are:
- Havej or Turmeric Powder
- Elaichi or Cardamom
- Jeeru or Cumin
- Kothmir or Coriander
- Aamli or Tamarind
- Kesar or Saffron
- God or Jaggery
- Kokum or Garcina Indica
- Methi or Fenugreek seeds
- Hing or Asafetida
- Pudina or Mint
- Soonth or ginger powder
- Mitho limdo or curry leaves
- Laving or Cloves
- Chaat masala
- Lilu marchu or green chili
- Lal marchu or cayenne pepper
- Garam Masala; a mix of roasted, powdered, flavorful spices
Pickles and Condiments
Pickles and Condiments accompany every scrumptious meal and lip-smacking snacks in the state of Gujarat. The pickles and condiments mostly offer one with an unforgettable lip-licking experience. The major condiments include athanu, chutney, papad, raita. Chutneys are made out of ingredients like Anjeer or fig, tamarind, garlic, bananas etc. Popular pickles of Gujarat include green chili pickle, methia Keri, lemon pickle, carrot and cucumber pickle.
Sweets and Chaats
Sweets or desserts of Gujarat are truly delectable and dear to the heart of all who have a sweet tooth. The major Gujarati sweets and desserts include malpua, laddoos, ghari-puri with sweet stuffings, besan halwa, gajar ka halwa, Ghoogra, Kansar, Doodh pak, Basundi, Lapsi, Sukhadi, Kopra pak.
The chaats of Gujarat are no less famous. Today the chaats of Gujarat are enjoyed countrywide as popular street foods. The most common types of chaats include Kachori chaat, Raj Kachori chaat, Papdi chaat, Dhokla, Samosa chaat etc.
Breads or Rotlo
Breads or Rotlos in Gujarat are made out of ingredients like bajra, gram flour, wheat flour, Jowar etc. breads may be made out of one single flour or a combination of many flours. Unleavened thin rotlis made of wheat are a staple in every Gujarati household. Apart from these, the other types of Rotlas/rotlis include Bakhris or crispy & thin whole wheat breads, theplas; a typical griddle bread, puris fried deep in oil and many more types. Within the genre of Gujarati breads there can be delicious variations like masala puri or methi thepla.
Rice or Bhaat
Gujarati thali has rice or bhaat as one of its major ingredients. The rice of Gujarat may have several variations. It could be plain rice or could be the spiced, sweet & tangy Khatta-meetha bhaat flavored with lemon rinds. Also, you have other types of rice preparations like the aromatic Pulao, a vegetable studded rice, Khichdi; a rice-lentil soup, Biranj; sugary rice enriched with saffron and dry fruits and the Doodhpak, a preparation of milk, rice and sugar added with dry fruits, raisins, and cardamom.
Shaak-Sabzi or Vegetables
Gujaratis have special expertise for a vast array of vegetable preparations. Some of the exotic veggie-based dishes of Gujarat include Batata Nu Shaak or a spicy potato curry, Chola Nu Shaak, a black-eyed peas-based curry, Dudhi Nu Shak; curry made out of bitter gourd, guvar nu shaak or a curry made out of cluster beans, bhinda nu shaak or a okkhra-based dry preparation, bharela karena or a stuffed bitter gourd dry preparation.
Pulses or Dals
Tuvar dal, Moong dal, Sweet lentil-based kadhi, Mixed dal are some of the top lentils/pulses prepared in Gujarat.
Snacks or Nasta
Snacks of Gujarat are famed everywhere. Some of the most popular snacks of Gujarat include the deep fried, crispy Khandvis, Dhoklas, Sevs, Mathis, Fafdas, Chakris, Kakhras.
Farsans or Side Dishes
No dish of Gujarat is complete without the Farsans or side dishes. Chaats, chutneys, sauces make awesome side dishes. Other varieties are Dabeli, Locho, Bhajiya, Dahi vada, Khaman dhokla, Methi na gota, Pani puri, Muthiya, Sev Khamani, Vegetable Handvo, Makai no dana, Dal Vada, Khichdo etc.
There are certain seasonal dishes in Gujarat based on the abundant production and availability of certain veggies or fruits in a particular season. Aam ras is a delicious preparation made from the pulp of mango cooked in sugar syrup. This dish is made mostly in the summers when mangoes are available abundantly. In the winters when there’s a huge production of vast array of fresh veggies dishes like Muthiyas, a kind of veg kabab and Undhiyu, a preparation made with roasted veggies.
Top 05 Worlds Famous Gujarati Food
When it comes to Gujarati cuisine, these are the key highlights in terms of dishes that define Gujarati cuisine as a whole. Read on to learn-
This tangy yoghurt based curry comes with a sweet undertone. Apart from yoghurt, gram flour is used in the Kadhi. Veggies are simmered in the yoghurt-gram flour mix It is then tempered with spices like mustard seeds and dry red chilies and is garnished with ginger and coriander. This typical curry is simply ideal to beat the heat. This is a staple dish in almost every Gujarati household.
This is a crispy tea cake with a soft inner filling and a crusty exterior. It is made out of rice, lentils, flour, coriander and buttermilk. It tastes great with tea and coffee.
The spongy, soft cake-like Dhoklas made from gram flour are famous worldwide. They define Gujarati cuisine. Steaming is the main cooking process for the Dhoklas. Dhoklas are savored with tamarind chutney.
This gram flour based snacks is one of the most popular snacks of Gujarat. It is tempered with ingredients like curry leaves, mustard seeds, shredded coconut.
Bardoli ki Khichdi
This is an aromatic rice-based dish spiced with flavorful spices, veggies like potatoes, peas, lentils and raw mango. This is a must-have authentic dish of Gujarat.