If you think gujarati food is about deep-fried, sweet offerings, think again. Surati cuisine promises to be a surprise.
While Surat is famous for its diamond business, its food is a gem waiting to be explored. Since the region receives a decent amount of rainfall, the cuisine uses a lot of local ingredients — fruits and green vegetables. As you may have guessed by now, Surati food is mostly vegetarian. So for instance, the Surti Sev Khamni makes use of pomegranate as a topping. Although Surat was a trade hub, I would say that the cuisine hasn’t really been influenced by other cultures. In fact, the fare has left its mark on various other cultures. For instance, dishes like Salli Boti or Patra ni Macchi, from Parsi cuisine, has a tinge of sweetness to it.
This is because a lot of Parsis migrated to Surat and other parts of Southern Gujarat like Valsad, Udwada where they set up their businesses. Surat has given us some delicious farsans like khaman, khandvi, patra, etc. It also has some delicious sweets on offer like the ghaari, a sweet loaded with dry fruits and ghee. Dishes like dhokla, thepla and khakra have become common in most household preparations. If there is one thing that community is popular for, it is the undhiyu. Typically, a winter special preparation, most ingredients that go into making an undhiyu comprises seasonal vegetables.
Although Surati cuisine is believed to always tilt towards the sweeter side, for example, dal, farsans and even undhiyu, there is a lot more to it. You will require a glass of water every time you dig into the umbadiyu, a famous dish made with wild black papdi, which is prepared in the villages of south Gujarat. Typically unique to the region, umbadiyu is a distant cousin of the traditional Surti undhiyu. Layers of roughly chopped green and root vegetables are chopped up and cooked in an earthen pot with a lot of spices. The pot’s opening is covered and is inverted — the mouth facing the flame. It is then slow-cooked over wood or twigs until done.
Another myth is that Surati cuisine is an all-vegetarian cuisine. The gotala, kheema with egg, a delicious combination if you ask me, is another famous egg preparation. The innovative egg preparations by the street vendors tell us that every egg dish should not necessarily be a bhurjee, an omelette or an egg curry. The streets of Surat also serve dishes like egg dosa and egg pizza! Unfortunately, the Gujarati thali represents Gujarati food. I believe that the thali doesn’t do justice to what the region has to offer. There is ponkh, fresh, green, recently harvested sorghum. A winter specialty, not many have heard of this grain. Of late, Mumbai has started setting up ponkh festivals but we need more such festivals across the country.
1 cup methi leaves
1 cup wholewheat flour
¼ cup besan
¼ cup bajra flour
¼ cup jowar flour
½ inch ginger
1 or 2 green chillies, crushed
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
4 to 5 tbsp dahi
Oil for roasting theplas
In a mixing bowl, take 1 cup whole-wheat flour, ¼ cup besan, ¼ cup bajra flour and ¼ cup jowar flour
Add the spices and herbs. Mix everything well. Next, add curd.
Mix again and knead into dough.
Knead the dough and add methi. Add more curd if required while kneading.
Make medium-sized balls from the dough. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin of about 5-6 inches in diametre.
On a hot tawa, place the thepla, flip when one side is partly cooked.
Spread oil on this side. Flip the thepla again. Apply oil.
Flip and cook till the methi thepla is cooked evenly.
Your methi thepla is ready to be served.
Mix Dal Handvo
2 cups rice
1 cup tuvar dal
½ cup moong dal
½ cup urad dal
½ cup rajma
½ cup grated carrot
1 cup methi leaves
Red chilli powder to taste
Sugar to taste or 1 tbsp jaggery
Salt to taste
A pinch of baking soda
Wash and keep the dals and rice in separate bowls in water for seven to eight hours.
Grind this in a grinder to make a consistent batter.
Keep the batter for six to seven hours.
Now add the methi leaves, grated carrot.
Heat water, and add oil and baking soda in it. Mix this in the batter.
Add salt, red chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste and some gud or sugar.
Brush a non-stick pan with oil. Pour the batter in it. Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the batter. Cook till done.
Change the side carefully and again cook till done. After the handva is done, let it cool. Cut into pieces and serve.