I believe falling in love with a city is just as exciting as falling in love with a person. Your senses become engaged and you simply feel more alive ...
I dedicate this travel experience to my dear friend Feryal Ali Shah and her family who have loved every frame of Jaipur , and hope they can feel its soul through it's colours, vibrancy , traditions and cuisine.....
There were many ways to reach our destination ...Jaipur , the capital city of Rajasthan, which is around 240 kms from Delhi,but we chose to travel by the Ajmer Shatabdi Train so that my children get a chance to experience train journeys in India…they are a treat!
The train departed at 6.05 a.m from New Delhi Railway Station . At an unearthly hour, we all got ready and reached the New Delhi railway station just to find our train coming onto the platform .
Train journeys take you to places ...somewhere far...and make you experience so many lives..along the way..
View from my seat ....somewhere in Rajasthan...
Passing through various stations, noticing the change in landscape , people waiting at every station…fields, running children …I couldn’t wait to reach Jaipur.
Breakfast arrived…they serve,tea,a banana, cereal with milk, choice of eggs for non vegetarians and choice of South Indian or North Indian breakfast for vegetarians.Sadly, the meals I have encountered on domestic trains and flights are nothing special.
Jaipur was founded in the 18th Century by Maharaja Jai Singh , the second. It became the capital city after the king shifted it from Dausa,around 60 kms from Jaipur, due to an increase in population and scarcity of water.The city was built according to a plan and the principles of Vaastu Shastra (principles of ancient science and construction).Buillt in nine blocks, the directions of each street and market are East to West and North to South.After its construction, the whole city was painted pink to welcome Edward, Prince of Wales.
The food in Rajasthan is dependent upon its landscape…the ingredients, the cooking style, the spice levels, all are unique to this cuisine.
The royal cuisine is much talked about in Jaipur, but this time , I wanted to explore its spicy street food .
If you have ever eaten fiery food …well multiply that by about 1000 times and you would have the taste of Jaipur!
Jaipur Rail Station
Door at Hawa Mahal
This time , it was my husband who was my foodie partner and we set off to the first landmark of Jaipur- Rawat Mistan Bhandaar.This is a huge sweet shop that is very famous for its delicious Mawa Kachori and Onion Kachori and are the inventors of the latter. No one can leave Jaipur without having these delicious Kachoris.Kachoris are supposed to have originated in U.P. (another state in the northern part of India) and Rajasthan . They are fried round flattened balls made of flour and usually stuffed with lentils and are eaten in a variety of ways as a snack in many areas in India.And if you haven’t snacked on a kachori ever…well you are missing something!
Coming back to the hustle and bustle of Rawat Mishtan Bhandar.....as we entered we could see a sea of breakfast eaters mostly snacking on Kachoris. I promptly went to a person behind one of the counters and asked my favourite question…What is famous in this place? Without wasting a second, he rattled off ..Pyaz Kachori, Mawa Kachori , Mirchi bada ..Ghevar..!
We ordered all of them and looked for a space to sit and savour these delights! By the way, in India , in snack shops, you will have to fight your way through to pay, to get the order over the counter and to find a place to sit..it is in itself a journey! There is no concept of queues….its the battle of your voice over the others. So as we managed to balance all the plates and trudged our way to the table ,I couldn’t wait to eat the scrumptious snacks.
I started with the most famous snack ,the Pyaz Kachori(Onion Kachori) . This is the snack they have invented which became such a star.The first bite said it all…it was perfect! I mean…really ..perfect. It's not overrated at all.The crispness of the crust with the well balanced flavour of the onion and potato filling tingled every taste bud of mine.
Clearly, this is a fried snack, but one didn’t feel the heaviness of the dough or it being very oily.The tanginess and spicy flavours leaves you asking for more.I actually had to stop myself from eating and remind myself that I had 3 other snacks to try out.
The one and only Onion Kachori
Reluctantly, I kept it away and , went on to the Mirchi vadas. I remember my bua(nanny), would especially make mirchi pakoras(fried spiced green chilly fritters) for me whenever we had our pakora lunches ! mmmm…its been ages since I had one.
At first, I thought that I would need a whole bottle of water after biting into the big chilly. I took my first bite and rarely one does ever get to taste the chilly itself…like...actually taste it!...the spicy potato filling in it complemented it so well. It was not fiery at all. I nearly finished half of it , when my husband pointed out to me that I still had the third snack left.
So , (sigh!) went on to the Mawa Kachori, which is the most famous at Rawats! It had a perfect sweetness to it and when you got a bite into the kachori , the flakiness of the pastry combined with the mawa is simply divine. I could taste the cardamoms too ...Both the avtaars of the kachori left me asking for more! They are very famous in Jodhpur, another famous city in Rajasthan.
Mawa is a dairy product made by reducing milk over heat so that it becomes dry and is used in most Indian sweet dishes.
Last but definitely not the least…the Ghevar. I chose the paneer ghevar… Ghevar (pronounced as ghayvar) ..is looks like a honeycomb and has a crisp busiciut like texture which was topped with sweetened cottage cheese flavoured with saffron and decorated with vark(thin silver foil).
Ghevar is a very very famous traditional sweet from Rajasthan made of flour and ghee.It can be enjoyed plain flavoured or with toppings like sweetened thickened milk.There are many shops who claim to sell the most tasty of them all.
After having my fill, I spotted an elderly gentleman sitting in an enclosed office, a bit away from the counter and asked if he was THE Mr. Rawat. I did wanted to meet him ,I was very curious to know the origins of this legendary snack shop.
He promptly welcomed us to his office and I could sense years of experience oozing from his persona. And so started his story…
Shri Rawatmal ji Devda
Innovator, Onion and Mawa Kachori
A very long time ago, approximately 165 years ago,his grandfather lived in Jodhpur and worked for a gentleman named Gangaram Gehlot who was the owner of a sweet shop. Due to a religious belief he gave up his shop and asked his grandfather the first right of refusal to buy the shop from him. Since his grandfather did not have enough money , he agreed to pay the owner in instalments and took over the shop. Earlier the kachoris were filled with lentil, which is still a famous version , but he thought of filling it with onions to make it more substantial. Thus a great product was born. Since it was a sweet shop , he innovated with putting mawa( cooked dried milk ) into the kachoris and coating it with sugar syrup .Thus the Mawa Kachori was invented.
After a while, there was a protest in the city that a sweet shop could not serve an item containing garlic and onions. Garlic and onions are not eaten by a large part of a particular community in India. And they are averse to eating out of kitchens that cook with these two ingredients.
Thus the idea of setting up another shop which would simply serve Onion kachori came into being.
In 1972 , they set up another shop on station road, Jaipur which is the famous Rawat of today where thousands of visitors savour his grandfathers recipe of Onion and Mawa Kachori.
His generosity was extended when he showed me his kitchens which he calls his workshop where these unique delights are prepared.
Red Chilli Paste
The key to their success comes from the quality of ingredients they use. The Onions and green chillies are grown organically at their farms in Jodhpur and are brought by trucks to their shop in Jaipur.They use a particular type of branded oil called Citizen,which is thin and very pure in quality and perfect for frying.This can be seen in the end product which is enjoyed by many all over the country when they visit Rawats!
After we bid our goodbyes , it was time for a cool drink in the hot summer day…and what better than a cool tall glass of Lassi. Lassi is a churned yoghurt drink which can be enjoyed plain or with flavours.
It's very popular in Rajasthan where water is scarce.
So we stopped at Krishna lassi at Soni House , which was at the junction called the Paanch Batti(5 lights).
Sitting in a small shop ,manned by one person, owned by goldsmiths, I had my cooling sip of the yoghurt drink. I love dairy products and always have yoghurt based drinks in summer at home too..nothing like them to cool you down. (much like the labaan you get here in Dubai!)
Dollops of Malai
We left the Lassi walla and it was time for the second snack, yes! I had to have another round of Kachoris that was recommended by my mother in law who would savour these during her college days.
The shop, called Narsinh Mishtan Bhandaar, was a few metres after the lassi shop at a corner and one could see the kachoris being fried continuously since there was a line of customers wanting their share. One could harldy see what was written on its signage which didnt seem to have changed since the 1940's!
The owner told me to try the Daal (lentil ) kachori since it was the hot seller. The kachoris take around 15-20 mintutes to fry to golden crisp.
Just off the kadai..
We packed our Kachoris ....I must tell you the Daal kachori is like none other I have had. Soft morsels of Daal which were carefully stuffed in the hollow of the kachori was special. The stuffing was done very generously , not like the kachoris one gets in other places where the Daal gets a bit tough and one can hardly see any stuffing.
After the Kachori bite size snack(thats what I like to call it!), we thought of lunch!
Yes, we actually did and what better place than Niro’s, a little further down the road ,one of the most famous restaurants on MI Road established in 1949 serving continental, chinese and a limited variety of Rajasthani food.
We had the privilege of having our lunch with the owner of Niro’s , Rajnish Pardal. A passionate foodie ,restaurateur , who loved what he was doing ..such a pleasure to meet such people !
He gave me the recipe of his amazing Junglee Maas recipe which I have shared with you in the post “Cricket vs Mutton Shorba”.I couldnt wait to try cooking it at home!
Upon asking, he narrated the Niro’s story. It was in the 1940’s when his father, worked at the restaurant in New Delhi which catered to the British and American troops. He shifted to Jaipur and opened Niro’s in 1949. It was the only restaurant of its kind in Jaipur serving continental dishes at that time.
Do make a visit if you want some authentic Rajasthani(limited menu), and want a break from the local cusine. I was amazed to see Baked Alaska on the menu! which is very rare these days .One can savour, Chicken a la Kiev, Fish Muniere, Spanish Omletes,Chicken/ Mushroom Stroganff to name a few.
Rajnish Pardal , Owner , Niro's
A gracious host
I had ordered a cheese cutlet which I was told was on the menu since its inception and my husband ordered a classic…the Non vegetarian club sandwich!
The cheese cutlets were golden brown with a smooth filling of cottage cheese and potato. They were very thin, just melting in your mouth. I had never tasted cutlets this flavourful and perfectly crisp …
My husband’s club sandwich was really a classic! ,full of layers of meat , vegetables and egg, and after one bite it took us to the memoroes of Clubs in India, still serving British Raj style food.
Cheese cutlets and club sandwich..a la Niro''s
After being graced with such amazing hospitality , we made our way across the road to yet another Lassi wala ,Kishan Lal Govind Narian Agarwal …yes, a cool glass of Lassi..from the most famous Lassi wala in Jaipur , established here in 1944.
The queue for his lassi is what lured me to him. From earthen ware pots, glasses were being filled with the goodness of yoghurt. I noticed that there weren’t many choices for flavour because the lassi had plain was equally satisfying.
Malai, milk solid full of fat and protein
Many ask for Malai to be put on top of their Lassis to make it thicker and delicious!
With smiles on their faces, sitting crossed legged in a small area facing the main MI Road, they sold their lassis .I loved the fact that theis drink was served in earthern ware tall glasses which were meant to be broken for recycling after consuming the lassi . How eco friendly!
After my lassi stint, I needed to nap for sure:) ...but we had to visit Laxmi Misthan Bhandar or popularly known as LMB ,which is known to be another landmark of food in Jaipur.
It is situated in the famous Johri Bazaar, which is one of the main markets in Jaipur. It is a planned market place ,with small pink outlets constructed side by side.
Johri bazaar...a haven for
In 1727, when by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh ,the second, the ruler of Amber, founded the new capital city of Jaipur, he invited traders and artists from nearby towns to the newly built city, amongst them were a group of halwais, who set up a small sweet shop in Johri Bazaar. Years later in around, 1949/1950, one of the descendants of these halwais, Maliram Ghodawat, branded this sweet shop, as the Lakshmi Mishthan Bhandar (LMB). The hotel was added later on in 1954.
I found the doorman himself so welcoming. The place was crowded as ever, with a sea of people crowding around the counters waiting for sweets or snack to be packed or eaten there itself. It serves meals like Rajasthani thalis , chole bhatura and snacks like samosas, chaat and aloo tikki.
Towers of Pheni and Ghevar
It is very famous for its Paneer Ghevar and Pheni (pronounced as feni), also recommended by its staff.
There were two towers of both these delights right in front of me and how could I resist. I bought the plain ghevar this time .
The pheni was already sweetened and I could have finished it at the spot! These are very fine strands of vermicelli noodles spun together with added sweetness .Some can be unsweetened too. Usually, the pheni is immerserd in milk , sweetened and cooked and is served during festivals.
The next day , I was taken to a small shop called Kulhad Kaleva..this was near my in laws home,in the Cental Spine in Vidyadhar Nagar and often visited by friends and family nearby . it was a true hidden gem. Run by a young entrepreneur , Rohit Gupta, he took over the shop from his father after completing a hotel management degree . My father-in -law very kindly drove me to the place to pack our breakfast.
Kulhad Kaleva..a bite of Uttar Pradesh* in Jaipur
*Uttar Pradesh is another state in Northern India
They serve breakfasts that are famous in the U.P state , Bedvi poori and spicy Aloo with Jalebis as one of the combinations.This is very typical of the breakfasts in North India. He wants to popularise this kind of breakfast in Jaipur by capturing the taste buds of the young crowd who are ready to experiment.The bedvi puris , very much similar to the ones I tasted in Chandini chowk,were prepared with whole wheat flour and semolina flavoured with kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) . They are deep fried and are quite filling.The potato curry which is spicy complements it beautifully.I actually thought I was back in Shyam Sweets in Chandini Chowk !
Bedvi pooris and spicy potatoes
They have a menu comprising of combination meals, like potato curry with kachori and sooji halwa(semolina pudding) , chole bhatura( chickpeas with fried bread), matar samosa( peas samosa - a triangle shaped pastry),imartis( thick jalebis)all prepared in Ghee and of course their special Kulhad Chai(tea in an eartherware pot) .I told him I would try these on my next trip!
His employees were smiling away preparing the breakfast fare..the jalebis were quickly fried and dipped in sugar syrup .They were small in size, thin and crisp..just the way I like it.
I thanked Rohit for being a great host and I really do hope young entrepreneurs and risk takers like him are successful in whatever they do.
We had a sumptuous breakfast at home , the puris were divine and they complemented the spicy potato curry perfectly.One did not need any other dish and we topped it off with the small , crisp jalebis .Wow! what a treat! I did miss my grandmother since she was the one who would feed me jalebis with warm milk at her home in Mussoorie!
Our next stop was the famous Hawa Mahal , Palace of the Winds , built by the Great Maharaja Jai Singh, to see the wonder of the architecture and simplicity of the monument.
City of gates and chowks
Outside this wonder, was a small cart selling Daal pakoras(lentil fritters), matchless to any had so far.The owner was Santosh Aggarwal , who has been selling these in this area for over 30 years.
Hawa Mahal..Palace of the Winds
Passers by and tourists have been savouring his pakoras for years! Made with moong daal, flavoured with garlic, onions, spices , fried in his big Kadai and kept separately, half done . When an order is placed , he would fry these fully so that it took no time to dish out! They were hot and crisp and placed in a newspaper to soak out the extra oil.
A must try if you do visit Jaipur.
His cart is directly outside the temple situated at the corner , a few mts away from Hawa Mahal.
Santosh Aggarwal and his perfect pakoras
Views while eating the daal pakoras
Our next stop was a very famous Ladoo wala. In Jaipur as in rest of India, people do love their sweets. I am really impressed at the focus of the food places here who sell only 1 or 2 products and master it.
One such shop was the Bhagat Mishtan Bhandaar whose has been delighting customers since five generations with his unique and famous ladoos.The owner now still sits at the till and is very proud of his legacy.
Bhagat Mishtan Bhandar, the best ladoos in Jaipur
When you enter this shop, it has very little mithai (sweets) kept at the counter , but these kind of sweets are not found anywhere else and the quality is by far very superior than any I have had.
It is famous for its Doodh ke ladoos (milk and ghee),the Choguna ladoo, which means 4 times sweeter than normal, is a boondi ladoo,which is darker and has thick boondis(small fried gramflour balls) , Besan ladoos(made of gram flour), Kalakand (milk based), Shakar Para (deep fried sugar and flour sticks), Malai Bara, also known as Balushahi (crispy fried sweet on the outside and soft on the inside much like a glazed doughnut in terms of its ingredients),all unique in their flavour using quality ingredients. So I packed a whole box full that could be tasted at home.
Shakar Para and Malai Bara
Box of goodness
I saw a very interesting dessert called the Gulab Sakri .It is from the Indian state of Rajasthan. Interestingly, it has no gulab(rose) in it. Legend has it that it was first made by a certain ‘Gulab Halwai’ (Gulab Sweetmaker)of Jodhpur.Made with milk, sugar and saffron ,it can be made with any flavour too and is often made at festivals.
The "shopping complex" built by Swai Man Singh was earmarked for artisans and traders — Johari Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar, Chaura Rasta, (also called the Sawai Man Singh Highway) and Tripolia Bazaar. The bazaars are a treat for those who love to explore and discover. They are all in the vicinity of the famous Hawa Mahal, which is part of the walled city.
Visit it at their MI Road branch or the one we visited at the Chaura Rasta (vicinity of Hawa Mahal).
Visiting Jaipur and not having a taste of a typical Rajasthani meal?…that was not possible.
A Rajasthani thali (Thali is a big round plate comprising of various dishes)takes into account all aspects of a meal including taste and texture. It will comprise of vegetables, lentils, dairy, different kinds of rotis, pickles and sweet.
A typical dish one might find in a thali is Ker Sangri. This is a delightful combination of ker berries and sangri beans found typically in Rajasthan.Ker is a berry of a throny shrub found in the desserts of Rajasthan. It is quite sour. Ker Sangri is a simple combination of carom seeds, spices and chillies and leaves a lingering taste.
Another popular dish is the Rajasthani Kadhi which is my favourite. It is made out of gramflour and sour yoghurt with hints of asafoetida , red chilli and ginger and has a tangy twist tempered with cumin and fenugreek seeds . Unlike the Punjabi version, this does not have gram flour fritters (pakoras) in it .
Gatte ki subzi (Gramflour dumplings in yoghurt based curry), is another favourite traditional Rajasthani, made with simple steamed gramflour dumplings flavoured with dry spices like fennel and carom seeds and immersed in a yoghurt based spiced curry.
You can spot some yoghurt , a sweet dish -halwa, some gud(jaggery) and ghee, onion and tomato rings and pickle in the centre bowls of the thali surrounded by the various lentils a pulao , and vegetables.
We also tasted the famous Daal , Baati , Churma. The daal or lentil is simply made with around 5 types of lentils like moong, tuvar, channa ,moth (similar to green gram in texture , brown in colour)and urad. These are cooked and then tempered with cumin and mustard seeds with whole spices , powdered spices like turmeric and red chilli powder, asafoetida , garlic , onions and tomatoes.it is served with hard wheat rolls called batti. These are made in the oven and then stuffed with ghee. The Churma, which is a coarse mixture of sweetened whole wheat and semolina flavoured with cardamom and almond slivers.
The Wheat and Semolina Churma
Bajra and Missi Roti with Rajashani Kadhi
The breads that are served in a Thali are made from the grains that are grown in the region like Makki, bajra, jowar etc. They are quite heavy but complement the vegetables and lentils very well.
There are many places serving this Thali but if you have the time, you must visit Chokhi Dhani which is a litle away from Jaipur City on Tonk Road. It’s just worth it!
In Dubai , if you are drooling for Rajasthani food, head to Karama near the Fish Market ,at the corner there is a hidden gem called Manvaar. Absolutely mouth watering Rajashtani fare.
I had to taste the non vegetarian Rajasthani dishes too which we did at a very pleasant restaurant called the Spice Court , which is a part of a Hotel Hari Bhawan, Achrol House which is the property of the Maharaja of Achrol. The restaurant is small, has a beautiful garden and a quaint little bakery café attached to it called the Dzur.
We ordered Laal Maas, Ker Sangria, Besan ke gatte, Rotis and Raita.
Laal maas is a meat preparation usually cooked during hunting trips . Laal means red, which stands for the red chillies that is the main ingredient of this dish. It has a thick gravy with yoghurt. The meat used generally was game which was available during hunting but its made with mutton at restaurants now.
The Ker Sangri and Besan ke Gatte were equally sumptuous. I always accompany my meal with missi roti and buttermilk to cool my system down.
Besan ke Gatte..very flavourful,
the curry was delicious
Missi Roti , prepared with whole wheat flour and gramflour flavoured with carrom seeds , a perfec accompaniment to the heavy curries of Rajasthan.
If you haven’t had Rajasthani food before and would like to try it , start with ordering Besan ke gatte, Ker sangri, Laal Maas, Kadhi with rice, Buttermilk and rotis like missi, bajra or plain wheat.
My last stop was my mother in laws kitchen where I go to taste Khamiri puri with Shrikhand. This is not Rajasthani but a Kashmiri bread . Shrikhand is found in Gujrat and Maharashtra too. (Western India)
Family gatherings, laughter, love and great food!
Khamiri puris are one of the famous foods of Kashmiri pandits,are made out of flour and deep fried and are accompanied by a delicious smooth sweetened cardamom and saffron flavoured yoghurt made of hung curd .
115 gms Jalebi Khamir, or yeast
230 gms whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp fennel seeds(saunf)
The top portion of the Dough
115 gms semolina( rava)
230 gms whole wheat flour
230 gms flour
Pinch of fennel, coarsely ground
½ pinch of salt
3 pinches of sugar
115 gms ghee
230 ml of milk
10 gms of crushed cardamom
10 gms of crushed cloves
3 gms saffron
Oil / ghee for frying
1. Prepare a dough with whole wheat flour , jalebi Khamir , salt , sugar and fennel seeds.
2. Cover with a warm cloth and keep in a pan overnight . This is how the khamir is prepared.
3. In the morning , you will see that it has expanded. Take half of it from the upper portion ,add all the ingredients as mentioned above for the “Top portion of the dough.”
4. Mix all the ingredients in the top portion of the dough and knead them in adding water.
5. Knead the dough very well so that it expands while doing so.
6. Place it in a container , cover it and keep it overnight.
7. The next day, you will notice the dough has expanded and is ready to make pooris.
8. Lightly apply a youghurt and khas khas mixture on one side of the rolled dough and fry in ghee.Take out when golden brown.
9. Enjoy with Shrikhand.
Tip: If you don’t want to fry , you can roll it and put it on a tawa and eat as a roti!
1 kg yoghurt
230 gms Sugar
115 gms chiranji
115 gms raisins
3 gms saffron put in rose (kevda) water
Vark to decorate
1. Put he yoghurt in a muslin cloth and hang till all the water from the yoghurt drains out.
2. The Yoghurt should be thick.
3. You may add milk in place of the drained water.
4. Add the suger and whisk.Add the rest of the ingredients .
5. The color should be yellow. Decorate with Vark(silver foil) and almond slivers
Enjoy with Khameeri Puris..
Recipe courtsey- from the old recipes of Pandit Shivram Raina
My Jaipur food trail hasnt ended ....there are many more food destinations to be visited and explored.. I leave you with some views of the city that have witnessed centuries of change ..only some things the remain ..waiting to be savoured by many ..