When we move across Gujarat, we pass through very arid to very lush regions. The cuisine of each region clearly mirrors the nature of the land.
In the arid Kathiawad, curries using fresh vegetables / dairy products are not very common. Like many arid Indian cuisines, pulses and pickles are very popular instead. It is for the same reason that red chili powder is preferred over fresh green chilies. Methia Masala (made from roast and ground fenugreek seeds, red chilies and salt) is a popular spice mix and is sprinkled over just about everything. Bajra ( Pearl millet / Kambu) is preferred over wheat or rice.
Being one of the driest regions of Gujarat, pulses and rice dominate the Kutch cuisine. Like Kathiawad, red chili powder is preferred over fresh green chili.
In the milk - rich North Gujarat, use of dairy products is prevalent due to the presence of a large dairy industry.
In the lush Southern Gujarat , fresh fruits and vegetables are abundantly used. It is due to the richness of this cuisine it is said “Surat nu Jaman Te Kashi nu Maran’ ( Blessed is he who dines in Surat : Blessed is he who dies in Kashi).
The curry base : See Column 1
Pulses, vegetables, tomatoes, yogurt are now used as a curry base across the state. A selection of popular curries is listed below :
The Gujarati Raitu is similar to a raita and uses most salad vegetables and even fruits. See Cucumber Raitu ( Kakdi Nu Raitu), Carrots ( Gajar Nu Raitu), Spinach ( Bhaji nu Raitu) and banana raitu (Kela Nu Raitu).
Papaya chutney is a unique Gujarati dish. It is more a salad than chutney. Papaya is not blended to a paste, but grated, spiced and served.
Komal, made from coconut milk and yogurt can serve as a drink, a dipping sauce or as a curry.
Fajeto is a delicious mango – yogurt curry. It is in Gujarat you’ll find fruits taking the place of vegetables in curries. The tomato based Kasundi uses vinegar for a sour punch. The use of vinegar in the western coast, especially in Goa and Gujarat probably is due to the Portuguese influence.
A wide variety of dry vegetable curries called Shaak are cooked. A mixture of vegetables is commonly used. See Vengan Batata nu Shaak ( Eggplant, potatoes). Tindora is a popular vegetable. See(Tindora Nu shaak ). Even roast and crushed papad is used to prepare a Shaak - the Papad Nu Shaak.
Gujarati Kadi is unique as it has grated ginger, curry leaves and of course sugar.
Lachko dal is a very simple dal flavoured with cumin. Kathi meethi dal is a sweet and sour dal with tomatoes. Trevti dal is a mixture of three dals.
Flavouring : See column 2
Cumin, Garam masala, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, ginger, chili are commonly used. Like southern curries, mustard asafetida and curry leaves are used. Vinegar is used as a souring agent, though tamarind occasionally makes an appearance. Cinnamon and cloves are occasionally used. Vaghaar, the technique of flavouring by spices fried in oil is commonly used.
Goodies : See Column 3
Traditional curries use select pairings of a base and goodies. For example, dals do not usually use any vegetables. Instead they are paired with Dhokadi. But feel free to use your favourite goodies in the curries above. They might not be traditional, but they’ll very likely be delicious.
Though listed in the goodies table, Mushroom and paneer are not commonly used. However, a wide variety of veggies are used. Dhokadi is commonly used as a vegetable substitute. (Dhokadi : Wheat flour is kneaded with turmeric, red chili powder and salt, rolled into sheets, cut into pieces and simmered in the curry.)
A typical Gujarati meal consists of Rotli ( Small flatbreads made from millet / wheat flour), Daal : Curried pulses, Bhaat : Cooked rice and Shaak : Dry vegetable curry.
What makes Gujarati Curries unique?
- Jaggery / sugar is added to most curries.
- Unlike other north Indian curries, Mustard, Asafetida are extensively used.
- Almost totally vegetarian.
- Mustard oil / Coconut oil are not used for cooking.
- Onion / garlic is generally avoided.
- Fruits are used in curries.
- Vinegar is used as a souring agent.
- Dhokadi ( a pasta) is used as a vegetable substitute.