On Gujarati Food: Discovering a New Cuisine

This is the First post On Gujarati Food. Find the rest of the posts here.

A very welcome consequence of being married to a non-Karnataka person is the constant exposure to a completely different cuisine – one that I only had a passing knowledge of prior to meeting my wife. To be honest, growing up, I did not have a high opinion of north Indian cuisine in general. Punjabi cuisine – which is what is generally found in restaurants (chole, saags, paneer based dishes, etc.) – was fine when the spice levels were good, but my very limited exposure to Gujarati, Rajasthani, and Bengali cuisines did not get me excited back in the day. In fact, the inevitable sweet taste of literally everything I ate led me to develop a bad preconception of the entire cuisine. That was until Devanshi started making Gujarati food the way she ate it growing up, and today I feel so fortunate to have discovered and fallen in love with an entire cuisine.

Navigating the Gujarati vegetarian cuisine can be quite complex – especially as (much like in Karnataka) there are several regional specialties within the state, or the same dish can have several regional variations. And I certainly cannot claim to have tasted them all. But having a Gujarati wife and a bunch of friends from different parts of Gujarat has definitely helped in that regard. My biggest preconception that all Gujarati food is sweet and bland was thankfully disproved early on when my wife vehemently voiced her disagreement with those Gujjus who do make it unnecessarily sweet. The simple truth is that the sweetness index varies from region to region and household to household due to a number of factors. Sometimes your opinion on the cuisine can be based on just dumb luck – like where one ends up eating their first meal of that cuisine. And I was clearly a victim of that. Thankfully, I got a second look. 

Gujarati Thali from Vatan in New York City

In spite of being a Kannadiga who is very proud of all the various cuisines of Karnataka, it has never even crossed my mind to somehow ‘compare’ Karnataka cuisine to Gujarati cuisine – or worse, to try and ‘grade’ the different dishes across the different cuisines. As far as I am concerned, discovering a new cuisine is really just like discovering a new band – it is always a positive thing. Yes it can be subjective, but if you like it, it only adds to the things you already like and never comes at their cost. I personally do not subscribe to the idea that “X cuisine is the best!”, much the same way I do not believe there is any ‘best music band’ in the world. There is some music that I know of, and more that I don’t. Same with food.

In the next few posts, I will briefly cover the different common Gujarati dishes that I have discovered and why I like them. Some maybe familiar, and maybe some are new to those non-Gujjus reading this. 

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