On Gujarati Food: The Two Simplest Dishes

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

The only place I can think of to start with Gujarati food is the Thepla. This simple bread made of whole wheat flour, besan and methi leaves shouldn’t fool you with its innocuous looks. It is packed with an unbelievable amount of flavor, and it is quite filling – leading to its versatility as a perfectly fine breakfast, lunch, tea time snack, or even dinner. The use of chickpea (besan) flour is what perhaps gives this the distinct flavor and texture that separates it from the regular Roti or Chapathi – even the flavored ones.

It also stays good for a LONG time which makes it a mandatory accompaniment among travelling Gujjus. The variations are endless too, with the use of bajra/jawar/millet flour, zucchini, bottle gourd, drum stick leaves, beet root and so many more items. This way, it is hard to actually get bored of this dish.

The Simple Methi Thepla with Pickle

The Thepla is apparently meant to be eaten by itself (perhaps with some pickle on the side). But try telling that to my south Indian brain which initially treated the Thepla as just another form of Roti and promptly demanded some vegetable or chole side to go with it. (And try imagining the absolute shock on my wife’s face at that moment). It was only after several months that I realized the Thepla had so much flavor by itself, and now primarily enjoy eating it with tea. 

Close relatives of the Thepla include the Rotla and the Bhakri – breads generally reminiscent of JoLada Rotti from North Karnataka, but made with different ingredients and styles. They are generally on the drier side, so need to be eaten with sufficiently gravy vegetables. 

The other equally simple Gujarati dish that is perhaps not as ‘new’ to me is the Kichdi & Kadhi. The Kichdi of course was known to me growing up as Pongal – the one dish I absolutely DID NOT look forward to during Makara Sankranti festival meals. Growing up, it was one of the few dishes I just simply refused to eat (exactly why, I do not remember) and I had not eaten it for almost two decades till recently. I was skeptical about it till I actually ate it at home a couple of years ago – made by the wife of course.

Khichdi and Kadhi

Fact is that there is nothing that will ever blow someone away when they eat the simple Kichdi with Kadhi – it is after all just a mash of rice, lentil, and some basic spices. The Kadhi is really just slightly flavored yogurt/curd. The key, I have realized, is in getting the right texture of the rice and dal by preventing the Kichdi from being overcooked. Its combination with the Kadhi probably adds that extra punch to the taste as well.

This dish maybe extremely simple to make, but it delivers a disproportionate amount of flavor and satisfaction to me nowadays. It and its different masala variations have become a common go-to food for me in situations where we generally lack time to make something substantial. This is also the point where I declare that the best Khichdi & Kadhi made in our home is by ME (used to be the wife, but clearly my Khichdi making skills have surpassed hers).

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