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“Sugar and Spice and everything vegetarian” – I think that sums up the cuisine for me!! It is simple and delightful and uses vegetables in a remarkable way.
Situated on the western coast of India, Gujarat is paradise for vegetarians. Leafy green vegetables, fruits, millet, rice and lentils dominate. Millet is said to be very high in protein. Butter and milk are used abundantly. The Gujaratis are known for their wide variety of pickles and chutneys. “Farsan” or crispy fried snacks are a staple part of the cuisine. Gujaratis have a sweet tooth and many parts of the state use sugar liberally in cooking (including in dals, and rice). Food is traditionally served on large steel plates or Thalis.
The cuisine has been greatly influenced by the Jains and the Buddhists. A little known secret: a group of Muslims known as Bohras, who live here, prepare the most delicious meat dishes.
When I think of Gujarati food, I must admit I am partial to the dhokla, a salty steamed cake made from chickpea flour tempered with mustard seeds, fragrant curry leaves and green chilies. It is delicious particularly with a well made cilantro or green chili chutney.
4 cups thick yogurt (yogurt with whey removed, see pictures below)
1/4 teaspoon saffron (soaked in a tablespoon of warm milk)
1/2 cup fine sugar
Pinch of cardamom powder
Garnish with crushed pistachios (optional)
How to prepare thick yogurt:
Preparing to hang the thick yogurt
Thick yoghurt set over a colander
Draining the whey
The finished product
Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. You can do this with a spatula or a hand held blender.
Adjust sugar to taste.
Chill for about 30 minutes. Serve.
Editor's Note: This special three-part series (read the first installment here) on the regional cuisine of India, by Monica Bhide and Chef Sudhir Seth, is made available to the readers of Seasoned Cooking by the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. This amazing organization is devoted to increasing awareness and knowledge of the arts of cooking, eating, and drinking, and to making further contributions to the literature of food and drink. Please join us in thanking them for their work and supporting them in their cause!