With so many exclusive Rajasthani dishes made of besan or gram flour, one can easily assume the sort of obsession people of the state have with this particular ingredient. From sweet to spicy, and from crispy to succulent, gram flour or besan is available here in as many delicious varieties as one can imagine.
1. Besan ke Gatte
These delicious gram flour dumplings make up one of the most special dishes of Rajasthan- Gatte ki sabzi. The curry is made by cooking these Gatte in garlicky paste of spices, often added with curd to add that tinge of sourness. Gatte themselves are made by boiling long cylindrical dough capsules made of gram flour, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, salt and red chili powder (and other spices as fits the taste), in water. These boiled cylinders are then cut into slices and then are cooked into the spicy gravy, and tada! Here’s that delectable Rajasthani curry of Besan Gatte. Enjoyed with rice or regular Indian flatbreads, besan Gatte are toothsome alternative for veggies, making them ideal for the arid environment of Rajasthan.
Just like Gatte, Pittod too are often used as an alternative of the green veggies, as these were not abundantly available in this state of Thar. Though made with almost the same ingredients as that of Gatte, the procedure of making Pittod, and thence its taste is quite different. In the batter of Pittod goes gram flour, yogurt, water and ginger paste with a bit of salt and red chili powder. This batter is cooked in sizzling oil, diced onion, and cumin seeds, until it gets a smooth thick consistency. Thus prepared mixture is cooled down in a thaali (a round platter with higher edges). Afterwards, diamond shaped pieces are cut from this now-jelly-like mixture of gram flour, which are then cooked with spicy gravy. This curry of pittod too is enjoyed with any of the Indian flatbreads.
3. Rajasthani Kadhi/Khaata
A yet more delectable and easy recipe made of gram flour in Rajasthan is Kadhi, or locally known as Khaata. It is made by brewing the concoction of gram flour and diluted yoghurt, with other regular Indian spices. The prime flavor of Rajasthani Kadhi is sour, which when imbued with Kari patta and other aromatics, makes a finger licking gravy which can be enjoyed with either rice or chapatti. Though the whole gravy is fundamentally made with gram flour, obsession with the thing makes the people of Rajasthan add some more of it in the form of pakoda. Pakoda, or fried balls of gram flour adds a chewy crispness to the gravy making it more appetizing.
4. Mohan Thaal
Let’s take a break from all those spices and take the route to the exclusive Besan dessert of Rajasthan. Mohan thaal (AKA Besan chakki) is a traditional sweet of Rajasthan, often made during special occasions and festivals like holi and diwali. Made in clarified butter (which also acts as an organic preservative), it has a pretty good shelf life, making it ideal for the harsh climatic conditions of the state. Unlike the previous three gram flour recipes, Mohanthaal is made of granular besan, which contributes in enriching the texture of this traditional sweet. First of all, firm dough of besan is kneaded; from the dough are made small dumplings, which are then fried in clarified butter. These dumplings are then grinded into gritty powder. The product is cooked in clarified butter. Later a good quantity of sugar syrup with aromatics is added to the granular paste. Thus prepared mixture is cooled down in a platter exactly like pittod; and alike pittod again diamond shaped pieces are cut from the cooled mixture.
A smaller variety of regular pakodas, Bhujiya is among the most preferred tea-time snack for the people of Rajasthan. These are made exactly like pakodas, that is a batter of gram flour and regular spices is beaten to a smooth paste, drops of which are fried in sizzling oil. The most basic difference between the two snacks is that unlike pakoda, Rajasthani bhujia have neither potatoes, onions, nor other veggies in the center of the dumplings. They are simply fried spicy balls of besan. To add some flavor to the snack, however, some asafetida, cumin seeds, or Ajwain is usually added to the paste.
6. Bikaneri Bhujia
This traditional snack of Rajasthan has now gained recognition across the globe for its savory crispy flavor. Of course, the main ingredient of the snack is besan; the other constituents being moth bean paste and some aromatic spices. To give the snack its signature crispiness, some amount of baking soda too might be added to the paste. As the name suggests, Bikaneri Bhujia hails from the Bikaner district of the state. In fact, many large sized production houses of bikaneri bhujia are now established in the place that are even engaged in the export of the product.
Mirchi bada is perhaps the most popular street snack in Rajasthan. It has everything a Rajasthani can enjoy. It has the pungent taste and crunch-chewy texture of the chili, spiciness of the regular Indian spices, appetizing effects of the filling, and succulence of fried besan crust. The inception of this traditional dish is associated with Jodhpur. In fact, till date the Jodhpuri Mirchi Bada is perhaps the best known variety of this local snack. Mirchi bada is often served with tangy tomato sauce that works wonder in balancing all the hotness of this super-spicy snack.