Recipes from Gujarat, India


When I was about 19 I went through that phase that I’m pretty sure at least half the American population of teenage girls goes through. I went vegetarian.

I know, it’s hard to believe, what with my current carnivorous ways. But for almost 10 years I managed to stay away from meat almost completely. I’d eat fish and I’d usually have some turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that was it. Then I met my uber-carnivorous husband and that all went completely out the window. So did my 115 pound vegetarian body.

I think I’ve been trying to make up for all that lost time. I can definitely say that today, my family eats too much meat. We should have at least one day a week where we have a meatless dinner, not just for health and ecological reasons but also because, well, it’s a lot cheaper. But we don't.

So there’s nothing like a delicious, totally-vegetarian meal to remind me of all this. Of course, I had to mail order a couple of exotic ingredients for this one so I’m pretty sure there was nothing ecological about it considering all the jet fuel that had to be burned to get it into my hands. But there you go.

Why vegetarian? Because this week’s location is Gujarat  in north-western India, where they just don’t eat very much meat. This is primarily because of the influence of Jain vegetarianism and the large population of Hindus who live in Gujarat. Jains object to the consumption of most animal products because harming an animal (either directly or indirectly) is considered an act of violence, and violence gets punished by karma.

Gujarat is the homeland of India’s most famous Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi, who led the Indian Independence Movement against British colonial rule in the early part of the 20th Century. It was also a key player in the growth of the Indian economy and is today one of most industrialized states in India, with a GDP that is well above the national average.

The Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat. Photo by Umang Dutt.

Gujaratis eat a lot of rice, dal (split beans such as lentils) and roti (flatbread). Main dishes are vegetable based and are often both sweet and spicy. I chose three recipes for my meal:

Baby Potatoes In Spicy Yogurt Gravy
(from Sanjeev Kapoor)
  • 20 unpeeled baby potatoes
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt
  • A pinch asafoetida*
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped  
* Another odd spice you’re not going to find at Safeway. I got mine from Amazon.com.

Toovar Dal Ni Khichdi
(from tarladalal.com)
  • 1 cup toovar dal*
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
*Toovar Dal is a split pigeon pea. If you have an Indian market in your area, you may be able to buy it there. Otherwise you can order it from Amazon.com.

Besan Ki Masala Roti
(also from Sanjeev Kapoor)

For the roti:
  • 1 cup gram flour (besan)*   
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour  
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp ghee   
For the  filling:
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder  
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder 
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder   
  • 1 green chilli, chopped  
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp mango powder (amchur)  
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder   
  • Ghee   
* This is chickpea flour. Bob’s Red Mill makes it—if you can’t get it locally, you can also buy it from Amazon.com. Don’t substitute, though, because chickpea flour has a very distinct flavor and texture.

Let’s do the dal first. Note: the instructions were for cooking in a pressure cooker, which I do happen to own. I think you could just as easily do it on the stovetop, but I’m unsure of how much time it would take so the directions I’m including here are for the pressure cooker.

First, mix the dal with the rice and cover with water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Now heat the ghee in your pressure cooker. When it’s hot, add the cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon. Wait until you hear them start to pop, then add 3 1/2 cups of hot water, the rice, the dal, the turmeric powder and salt. Mix well and cover.

Cook on medium-high for about 12 minutes. What you’ll end up with is a kind of mashy looking substance that doesn’t resemble either rice or dal. Based on the photos from the original recipe, I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s supposed to look like. :)

Meanwhile, make the potatoes. First you’ll need to parboil them until they are just tender. Drain and set aside. Now mix the yogurt with the asafoetida, garlic and ginger pastes and spices. Once the potatoes have cooled a little, add this mixture and toss until well-coated. Let marinate for about 30 minutes.

Saute the onions in a separate pan until golden, then add the potatoes and marinade.

Heat on high and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the potatoes are cooked all the way through. Garnish with chopped cilantro (damn, I always forget to garnish).

And finally, the roti. First make the filling by mixing all those ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. Now mix the roti ingredients and knead until you get a soft dough.

Divide into eight portions and roll into balls. Flatten with a rolling pin or your hand and spread 1/8th of the filling onto the disk.

Fold in half, then fold in half again, then roll until you have a sort-of triangle shape. Repeat with all the dough balls, using up the remaining filling.


Heat some ghee in a pan and fry the roti on both sides until golden. Brush a little bit of melted ghee on both sides and then serve.

So, the potatoes were a lot spicier than I expected them to be and my poor children were traumatized. The good news is they all got plenty of water that day. I loved these potatoes and would gladly make them again, 'cause spicy food makes me happy. I enjoyed the dal, too, but it was quite stodgy and my kids wouldn’t go near it. I would put more salt in it if I made it again because the flavors were a little too subtle.

Martin was a huge fan of the roti, which was a nice change from flour-based rotis and was made even more interesting with the flavorful filling. It was great for mopping up that spicy yogurt sauce from the potatoes, too.

Hey guess what, there’s only one more “G!” That’s (nearly) seven letters down, 19 to go. Haha.

Next week: Guyana

For printable versions of this week’s recipes:



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