There's much more to Gujarati food than dhokla, khakra and the ubiquitous thali! The state has four regions - North and Central Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kutch and South Gujarat - and each of these has distinct, unique cuisines. A burst of subtle flavours, an array of dazzling colours and a sweet tinge are at the heart of irresistible Gujarati dishes. Emerging from the many different communities who settled here, the state's cuisines are primarily vegetarian, but do include seafood, chicken and mutton.
Sumptuous Gujarat: A Culinary Trail is your most detailed and authoritative guide to these delectable Gujarati cuisines and their lavish offerings of starters, seasonal vegetables, sweets and coolers. The book describes the quintessential Gujarati Thali and food specialities savoured during the days of fasting and on festive occasions, among others.
The best possible way to take this in, is, via the food trails outlined in the book, which traverse Gujarat's different regions, city by city. From colorful old bazaars and bustling streets, sample some of the most scrumptious meals served in iconic restaurants, as well as hidden gems - even as handy lists of places to visit and practical information allow you a foodie trip like no other! Immerse yourself in this sensory journey and indulge in the many wonderful flavours of Gujarat!!
Arundhti Bhanot is a freelance writer, editor and blogger. She has worked as a journalist with a leading daily and as an editor has a number of travel tides on Indian and international destinations to her credit. Her blog Signpost - No Direction Home is a compendium of her travels, love of food and nature. This is her first book. She lives in Pune.
This is a different journey. It's an adventure of the senses, a plunge i into tastes and smells of one of India's oldest and most popular cuisines. Even in the bewildering smorgasbord of Indian food, it enjoys a distinctive stature. Our destination is Gujarat and the trip navigates through crowded thoroughfares and dusty lanes of Gujarat's bustling cities and sleepy hamlets, going past the grand palaces, ancient stepwells, fine-carved temples and mosques, and stepping into eateries and homes to savour their sweet and salty offerings. It's a journey of exploration, in which the past rubs shoulders with the modern and where centuries-old recipes and eating habits brave the onslaught of fast food.
There is no better introduction to Gujarati food and flavours than a Gujarati Thali, with its classification of shaak (vegetables), farsan (snacks), kachumber (salads), bhaat (rice), rotli (Indian breads) and mithai (desserts). A great variety of dishes fall into these broad categories. A separate section each on farsans (snacks and starters), farali (fasting) and festival foods will help you make knowledgeable selections when faced with the myriad choices on the menu.
Based on the regions and their respective cuisines, the book has been divided into four main sections - North and Central Gujarat, South Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch, with an introduction to the history and culture of the places with listing of a few sights of interest. The Food Trail takes the reader on a culinary journey to various restaurants, eateries and gullies in few chosen cities and towns to explore the best dining options for a Gujarati meal. We tell you what is special about each city and where to head for the finest in dining and popular street food.
We start in the cosmopolitan city of Ahmedabad and travel to Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar, and smaller towns of Nadiad and Udvada to taste the local staples. We visit the extreme western part of India, the region of Kutch, to sample the simple joys of kadhi and kichdi. A section on Parsi and Bohra cuisines is an introduction to the unique food culture of these hospitable communities with some outstanding meals. William Blake said, 'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.' The man was onto something!
Sitting on the bare expanse of the white-sand desert at the Rann of Kutch and watch the sun sink inch by inch into the earth after spreading its orange glow across the evening sky is indeed one of the most surreal experiences. But then, there is lots more - archaeological sites that reveal the magnificence of one of the world's oldest civilizations, temple trails, secluded beaches and natural parks, age-old stepwells with intricately carved motifs and a historic connect with India's struggle for independence, here is a state with immense charm.
Start your exploration with the vibrant city of Ahmedabad that has its pulse in place. Walk around its bustling maze of crowded bazaars, marvel at exquisite gateways, ancient temples and mosques, watch the sun weave a pattern at the intricately carved walls of a stepwell in the early hours of the morning or late evening. Catch the food vibe as the evening descends across the streets of Ahmedabad and savour the local delicacies at easy-on-the-pocket budget or atmospheric restaurants devoted to the sumptuous Gujarati Thali. While a walk around the old neighbourhoods (pols) will make you stop every now and then to admire the crumbling architecture of various old buildings, for those inclined to else, New Ahmedabad has some striking contemporary buildings designed by renowned architects such as Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. The city can surely keep you sufficiently engaged. For exploration of another kind, at Lothal lies the abandoned city of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization of 4,500 years ago.
The capital of the princely state of Baroda and the third largest city in Gujarat, Vadodara (Baroda) has a great vibe to it. The Indo-Saracenic theme continues to flourish in its architecture culminating with one of the most imposing buildings, the Laxmi Vilas Palace that was the residence of Maharaja Sayajirao III. Tour some of the finest museums in the country here such as the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, where fans of the renowned artist Raja Ravi Varma are in for a fabulous treat. The Vadodara Museum and Picture Art Gallery is unique for its impressive collection of European oil paintings and Mughal miniatures. And the art scene continues to thrive even today in the city at the prestigious College t of Fine Art located here. Inside a beautiful heritage building, the Khanderao Market is a delightful spot to haggle over seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers, and to soak in some of the daily liveliness among the locals. The town that introduced Amul to Indians and revolutionized the dairy cooperative movement in India, Anand is a short distance away from Vadodara. And for an insight into a revolution of another kind, the famous Amul Dairy is open to visitors.
A charming city, Surat still bears traces of its industrious past. There is little that is laidback here - the traffic, markets, street food and the loud trading of diamonds in the old city area. Look out for the remnants of the presence of the Portuguese, Dutch, Mughals, Marathas and British, who all held sway here. Rajkot is another town with a colonial flavour, having been the headquarters of the Saurashtra region during the British Raj.
The two princely states of Junagadh and Jamnagar hold special charm with its impressive forts, temples, mosques, parks and public buildings. Just outside Junagadh, the Girnar Hill showcases Ashoka's Rock Edict that conveys the emperor's message of non-violence and peace.
The various temples scattered across the state draw the maximum number of visitors. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Somnath Temple sits majestically on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Renowned for its wealth, it drew the attention of many invaders, including the formidable Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026. Though crowded, catch the atmosphere here on the occasion of a four-day fair held to celebrate the birth anniversary of Shiva's son, Karthikeya. However, Dwarkadhish Temple at Dwarka remains one of the most visited and one with an interesting tale. Legend has it that Lord Krishna left his birthplace of Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) to establish his kingdom here, which was later submerged under water.
On the temple trail is the astonishing cluster of 1,008 Jain temples on the summit of Palitana's Shatrunjaya Hill. Make that ascent to the summit of the hill to take in the spectacular view of hundreds of domes and temple spires touching the sky as well as the Gulf of Cambay from the top. The Sun Temple at Modhera is a beauty in stone and an architectural marvel that follows the movement of the sun, gliding in the east-west direction to strike the inner sanctum at high noon every day. Here also lies Champaner, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was the capital of Gujarat until 1535.
Perhaps not as popular as other destinations, but two of India's finest national parks are unique for wildlife watching. Visit the Nal Sarovar Sanctuary to spot the seasonal migratory birds and the unforgettable sight of Sarus cranes performing acts of courtship in a synchronized dance with outstretched wings. The only habitat of the Asiatic lion, the Sasan Gir Natioal Park has worked hard to revive the depleting population of the lions, which faced extinction. A place of unparalleled beauty, the Little Rann of Kutch is a must-visit for the vast expanse of salt flatlands that glitter like diamonds in daylight and turn into a surreal blue haze on moonlit nights. A unique ecosystem provides refuge to the Asiatic wild ass and the rare caracal.
The Mahatma spent a considerable amount of time in Gujarat. He was born in Porbandar in 1869. The Kirti Mandir Museum here showcases photographs, speeches and writings from his life. Also, get a close glimpse of his personal belongings including his reading glasses, wooden slippers and handwritten letters at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to feel that patriotic fervour that transformed the nation.
Head to the small enclave of Daman and the tiny island of Diu, both erstwhile Portuguese colonies, defined by their majestic forts and glorious views of the sunset.
Gujarat is all this and more!
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