BEST AUTHENTIC RAJASTHANI VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN FOOD IN PUSHKAR FAIR! INCREDIBLE INDIA!
This blog is a part of my series on the Pushkar fair of Rajasthan in Incredible India. Check out all my blogs in the series which apart from many interesting aspects of Pushkar fair, lists down information like – Best time to go to Pushkar, Best things to eat in Pushkar Fair, How to reach Pushkar Fair, Offbeat things to do in Pushkar etc. This blog is about the best authentic Rajasthani Vegetarian and vegan food in Pushkar Fair. Incredible India.
Hungry after my worst train ride ever, I zeroed in on the rustiest looking ‘dhabha’ (No fuss basic restaurant in a tent). I sat on a plastic-steel chair and waited for food to arrive on the rough wooden plank. I had ordered a Rajasthani Thali (Pre portioned plate). There were bouts of tsunamis in my mouth just anticipating the food.
The tsunami threatened to burst from my mouth when the Thali arrived. The Thali had Baati , chopped radish , spiced up chillies, dal (lentils) , kadhi, and a very spicy and oily curry. I enjoyed dipping the baati in the assorted gravies. Baatis are thick spherical Rajasthani breads.
Baatis are wheat dough rolled into balls and baked in wood fired oven. In some version they are baked in the heat of smouldering ‘kandiya’ aka ‘upla’ (dried cow dung cakes). It made me crave for one of those al fresco winter bonfire parties at my home in Lucknowwhere we roast sweet potatoes, potatoes, paneer tikka , baati chokhaetc. It tastes best on a chilly winter night. Water was served in a plastic mug , the kind that are used in India for taking baths.
Before it turned dark, I was back in Pushkar and had to leave for Udaipur the same night. It was an impromptu decision by me as I didn’t see any logic in staying in Pushkar for three consecutive days. So I sacrificed the events of my third day to accommodate another gem of a city Udaipur. I still had time and was hungry too. I came across a cart selling “Farash, Sugar, Kean, Gus”(I am copying it verbatim here). Before you even begin to think it is some exotic dish, let me demystify the code language here. After applying spell check it should read, “Fresh Sugar Cane Juice”.
Rejecting the idea, I instead opted for hot sweetened milk topped with frothy cream. It was served straight from a huge iron‘kadahi’ (wok), still simmering romantically over gentle heat. It’s the perfect drink for a North Indian winter evening.
Then I dunked my fingers in sticky sugar syrup while trying to get hold on the fresh hot ‘Malpua’ (A sweet pancake dipped in sugar syrup). It had me drooling and begging for more. But I was anticipating more gastronomic orgasms in the offing, so I had to keep space in the stomach.
After having packed my bag and checking out of my hotel, I rushed to the roadside Dhaba-ish restaurant I had been eyeing for the past two days. I ordered the combo of Makke di roti, Sarso Ka Saagand Lassi(Corn/Maize bread, Green Mustard leaves curry and a thick sweetened Yoghurt drink). It was served with roughly chopped onions and green chillies. I ordered Lassan Chutney(Garlic chutney) as well. It exceeded my expectations. It was definitely the best makke di roti and sarso ka saag I have had in my entire life.
Though makke ki roti and sarso ka saag are essentially Punjabi dishes yet is popular in most North Indian cities. The butter drizzled on the sarso ka saag gave it that added zing.
It was the first time that I had Lassan Chutney and must say I am big fan since. Post this dinner, I have tried to find similar tasting lassan chutney in restaurants elsewhere with zilch success. It was deep red in color and had a pungent spicy taste to it. I ordered buttered Baajre ki roti (Bread made from Pearl millet, very popular in states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat) to go with it. The sweet lassi was the perfect antidote to all things spicy.
It was heavy, filling and delicious. The breads were warm and crisp as they were taken out fresh from a wood fired oven tended by the women of the house. This open kitchen sort of added to the ambience and the whole dining experience of Rajasthan. Perhaps, it is this personal touch of local women which gave the dishes their taste and authenticity. The restaurant’s name is “Shree Karani Maa Restaurant”The huge green dot in a square (Can’t thank animal activist Maneka Gandhi enough for this innovative idea) screamed that it is a ‘Shudh shaakahari bhojanalaya’(Pure vegetarian eatery-vegan food also available here!).
The ambience ain’t anything to write home about. Come here rather for the authentic rural cuisine at its best and at a throwaway price. My bill for all the orders didn’t exceed Rs.150/-. It’s located near the famous Brahma temple. Just take a right turn just before you reach the temple and you will see a lane dedicated to roadside eatries. Dodge the other eateries that mark the street (and attract more customers maybe because of being the first in the lane), and head to this restaurant for that perfect meal. You will not be disappointed! So impressed I was with the food that after the meal, I had to go to the restaurant manager and thank him for such lovely dinner.
Hungry for more, the day I returned from Udaipur, I returned to the same restaurant for an authentic Rajasthani lunch, Gatta masalawith steamed rice. Gatta masala is gram flour paste cut in different shapes such as square/ diamond/rectangle and dipped in a yogurt based tangy curry. It’s the signature vegetarian dish of Rajasthan and very delicious. Daal Baati Choormais also a must try here.
On the 3rd day of me exploring Pushkar fair, hungry, solo and cash strapped, I lucked upon a free ‘langar’food bang opposite the quirky Rural Circus of Pushkar Fair. It seemed like God sent. Langars are free food for all , sponsored mainly by donations. I stood in the line (Surprisingly no stampede here!) and my plate was filled with ‘pulaav’ (Indian vegan spiced fried rice) and vegetables.
Satiated, as soon as I exited other group was distributing free ‘laddus’ (a popular Indian sweet). What more can one want in life than free food along with free desserts? And who says there are no free lunches in this world? Drag them down to India.
The narrow lanes outside the lake and ghats is bustling with hotels, restaurants, religious shops etc. To my surprise, I found many restaurants selling dishes from around the world such as pasta, pizzas, lasagnas, baklava, hummus and pita bread,thai curry and of course good old reliable Chinese or should I say Sino Ludhianvi (The term coined by veteran journalist Vir Singhavi for the Indian Chinese food).
I knew it had to do with the influx of foreigner tourists. Also catering to them were the restaurants with live bands or at least western music playing on their terrace garden restaurant.
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