Baked khichdi in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (2006)
A visit to Gujarat shattered any notion I had that I knew anything at all about Indian cuisine. Up to this point I had been eating dishes in Rajasthan that were somewhere within my realm of understanding. Experiencing Gujarati cuisine was the first time I really understood how different the regional cuisines of India could be from each other. First of all meat all but disappeared from menus (Jain vegetarianism is widespread), despite this Gujarati dishes were packed full of flavor from the use of various spice mixtures along with lentils, rice and pulses. That may sound something like the dishes at your favorite Indian restaurant – but the food in Gujarat was noticeably different in a number of ways from what most us know as Indian food. Ordering a Gujarati thali, sort of like a circular bento box filled with several individual dishes where vegetables take center stage, is probably the best way to understand what I mean. In Ahmedabad I had so many dishes that I had never seen nor heard of before, to say that I had a hard time identifying some of the ingredients is an understatement. In the photo above is a classic Gujarati dish known as khichdi (ખીચડી) made of mostly rice and lentils, it is usually served with a side of sour yogurt sauce known as kadhi, but in this case a version of that sauce has been baked on top. On the side are some classic accompaniments – chilies, lime, onion and achar (pickles).