I’ve spent my growing years in multiple states of India and it is something I take pride in, as I grew up to be more sensitive towards other communities and their culture. Ask anyone in the family and they’d tell you how conversations were always a driving force for me and the keenness to adapt and explore more never seized (thank God!). When in Dehradun I danced to the beats of the famous “bedu paako baara maasa”, a local song, in my school functions and devoured that delicious thechvani. In Assam I learnt to value the natural ingredients and drape those beautiful mekhola chadors, in Mumbai the value of time became a practice instead of just a quote and thanks to my schooling and my Gujarati friends, I fell in love with the simple Gujarati cuisine. Add to that the time I’ve spent in my college and residential society, I was exposed to Bengali, Bihari, Awadhi and South Indian cuisine and culture, amongst others. And of course, I am Punjabi so there’s that.
Even after travelling so much and having lived in multiple places, I can never truly claim to perfect my knowledge about India and it’s diversity, because every day you meet new people and you learn something new about them and their community. This is where I really appreciate this new wave of home pop-ups where you get to dine and meet like-minded people and bond over regional cuisine. The best way to experience India and it’s diversity is in your plate. Don’t you think?
Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, a culinary expert and author of A Pinch Of This, A Handful Of That, and a woman I have truly admired for her insights in food history and ingredients, invited me over to her studio (APB Cook Studio) for her Kutchi Bhatia pop-up with Authenticook. Excited as I was, what I looked forward to the most was getting to know about a new community and it’s food.
Let me quote Rushina herself from her blog on the Kutchi Bhatia community:
The Kutchi Bhatia Community has a very interesting history. While legend tells of their having descended from Lord Krishna himself, closer in history tangible evidence pinpoints a period some time in the 6th century, when a Raja Bhoopat ruled Lahore. Famous for his valour, courage and administrative shrewdness, the dynasty he founded came to be known as the Bhatti or Bhati dynasty from which the word Bhatia is derived. The Bhatias successively founded Tannot, Deraval and Jaisalmer in A.D. 1156 and ruled successfully until the reign of Raja Mulraj (1316) when the Bhatia race was threatened with extinction.
The Jaisalmer fort had been under siege for a year and with his resources dwindling, Raja Mulraj was forced to take a decision that changed the future course of the Bhatia community. The aged and the young were secreted out of the fort while the king and his army launched a bloody do-or-die offensive! They lost, however, their women choosing death over the dishonor of capture. The remnants of the Bhatias that had escaped the fort, eventually made their way to Punjab. They changed their occupations from that of Kshatriyas or soldiers to Vaisyas and took to trade or agriculture.
Over time they spread out into areas of Rajasthan, MP, Halar and Kutch. Time and Geographical distance factored in and the community fragmented. The root culture was the same but marked albeit subtle differences in the lifestyle, language and larger changes in food habits – due to diet being adapted to locally available ingredients – made themselves apparent. Eventually it was the Bhatias that settled in Kutch that earned the name “Kutchi Bhatia”.
What is a Kutchi Bhatia meal?
While Kutch is a region in Gujarat and the food has certain similarities, but to say that it is the same would be unjustified. The distinction between Gujarati and Kutchi Bhatia food is noticeable in the style of preparation of dishes. Where Gujarati food tends to be oily and leans towards sweet heavily spiced fried foods, Kutchi Bhatia food happens to be one of the healthiest Indian communal cuisines today, Rushina explains.
Read more on this here
What did we eat?
We were served a three course meal by Rushina and she drew inspiration from her late Naani (maternal grandmother), while preparing the delicious spread. We started with kand ni pattice (purple yam) and muthia; the softness of that pattice stuffed with grated coconut balanced the crispness of the flavoursome muthia so well, and I paired both with the fresh coriander chutney and downed it with a refreshing chaas (buttermilk). This was followed by lachko dal, a simple dish with toor dal , given a heeng tadka, Osaman, a soup made with the leftover water of the lachko dal with kokum, jaggery, coconut, coriander and tempered with ghee, methi, mustard and jeera. Add to this, sambhariye jo shaak, made with potatoes, aubergines, onions filled with coriander leaves, gram flour, fresh coconut, masalas and fansi nu shaak (French beans with grated coconut) and teliya batata, which were crunchy potatoes coated in fresh ground mustard.
These were all simple dishes that you’d eat at your home with family and I must say, simplicity is underrated. This was by far one of the tastiest meals I’ve had. But the moment I thought that this was it, Rushina brought in the big guns with kopra pak and her Naani’s mohanthaal – now, I don’t think I can do justice with my words to what this tasted like. All I’ll say is that I am not fond of desserts, but I ate a handful of these!
This was a Sunday afternoon well spent, doing what I love the most – eating good food and gaining insights into culture and diversity. I came back home wondering if I should ask Rushina for the recipe for the Osoman and as luck would have it, when I opened her book that she signed and gifted me, the first recipe I landed into was that of what I was craving. Talk of destiny!
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