CHENNAI: Born and raised in a Marwari home in Chennai, I grew up eating bajre ki roti (millet roti) and khichdi, along with south Indian dishes like sambar and curd rice. The uniqueness of our cuisine is that we use 100-year-old recipes originally tried and tested by our mothers and mothers-in-law (smiles). Marwaris also experiment with new recipes, picking them up from the places we live in.
The first dish I learnt from my mother-in-law was plain khakhra (thin wheat-based crackers) and when I tried, there was too much salt (laughs). A couple of years ago, my nephew tasted my theplas and asked me if I wanted to start a business selling my food to people. He convinced me and today, I am the Chief Chef at Gulab’s, a hand-crafted snack manufacturing start-up.
Marwari food is unique because of the seasonal ingredients and spices we buy from Rajasthan. In winter, we eat a lot of millet and warm, heavy dishes such as bhajre ki roti, bhajre ka dahliya (cracked millet) and gehu ki kheer (wheat porridge). This is to keep us warm on winter nights.
We also use a lot of seasonal fruits. During mango season, we make a sweet mango pickle and mango gunda pickle. Mostly I use wheat because, that is the base for rotis and khakhras.
I’m not a great fan of fusion. When I decide to cook a particular dish, I stick to its speciality. For instance, while making a South Indian dish, I use podis and masala powders.
Mogar ki roti, methi theplas, matar ka pulao, tava poori along with dal chawal or rasam chawal are my home meals speciality.
During Diwali, we make this special dessert called laapsi with ghee and nuts; for Holi, it’s meetha chawal (sweet rice), and for Raksha Bhandan, it’s seviya kheer.
Having been cooking for so many years, it took time for me to master moongadi khakhra (khakhras made with yellow split lentils). Yes, cooking has evolved itself over the years, but we are also getting back to our traditional recipes, ingredients and methods of cooking, which are more healthy. My fondest memories of cooking have to do with seeing my family and friends satisfied with what I serve them.