Stirring things up in Jodhpur

Kalyani Prasher | Updated on January 20, 2018
Masalas at Mamaji ki dukaan. Photo: Kalyani Prasher

Masalas at Mamaji ki dukaan. Photo: Kalyani Prasher

The modest thali at the Mundal residence in Salawas, a village near Jodhpur. Photo: Kalyani Prasher

The modest thali at the Mundal residence in Salawas, a village near Jodhpur. Photo: Kalyani Prasher

Beetroot ajwaini paratha at Sholla, ITC WelcomHotel Jodhpur

Beetroot ajwaini paratha at Sholla, ITC WelcomHotel Jodhpur

Quietly, unassumingly, it has always been a food-loving city

One has heard of Jodhpur’s kachoris all of one’s life. If you live in Delhi, there is no escape from Rajasthan — or, shall I say, the nearest escape is to Rajasthan. In comparison with the state’s iconic cities — Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer — Jodhpur could have lost the tourist-attracting battle had it not been for two things: Mehrangarh Fort and food.

It is fitting then that the delightful meandering food market at Ghanta Ghar, where you can find everything from fresh mirchis to dried masalas to ‘fryums’, thrives in the shadow of the mighty fort. I walked here on a summer day, looking up at the looming Mehrangarh every now and then, too distracted by the colourful goodies on display to worry about the heat and dust. Orange, red, green papads here; yellow, brown, black masalas there; stacks of tea, bundles of whole spices… And some surprises such as packaged ‘Maggi Masala’ (it tasted just like the original) at Mama’s or Mamaji ki dukaan. I was in a food lovers’ wonderland. If you are fond of cooking, take a large bag along.

At Ghanta Ghar I had the best sweet lassi: Mishrilal runs his shop in one corner here and his makhaniya lassi is as thick as butter. It’s rich and sweet and delicious — comes with a dollop of fresh white butter — and calorie-conscious city girls may need coaxing to finish a glass. I complimented the maker but turned around and sneakily (or so I thought) threw away half glassful, prompting him to quip: “ Arey! ‘Bahut acha hai’ bol kar phek diya (You threw it away after you said you really like it)!”

This local food experience was thanks to Chef Akshraj Jodha, who wisely decided that a food lover’s day is best spent touring the food sites instead of the historical ones. His restaurant is set to take the quiet, unassuming, food-loving city into the limelight.

Sholla, ITC WelcomHotel Jodhpur’s Indian restaurant, will soon be launched and focus on food grilled on charcoal fire. The menu is inspired by the desert serais, or travelling camps. These recipes are from the camp kitchens of the royals, who ate lavishly even during their travels, including a hunt, their kitchen staff left to figure out how and what to carry to make the journey most efficient. Enter coal, instead of wood, and various innovative tenderisers for meat caught on the move.

With its charming tent-like interior design, Sholla serves delicious preparations like sangri kebabs, Mayo mutton curry, aloo ka anaar papad, and bajra firni. The cheese and pomegranate fish with garlic foam is served on a Jagermeister bottle; the chakki (wheat gluten) sholla with mint chutney pearls comes on a piece of charred driftwood. But gimmicks apart, a restaurant only does as well as its food and that’s where Chef Jodha’s research and knowledge of the serai food and recipes, and his family legacy, come into play. “A bit of both,” he replies politely, when I asked if the restaurant is here because of him or he here because of the restaurant.

Even shopping can be combined with food in Jodhpur. I did this when I visited Salawas, a village nearby that is famous for handcrafted dhurries. Ramesh and Paras Mundal run an artisan store from their home, where their mother also prepares simple dishes for those who would like to lunch.

I spent a lovely afternoon with the Mundals, first watching them work on a design (they proudly tell me they can even weave my face into a rug), then browsing through the collection. I bought a beautiful one with a geometrical pattern and then stepped into a hut and sat on a dhurrie for my meal: kadhi and a vegetable made with ker and khumtiya (a flat-dried local berry) served with buttery bajra rotis, followed by a crumbly cake-like sweet made with besan. It was full of flavour — tangy and spicy and fresh.

This meal gave my two special dinners at Sholla a tough competition — for one of the dinners at Sholla, I was in the kitchen, watching Chef Jodha make laal maas from scratch, in a proper old-style handi, the meat slow-roasting over three hours.

So which one is better? I decided not to choose: each has its own place and I recommend you do not leave Jodhpur without trying both.

(The writer was in Jodhpur on the invitation of ITC WelcomHotel Jodhpur)

Travel log

Getting there

You can fly to Jodhpur from Mumbai or Delhi.


WelcomHotel Jodhpur; www.itchotels.in/hotels/welcomhoteljodhpur.aspx

Local food

You can book the Salawas excursion through the hotel or contact Ramesh Mundal directly on (0)99294 67415; lunch costs ₹200 a head if you book directly.

For kachoris, go to Janta; for namkeen to Chandar Vilas Namkeen; for pickles, it’s Manohar — all stores located on or around Nayi Sarak, main market.


Extend your trip by a day and visit the sand dunes at Khimsar

Kalyani Prasher is a Delhi-based freelance writer

Published on May 27, 2016

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