As described in my previous blog, I was really excited about the prospects of eating mouth watering Gujarati delicacies especially in the remote parts of Gujarat.
The plan for next two days was to visit the vast expanses of the Kutch area. This included trips to Dholavira and the Great Rann of Kutch. Dholavira is the site for the remains of 5000 year old Harappan civilization in India and is situated on an island close to Pakistan border. The route from Patan to Dholavira comprised of a stretch of 4-laned national highway and a long stretch of deserted village road.
As the car pulled into the dusty driveway of a roadside restaurant, my eyes scanned the billboards for interesting food items. Besides the usual suspects of Lassi and Poori I was surpised to see Idli and Sambaar. My driver told me that South Indian breakfast items are widely available in Gujarat. Though the restaurant did not have much choice, I settled for Sev Usal and Lassi for breakfast. Now Sev Usal is a typical Maharashtrian dish but the restaurant owner told me that it is famous in Gujarat as well. Usal is basically a bean or pea based gravy made with onions, tomatoes and some spices. As expected the Gujarati twist to the Usal was the mild sweetness. This Usal is served with dollops of fresh Sev made in the restaurant kitchen. The hot Usal gravy and crunchy Sev was a great combination with cool Lassi soothing your palate.
The drive to Dholavira took longer than expected. Thankfully the hearty breakfast in the morning gave me the energy to explore the stunning remains of the Indus Valley Civilization in India.
From Dholavira we continued on towards Bhuj which was our base to explore the Rann of Kutch. Though we were running late for lunch, I wanted to pick a good place with potentially good choice of Gujarati food. This turned out to be a mistake since the places I picked had already closed for lunch, so we had to settle down for two cups of tea and some cookies. Having reached Bhuj late in the afternoon, I took a nap and started looking forward to Kutchi Thali for Dinner.
As I woke up from my slumber it was already well past sunset. The lack of lunch meant that sugar levels in my body had dropped. The guilt-free natural reaction was to search for a sweet shop and enjoy Gujarati sweets. Locals suggested “Khavda Sweets” near the bus stand. I picked up a pack of assorted pendas. Pendas are nothing but Gujarati versions of Pedha and my favorite was the rose flavored penda. After roaming around the small city, we walked into a local restaurant close to Khavda Sweets and ordered the Thali. There was some disappointment in store since the Thali was not the traditional Kutchi Thali. Typical Kutch Thali would include Bajra Rotla, Odho (Brinjal curry), Sev Tamatar and Kadhi. The tourist version that we got included only Sev Tamatar and Kadhi along with other common Thali items like daal, aloo sabzi etc. But I must say that the yummy Sev Tamatar and super soft chapathis did make up for the disappointment. Overall the Thali was more elaborate than the one I had in Patan.
As the day wound down and my sugar surged back to normal levels, I started planning for the next day’s trip to Kalo Dungar and White Rann. Another day of drive and long walks awaited me as I woke up early. We drove out from our hotel at Bhuj once again with the plan to have breakfast en route. As we drove closer to Kalo Dungar there was a noticable increase in the presence of armed forces and a decrease in human population. This natural since we were driving closer to Pakistan border. The last major town on the way is Khavda where we stopped for the famous Gujarati breakfast of Fafda Jalebi. Fafda is a chickpea flour based snack that is served with fresh onion and green chili. The chickpea batter is stretched into flat elongated chips and deep fried in oil. Almost every shop had cooks working frenetically on two deep frying pans. One for Fafda and one for Jalebi. The sweet, salty and crunch combination of Fafda, Jalebi and onions is really stunning.
The colorful breakfast was followed by a trip to the visually stunning landscape of the White Rann. This trip was already leaving strong imprints on my memory. And yet there was more to come.