A dive into the Rann of Kutchh festival, its food and five dishes we love.
If you want to experience Kutchh in all its glory, Rann Utsav is the perfect time to visit the region. The annual cultural festival is organised by the Tourism department of Gujarat and takes place in the tent city, with hundreds of AC and non-AC tents near a small village called Dhordo. This all-encompassing cultural festival is a three-month-long event which begins around November or December and goes on till February or March.
The white desert is best experienced in the crisp winters of December under the full moon (you can check the full moon dates on their website and book accordingly). The festival was designed to celebrate the region, characterised by its marshy salt lands. And to give a platform to local artisans, craftsmen and village co-operatives as well. From handcrafted Kutchhi goods, like embroidered sarees, silverware, leather articles, and ornaments to hot air balloon rides and local food - this festival has it all. This year's Rann Utsav began on November 20, 2020, and will go on till February 28 this year. If you're into regional food, this is also a great way to try out local joints while you're there.
Kutchhi food for the win
Kutchhi cuisine combines Sindhi and Gujarati influences and is known for its extensive use of bajra, garlic, chillies and dairy products. Dishes like bajra no rotlo are served with buttermilk, curd or plain milk. There's also spicy garlic chutneys, hot spoonfuls of kadhi and khichdi. Elaborating on this, food writer Shivani Unakar, who has attended the festival in the past and spent time in Kutchh to experience the food, says that thinks of her experience fondly. "The food of Kutchh is simple but hearty. It is a fine mix of sweet and spicy that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was most surprised at the glasses of cold buttermilk that kept coming my way with each meal. That, too, during winter."
One of the Kutchhi dishes that has made its way to the mainlands of the country is the very popular Kutchhi dabeli. The spicy potato filling with a sweet, tangy chutney, peanuts and sev add lots of crunch to the buttery pav and is a street favourite across India. The Rann Utsav has two giant dining halls that serve a variety of dishes such as, bhatia kadhi, loda vadi khichdi, khari bhat and besan gatta subzi.
Here is a quick round-up of five Kutchhi dishes that we absolutely love.
Kutchhi Kadak has to be right at the top of our list. And you can call it a deconstructed dabeli. This dish's core ingredient is a hard toast like bread or pav. You can also use leftover pav to make it. Top it up with the potato filling, tomato puree, masala peanuts and lots of sev, to fix yourself a sweet and tangy snack.
The Bhatias are a sub-group of Sindhis, who had migrated from Rajasthan to Sindh in Pakistan and then, returned to India after our partition. Bhatia kadi belongs to this diaspora, and unlike other kadis, that are predominantly made only with gram flour and curd, this one also makes use of okra, green grams, chickpeas, pigeon peas, drumsticks and ripe bananas.
Literally translating to fryum (bhungra; a cylindrical and hollow potato chip) and potato (bataka), this tidbit is a unique Kutchhi delight. All you have to do is dip your bhungra into a dry potato subzi and eat it like a snack. This popular street food is prevalent in the Saurashtra region and can be found at stalls inside Rann Utsav.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, there's mesukh, a popular sweet dish from Kutchh. Reminiscent of south's soft-and-unctuous Mysore pak, mesukh is a must try. The origins of this sweet are debatable, with some saying it came from Afghanistan with the Sindhi community, which is largely settled in Kutchh. While others tracing its roots to South India.
Kharibhat is a tempered masala rice, traditionally made with mutton during celebrations and festivals. Khari means salty or spiced and bhat translates to rice. The vegetarian communities of Kutchh, however, have a meat-free version that they make with seasonal veggies. It is usually enjoyed with a piece of sweet, like a mithai.
Manal is a gregarious and ambitious girl who talks about bread incessantly. Her penchant for writing and aesthetics transcends into everything she does. She loves researching the culture and history of things. When she's not writing, you can find her working on a dozen unfinished projects, and consuming an unhealthy amount of art.