Malpua soaking in sugar syrup. Photo: Rituparna Roy
If you thought Pushkar was all about the touristy camel fair, you are wrong. A town popular among Hindu devotees can be a revelation when it comes to food. Walking around the busy markets of this hippy town, you will be greeted by little surprises – although vegetarian.
You will not find meat and alcohol in Pushkar since it is dotted with as many as 500 temples! Life typically revolves around them and the ghaats that surround the serene lake. In the evenings, these come alive with aartis and temple bells ringing at a distance. Rooftop restaurants catering to foreign tourists, and serving pancakes and pizzas are hard to miss once the sun goes down.
Rajasthan may be known for its fiery laal maas, but little do people know about its out-of-the-world malpuas. It’s tough to recommend one shop from where you can eat this Indian pancake deep-fried in desi ghee. The reason being the market street has several halwais (sweet shops) with cauldrons brimming with malpuas soaking in sugar syrup all day long!
We tried our first malpua at Radhey ji ki dukaan, and fell into a food coma. In the next couple of days, we stopped by at every halwai to eat more. They were soft and crisp with the right amount of sweetness each time. Appalling it may seem, but we found the ghee-soaked moong dal halwa and gajar ka halwa to be of little value all of a sudden.
The humble thali at Sanskar. Photo: Rituparna Roy
Our next food discovery was the Vaishno thali. Due to the huge influx of Hindu devotees in Pushkar, forget meat, you have no choice but to settle for food that is cooked without onions and garlic.
And so it happened that we stumbled upon Sanskar way past lunch time after a tiring journey from Jodhpur. A growling tummy had left us with no choice but to take our seats at this Vaishno eatery close to the Gurudwara. Half an hour later it happened to be the best meal of our trip! A thali featuring aloo gobi spiced with a simple tempering, kaali daal, fresh curd and hot rotis and rice won us over for a lifetime. We continued our search for a humble meal the next afternoon, but in vain. It didn’t taste the same.
Mountain of a paratha
It was 9 pm and the main market area was bustling with hippy tourists. Looking for dinner options, we discovered a cart selling parathas. Intrigued by the display of chutneys and veggies, we got talking to the paratha man of Pushkar. A cookery tutorial followed where he started rolling the dough and stuffing it with vegetables like beets, carrots, spinach, potatoes, capsicum and some more which we don’t remember. This was finally topped with grated Amul cheese and fresh paneer almost resembling a mountain! Eyes glued to his hands, we anxiously waited for him to get the dough together to roll the paratha. The expertise was unparalleled to say the least. Served with three types of chutneys and dollop of Amul butter, we came back with tips on how to make the perfect paratha!
It is not uncommon to find food menus written in Hebrew in Pushkar. The reason being, it attracts Israeli tourists who stay here for months, typically holidaying and also learning music or cooking Indian food. Falafels are therefore a huge hit among them. You cannot miss the two adjacent roadside eateries in the main market area that serve some mean falafel wraps with a choice of unique fillings.
There's lots to eat in Pushkar. But, there is nothing like the malpua. Do yourself a favour and visit now.