From Poha to Dal Bafla: The Vegetarian Cuisine of Central India
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Central India is a region known for its diverse and flavourful cuisine, and one of the highlights of its culinary scene is its vegetarian dishes. This region includes the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which are all known for their unique and delicious vegetarian dishes. The cuisine of central India is heavily influenced by local ingredients and the availability of produce in the region. The use of spices, herbs, and seasonings is also a defining feature of this cuisine, which gives its dishes a unique and complex flavour profile. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the best vegetarian dishes from central India, exploring the flavours and ingredients that make these dishes stand out. 


Aamat is a traditional dish from the state of Chhattisgarh in Central India. It is a sour curry made with a combination of lentils and vegetables like okra, pumpkin, brinjal, and potato. The dish gets its sourness from the use of tamarind and kokum, which are commonly used in Chhattisgarhi cuisine. 

To make Aamat, first, the lentils are soaked and then ground into a smooth paste. The vegetables are then chopped into bite-sized pieces and cooked with lentil paste and spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, and red chilli powder. Tamarind and kokum are added to the curry, giving it a tangy and slightly sour taste. The curry is then simmered on low heat until the vegetables are cooked through and the flavours have melded together. 

Aamat is typically eaten with rice and is a popular dish during festivals and special occasions in Chhattisgarh. It is also considered a comfort food and is often served to guests as a warm and welcoming dish. The tangy and spicy flavours of Aamat make it a unique and delicious addition to any vegetarian meal. 

Dal Bafla 

Dal Bafla is a traditional dish from the state of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. It is a combination of dal, which is a lentil soup, and Bafla, which are small round bread-like dumplings made from wheat flour, gram flour, and semolina. 

To make dal bafla, first, the Bafla dough is prepared by mixing the flours, ghee, and salt. The dough is then divided into small balls and boiled in water until they float to the top. The boiled bafla is then roasted in an oven or over a flame until golden brown. 

For the dal, lentils are cooked with a mixture of spices, including cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and turmeric, until they are soft and tender. The dal is then tempered with ghee, garlic, and red chilli powder to give it a rich and delectable taste. 

Dal Bafla is typically served hot with ghee and a side of chutney. It is a popular dish in Madhya Pradesh and is often served during special occasions and festivals. The combination of the creamy dal and crispy bafla makes for a satisfying and delicious meal that is sure to please any vegetarian food lover. 

Sabudana Khichdi 

Sabudana Khichdi is a popular vegetarian dish from Central India that is enjoyed by people of all ages. This flavorful and nutritious dish is made from sabudana, which are small white pearls made from tapioca starch and is seasoned with a mixture of spices, herbs, and peanuts. 

To make Sabudana Khichdi, the sabudana pearls are soaked in water until they become soft and fluffy. They are then drained and sautéed with ghee or oil, green chillies, cumin seeds, and curry leaves. Roasted peanuts, potatoes, and grated coconut are then added to the mixture, along with salt and sugar, to give it a savoury and slightly sweet taste. 

Sabudana Khichdi is often served hot as a breakfast dish or as a snack. It is especially popular during fasting days and religious festivals in Central India, where many people observe dietary restrictions. This delicious and easy-to-make dish is not only tasty but also high in carbohydrates, making it a great source of energy for busy mornings or long days. 


Chilla is a popular vegetarian dish that is commonly eaten for breakfast in Central India. This flavorful and nutritious dish is made from a batter of gram flour, also known as besan, that is seasoned with a variety of spices and herbs. The batter is then poured onto a hot griddle or tawa and cooked until golden brown and crispy. 

The basic chilla batter is quite simple, but it is often customized with a variety of fillings to add texture and flavor. Some popular fillings include grated paneer, chopped vegetables like onions, tomatoes, and capsicum, and a range of Indian spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Chilla is typically served hot with a side of tangy and spicy chutney or ketchup. 

What makes chilla so popular in Central India is its versatility and simplicity. It can be eaten on its own as a light breakfast or paired with other dishes like curries, dal, and rice for a more substantial meal. Chilla is also an excellent option for vegetarians and those looking for a protein-rich breakfast, as gram flour is high in protein and other essential nutrients. 

Papad Ki Sabzi 

Papad ki sabzi is a unique and delicious dish that originates from the central region of India. As the name suggests, this dish is made from papads, which are thin and crispy Indian crackers made from lentil flour. These papads are roasted or fried until crispy, then simmered in a flavourful tomato and yoghurt-based gravy, resulting in a creamy and tangy dish that pairs perfectly with rice or Indian flatbreads. 

The gravy for papad ki sabzi is typically made from a blend of tangy tomatoes, rich yoghurt, and aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. This flavorful mixture is then simmered on low heat until the flavours meld together and the sauce thickens. The crispy papads are added to the gravy just before serving, allowing them to soak up the delicious flavours of the sauce. 

One of the best things about papad ki sabzi is its versatility. It can be enjoyed as a main dish for lunch or dinner, or as a unique and flavourful side dish. Additionally, it is a popular vegetarian option that is high in protein, fibre, and other essential nutrients. 


Poha, also known as flattened rice, is a popular breakfast dish that originates from central India. It is made by washing and soaking flattened rice in water, then stir-frying it with a variety of spices and vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, green chillies, and curry leaves. The dish is known for its light and fluffy texture, with a mildly spicy and tangy flavour. 

In central India, poha is more than just a breakfast staple - it is a cultural icon that has been passed down through generations. The dish is often associated with warmth and hospitality, with families welcoming guests into their homes with a steaming hot plate of poha. Poha is also a popular street food, with vendors selling it in small packets or in a traditional leaf plate known as a "dona". 

One of the reasons poha has become so popular in central India is its versatility. It can be made with a variety of ingredients, such as peanuts, grated coconut, and even sev, a type of crunchy snack made from chickpea flour. It is also a nutritious meal, as flattened rice is a good source of carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals. 

Gajar Matar Pulao 

Carrot Peas Pulao is a popular vegetarian dish that is savoured in many parts of Central India. This dish is a healthy, flavorful and nutritious alternative to regular rice dishes. The aromatic basmati rice cooked with carrots, peas, and fragrant spices, makes it a perfect comfort food option for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

To make this dish, first, the rice is washed and soaked in water for a while, then it is cooked with some whole spices like bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom to add taste to the rice. Meanwhile, fresh green peas and finely grated carrots are sautéed with onion, ginger, garlic, and green chillies in a pan. The sautéed vegetables are then added to the cooked rice and gently mixed together. The final touch of ghee and roasted cashew nuts add richness to the dish, making it irresistible. 

The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity, yet the flavours are so delightful that one can’t stop at just one serving. Carrot Peas Pulao can be served with some cool cucumber raita, a tangy pickle, or even some spiced yoghurt, which enhances the taste of the dish even more. This dish is a perfect blend of health and taste, making it a must-try for all food lovers. 


Hatphodva or Chhattisgarhi idli is a type of idli that is popular in the state of Chhattisgarh, located in Central India. It is a traditional dish that is typically made using rice, urad dal (black gram), and poha (flattened rice) batter, which is then fermented and steamed in idli moulds. 

Chhattisgarhi idli is known for its unique texture and taste, which is different from the regular idlis. It is slightly denser and has a slight sourness, which comes from the fermentation process. The use of poha in the batter makes it more fluffy and gives a distinct taste. 

The idlis are usually served with spicy chutney made from coriander, green chillies, and grated coconut, and sambar, a lentil-based vegetable stew. Chhattisgarhi idlis are a popular breakfast item in the region and are also served in restaurants and street food stalls. 

Moong Dal Ka Halwa 

Moong dal ka halwa is a popular dessert in Central India, particularly in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is made from moong dal, which is a type of split green gram, sugar, ghee (clarified butter), and milk, along with various nuts and spices. 

To make moong dal ka halwa, the moong dal is first soaked for a few hours and then ground into a paste. The paste is then fried in ghee until it turns golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Next, sugar and milk are added to the mixture and cooked until the halwa becomes thick and the milk has been absorbed. The halwa is then garnished with chopped nuts such as almonds, pistachios, and cashews, as well as raisins and saffron. 

Moong dal ka halwa has a rich, creamy texture and a sweet, nutty flavour. It is typically served warm and is considered a festive or special occasion dessert in Central India, particularly during weddings and festivals like Diwali and Holi. 


Malpua is a popular dessert in Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India. It is similar to the traditional Indian sweet dish of the same name but with some variations in the preparation method and ingredients used. 

In Madhya Pradesh, malpua is typically made from a batter of flour, milk, and semolina, which is flavoured with saffron and cardamom. The batter is usually left to ferment for a few hours, which gives the malpua a soft and fluffy texture. 

Once the batter is ready, small portions of it are deep-fried in ghee or oil until they turn golden brown and crispy. The fried malpuas are then soaked in a sugar syrup flavoured with cardamom and saffron, which adds sweetness and moisture to the dessert. Some versions of malpua in Madhya Pradesh may also include the addition of mashed bananas, coconut, or khoya (solidified milk) to the batter for additional taste and texture. 

Malpua is typically served hot, garnished with chopped nuts, such as almonds or pistachios, or with a dollop of rabri, a sweet milk-based sauce. It is a popular dessert during festivals, weddings, and other special occasions in Madhya Pradesh and is often enjoyed as a treat with family and friends.