Why Are So Many Gujarati Dishes 'Sweet'?
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Saurashtra and Kutch, North Gujarat, Central Gujarat and South Gujarat, together make one big state of Gujarat that we know of today. The culture and food habits of these regions are distinct in their own right too. The climate and local vegetation have shaped the beautiful cuisine of Gujarat, which keeps changing as you travel farther and farther in the state. In fact, one of the things Gujarat is best known for is the Gujarati Thali, which is known to be one of the most colorful and loaded thalis in India. From starters, to mains to desserts, you find everything here, together in one plate, and in multiple varieties no less. Yet, age-old stereotypes associated with the cuisine refused to die. One of the most jarring one being, 'most of Gujarati food is sweet'

Let us go back to understanding the geography of Gujarat. It is largely a hot temperate zone, a part of Gujarat touches the Arabian sea, but fish, other seafood items and even meat rarely find a place in the typical Gujarati feast, unless of course, you are taking into account the cuisines of the Parsis and Bohri Muslims. More than 2/3rd of Gujarat is vegetarian. The widespread ‘vegetarianism’ may have something to do with the prevalence of Jainism.  

Since meat is off the radar and vegetation that is already limited, Gujurat relies on a lot of pulses and legumes for their daily dose of protein. Protein is essential for strength and in such hot regions, you may often find yourself out of strength and depleted.  Now coming to their Dals and Khichdis, that are famously ‘sweet’. While the pulses in these preparations help boost your strength, a chunk of ‘gur’ added in these dishes supposedly help boost energy.  

Long before we got acquainted to the ideas of ‘energy bars’, we had gur. A block of gur was enough to induce an instant burst of energy, no matter which time you chose to have it. In Gujarat, it was an age-old practice to welcome people with a glass of water and a block of ‘gur’ to reboot and rejuvenate them. Slowly, gur found its ways in dals and khichdis as well.  

That said, not all Gujarati food need to be made with addition of gur. Other delicacies of your Gujarati thali, like khaman, patra, sev tamater sabzi, can well give the most savoury Indian dishes a run for their money. As a matter of fact, the ‘Kathiawars’, a sect of North Gujarat, are known for their love for chillies, pickles and fiery hot dishes. Much like the Marwaris of Rajasthan, Kathiwads also eat a lot of bajra due to limited vegetation in the region, and to since bajra is so rich and chewy, hot and spicy foods help make the whole fare more balanced and palatable.  

So, the next time you are in Gujarat, we suggest when you sit down for a Gujarati Thali, you keep your preconceived notions behind. Gujarati thali is an assortment of many food items, all of which complement each other in terms of flavour and texture. Which is your most favourite Gujarati dish, do let us know?