Makar Sankranti: Chefs Celebrate Memories Of Gujarati Undhiyu

Makar Sankranti is known as the festival of harvest, celebrating the transition of the sun into Capricorn and the year-end harvest marking prosperity and abundance with different kinds of celebrations like kite flying, feast and many other traditions. In 2024, Makar Sankranti will be celebrated with huge fervour and pomp on January 14 and 15, depending on auspicious tithi or timings across India and the world. This festival is all about celebrating the new harvest, and so naturally, food is an essential part of the celebrations. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Tarla Dalal

One such tradition of Makar Sankranti, especially in Gujarat, is having the traditional Gujarati dish Undhiyu as a part of the feast. The dish features all the winter vegetables with a heavy base of ghee or oil cooked traditionally, served as it marks an abundance of food and resources. So special is the place that Undhiyu holds in the Gujarati culinary culture that people belonging to the region cook up the dish no matter where in the nation or world they are, especially around Makar Sankranti. 

This Makar Sankranti, Slurrp caught up with a few Gujarati chefs, homechefs and food experts to understand this critical role that Undhiyu plays in the harvest festival and its celebration across India and the world. Here's what they had to say.

Undhiyu, The Culinary Essential For All Gujaratis, Everywhere

Nishit Dalal, the incredible chef behind Bombay Boy in Delhi, explains how this dish is a favourite of his and everyone in Gujrat, "Every winter, undhiyu is a culinary must-have. As the saying goes in Gujarati: "Jya jya vasse ek Gujarati, tya tya sadakaal Gujarat – wherever a Gujarati resides, there's always a touch of Gujarat '', he says.

"Different types of Undhiya are made in the house as per the preference of the family members. Every house has a different style and recipe for making undhiya," says Renu Dalal, who is not only Tarla Dalal's daughter but a renowned chef and cookbook author in her own right.  

Urmila Ben Asher, the incredible grandmother who is well-known by her moniker of Gujju Ben Na Nashta, says that she loves to eat Green Undhiya as it tastes better than a red one. While Chef Pranav Joshi, who has captured the nation's imagination with his charm and talent on television, says that "small baby potatoes with skin and leela lehsun taste delicious in the dish and are my favourite." 

The Memories And Tradition Attached To Undhiyu

The undhiyu holds very deep cultural values and traditions, with lots of nostalgia and memories of families celebrating Makar Sankranti and cherishing the dish with their favourite seasonings, vegetables, and much more. Undhiyu, a dish crafted from around 15 winter greens, is a cherished tradition passed down from my mother. In our hometown, it serves as a reason to gather around community tables, as she prepares a generous batch for sharing with loved ones. 

"The meticulous three-day preparation involves tasks like peeling papdi to make muthia (deep-fried gram flour balls with methi). I stick to my mom's recipe, a family treasure spanning at least a century” says Nishit Dalal. 

“Different types of undhiya are made in the house as per the preference of the family member. Every house has a different style and recipe for making undhiya. The recipes are passed down for generations. My mother loved putting green garlic in the undhiyu which is available in winter . I put that in my recipe too which gives a earthy flavour to the undhiya.” says Renu Dalal.

While Pranav Joshi added to it that “This is one of my favourite festivals to celebrate, I used to wait around for days. It was the time where us friends used to gather around the terrace having lots of fun with kite flying. The undhiyu was made in every other house. I cherish the dish and the memory of having lots of fun close to my heart.”

Urmila Asher, while reminiscing says, “The dish made traditionally with the same old taste and recipe feels like home. It may be different for every family but the dish brings everyone closer to home.”

Secrets Revealed: The Best Ways To Make Undhiyu

There are different kinds of winter vegetables and spices added to the dish to make it more lovable and tasty. The undhiyu is the true definition of home, and here is what the food experts have to say on their take on what to add and what not as the secret ingredient. 

Pranav Joshi loves to add baby potatoes with skins and make it on a healthy note. The key to making a good undhiyu is not to make it spicy but to add a lot of dumplings and papdi to it. Also the best side to have undhiyu with is fried puris which are chef’s absolute favourite. 

“I would always say that a secret ingredient is love that you put in recipes. My mother put huge dollops of that. The muthiyas  she would put in the undhiya are divine. I would eat them just like that.” shares Renu Dalal. While the absolute secret to undhiyu lies in the Papdi/ Surti papdi is the best to use in the dish and is the secret ingredient for Urmila Asher and Nishit Dalal. “No other Papdi can do, only the Surat ones are the best,” says both. 

“Purple yam (kand) is my favourite vegetable and I have a recipe containing  purple yam in all my books.  I do love the purple yam preparation in undhiya” added Renu Dalal. Adding further she also suggests a perfect mixture of vegetables include raw banana , black brinjal, sweet potatoes, green lasan, ginger, coriander, methi muthiyas. You get all the flavours that blend so well. It takes time to cook the dish and get all the ingredients but it’s worth it. Undhiyu is made with Gujarati kadhi and puri. It does taste divine.

Nishit Dalal also added further that, “making the dish simple is the best way to keep it authentic and real. My mother is my biggest inspiration for the dish and I follow her cooking forward to share the most authentic taste.” Undhiyu is a dish of emotion and love. Everyone has their own unique touch to it, just like how their loved ones enjoy reminiscing the memories and the nostalgia from their hometown. Try this special dish, this Sankranti, to enjoy a homely yet royal dish.