National Undhiyu Day: The Iconic Gujarati Dish With Yemeni Link
Image Credit: Undhiyu with pooris, Shutterstock

If you love the unique Gujarati dish Undhiyu, then you have a special day dedicated to it to express all your admiration for it. Every year January 14 marks National Undhiyu Day in India, which celebrates this culinary fare. Undhiyu, a mishmash vegetable dish, is a Gujarat regional speciality for the unversed. The word "undhu," which means "upside down" in Gujarati, is the source of the dish's name. Traditionally, the meal is prepared upside down underground in matlu or earthen pots. The matlus are fired from above, going against the conventional approach of firing from underneath. 

A winter delicacy

Undhiyu is a seasonal culinary fare. It is a medley of winter vegetables available along the South Gujarat coastline and in the surrounding areas. These vegetables are seasoned with a dry curry paste, which is a combination of several spices and occasionally freshly shredded coconut. Upon cooking the dish gets a dry look. 

Undhiyu's Yemeni Bohra link

In pre-industrial India, when wooden fires were the cooking mode, the Undhiyu can be attributed to its roots. Two distinct versions of Undhiyu are particularly notable; one comes from the Gujaratis, and the other from the Bohras. Due to the Bohras' long-ago migration in 1067 from Yemen to India's Gujarat region, these two communities' histories are entwined. Due to the cultural blending that ensued from this migration, Bohra and Yemeni flavours can be found in Gujarati cuisine and vice versa.

A serving of undhiyu, Image Source: Freepik

Sheer variety 

Depending on the availability of the ingredients, undhiyu has various flavours. The Kathiyawadi undhiyu contains muthias, the Palanpuri undhiyu has mustard oil and the spicy, crimson undhiyu hails from Ahmedabad. Green and garlicky describe the Surti undhiyu. A casserole of mixed vegetables, Surti Undhiyu, is the most popular type. The recipe calls for vegetables, red lentils seasoned with spices, grated coconut, and palm sugar. It is topped with chopped peanuts and toasted grated coconut. In a Gujarati wedding menu, undhiyu, especially Surti undhiyu is the hero-dish.

Uttarayan and Undhiyu

When the rest of the country celebrates Makar Sankranti, in Gujarat it has a different version, i.e., Uttarayan. For the Uttarayan, the Indian kite festival, undhiyu, is a must-have delicacy. This dish is a pride of the Gujaratis, who claim to use more than 15 seasonal vegetables in its preparation. When the kites soar in the sky on Uttarayan, on the ground, a series of undhiyu dishes give their aerial counterparts tough competition. Its popularity oozes to the extent that Jalebi-loving Gujaratis can forego the sweets in favour of this savoury dish. Nobody messes with undhiyu or the sentiments associated with it in Gujarat. This native grub takes hours to prepare. Thus, cooking it demands patience. Undhiyu is an excellent option for a community dish.

This year while celebrating Makar Sankranti, also take pride in observing National Undhiyu Day and indulging in this culinary fare with history and heritage.