The Gond Thali: Kanha National Park's Tribal Meal In MP
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Set amidst the lush green forests of Madhya Pradesh lies Kanha National Park, home to the Royal Bengal tiger and a myriad of exotic wildlife. But Kanha has more to offer than just nature walks and wildlife sightings. For food connoisseurs, it presents a unique opportunity to savour the indigenous Gond tribal cuisine through the Gond Thali.   

Rashmi Mehta, SHO Tribal Department, Satpura, MP “To truly understand the local culture, one must experience their traditional food.” The Gond Thali offers just that—a tantalising taste of Kanha's fascinating indigenous food heritage. As you savour mouthfuls of exotic flavours, it will transport you right into the heart of tribal India. So come with an appetite and let Kanha's wild cuisine stir your soul!  

The Authentic, Natural Cuisine of India's Gond Tribe  

The Gond or Gondwana people are the largest surviving indigenous tribe in India, traditionally making their home within the forests. This deep connection to nature is reflected in the Gond diet and food culture, which showcase local grains, vegetables, and cooking methods honed over generations to live in balance with their surroundings.  

Mehta said, “The Gonds rely on millets as dietary staples, with two varieties - askodo and kutki, often eaten as porridge for daytime meals or dry cereal with vegetables for dinner.” She further added, “The vegetables are grown in small gardens or foraged from the forests, providing a bounty of local produce to complement the millets. Rice is considered a luxury, saved for special feasts and festivals when the Gonds can revel in the rare treat.”  

Cooking techniques also point to the tribe's ingenuity and harmony with nature. A fascinating example is kikad roti, made by wrapping balls of dough between camel foot tree leaves and cooking directly over an open fire. Once the leaves blacken and the roti is golden brown, it's removed and served immediately, warm and infused with the earthy flavour of the fire and leaves.  

Dishes That Make This Gond Thali A True Tribal Experience  

Pan Bada  

Black urad dal, also known as black gram, is the key ingredient in this delicious dish. The dal is soaked overnight to soften. Then, it is ground with ginger, garlic, salt, and green chilies to make a smooth, spiced batter. This batter is then fried in a pan to create crispy, flavourful fritters. The soaking of the dal allows it to absorb flavours while also softening the batter. The spices and herbs add flavour.   

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Kulthi Dal - Horse Gram   

Horse gram lentil stew, also known as kollu curry, is a nutritious Indian dish with a deep brown hue. Slow-cooking the protein-packed horse gram lentils allows their earthy flavour to develop fully. Tempered with spices like cumin and simmered in rich ghee, this dal curry releases a tempting aroma. Believed to help dissolve kidney stones, horse gram is often eaten for its medicinal benefits. It is usually served with rice.   

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Barmarakas Ki Chakri - Arbi Ke Patte   

Arbi ke patte are crispy fried colocasia leaf fritters, a popular Indian food. The process begins by washing and drying colocasia leaves. A spiced chickpea flour batter containing salt, chilli powder, coriander powder, and ginger garlic paste is made. This batter coats the leaves before steaming. The steamed leaves are cut into pieces and deep-fried until crispy and brown. Finally, they are sprinkled with chaat masala and served with chutney.   

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Kicad Roti   

Kicad Roti, a specialty of Rajasthani cuisine, begins with a simple wheat dough flavoured with salt, ghee, and the unique addition of camel foot leaves. The dough is shaped into small balls, sandwiched between two washed and oiled leaves, and then cooked slowly over cow dung cakes.

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This imparts a smoky taste to the roti. When ready, the burnt outer leaves are peeled away, revealing the flatbread within.  

Bhedra Chutney   

Made from organic tomatoes, garlic, coriander leaves, green chillies, and jeera powder, this chutney is tasty enough to leave you wanting for more.

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After fine grinding, this mixture is put in a pan to fry and is served as a side dish in the thali.