Indian food, and I mean the entirety of the cuisine including its regional gems and lesser-known specialities from all corners of the country, is close to impossible to beat. The unique spice blends, lengthy preparation hours, unusual ingredients, and a whole lot of love and care make the dishes special.
Rajasthani food, in particular, is one that makes our mouths water and our eyes shimmer. Something about the food still reminds us of regal times and the royalty that came before us. One such dish that most of India knows and loves is the memorable Dal Baati Churma. The baked balls of dough (baati), flavourful panchmel dal, and the sweet notes of churma –– the combination is faultless. A wholesome and fulfilling meal, the three-pronged dish, in fact, has a rather interesting history to it.
It all began with the humble baati. Way back when Bappa Rawal ruled the Mewar Kingdom in Rajasthan, baati was no less than a wartime meal. Before heading into war, the Rajput soldiers would almost bury these dough balls or chunks under the top layer of sand, and would find baked versions of them when they returned. Once dusted off, they would dress them with desi ghee and pair it with some form of buttermilk or curd.
The dal came into the picture much later. When the Gupta Empire trickled into Mewar, they brought along their love for the panchmel dal. A mixture of five lentils (hence the name, panchmel) –– moong dal, chana dal, toor dal, masoor dal and urad dal –– is prepared with aromatics and spices such as cumin, cloves, chilli, and more. Elevating the baati-dahi/doodh combo to dal baati, the Guptas established the union of two major components of one of India’s most popular dishes. Now, the next-to-nothing type of flavour from the dairy was replaced by spice and nutrition.
Arguably the best bit about dal baati churma, the churma, was apparently an accidental invention. From the Guhilot clan of the Mewars, a cook mistakenly poured sugarcane juice onto some baatis. Of course, this led to the baatis becoming softer and soggier. This came to be the desired state, as the Guhilot women wanted to keep the baatis softer until the men returned home, and so, they began dunking the rather tough dough balls into a mixture of water and jaggery or sugarcane. Eventually, as the baati remained moist, it may have begun to fall apart into what we now know as churma. With time, locals added cardamom or any other spice or sweetener they desired.
And that is the tale of dal baati churma. First came the baati, then the dal, and finally the churma. This series of consequences in history gave birth to one of the most iconic dishes in India. Wholesome and nutritious in all possible ways, this triple threat of a dish is one that creates memories.
Ghee-soaked dough, punchy dal, and a sweet crumb to top it all off –– what more could we ask for?
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