The Gujarati Spice Box The Gujarati Spice Box

The Gujarati Spice Box

What does Gujarat taste like? Sheetal Bhatt from Route2Roots blog gives us an overview of flavors and key ingredients including a very special box...

If you are familiar with cuisines of Gujarat, the first foods that come to mind are probably Khakhra, Dhokla, Handvo or Thepla. Thinking about them, we are already drooling! These favorite snacks (known as Farsan) are seen across every major city in India. Just like they are synonymous with the state unfortunately, so is the perception that "Gujarati food is sweet".

The myth of Gujarati food

"It is anything but sweet!", exclaims Sheetal Bhatt, creator of Route to Roots, a repository of food stories that uphold the dignity of the everyday Gujarati home cook, "It is a fine balance of sweet, sour, spice and salt, all in one morsel."
This culinary intricacy of balancing flavors is best seen in the simplest of everyday foods like a Khati Meeti Dal (sour & sweet dal) or a Batata nu Shaak (a common potato preparation).

Bataka nu Shaak, common Gujarati potato preparation by Sheetal Bhatt from Route 2 Roots. Photo: Sheetal Bhatt

Of dals and landscapes

The food across Gujarat is well defined by its landscape. From the Kathiyawadi Region, known as Saurashtra that shares a border with Rajasthan; to Surat in the south, the home base of the Undhiyu; to the dry arid region of the Kutch; or the bustling street food on the streets of Ahmedabad; "Depending on the region or the community the flavours can be anything from robust to refined", says Sheetal.
Generally the cuisine has a soft spot for a good dal. Tur (pigeon pea) is commonly prepared with sweet and sour flavours from jaggery and dried raw mango.

Gujarati dal is sweet & sour. Photo & preparation: Sheetal Bhatt

The Spice Box

The Gujarati pantry will always be stocked with flour of bajra (pearl millet), jowar (sorghum), makai (corn), rice, besan (chickpea). It will also have the famous Gujarati spice box fragrant with turmeric, red chilli powder, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin, hing (asafoetida), a Gujarati version of garam masala known as dal shaak no masalo and an ingredient different to all other cuisines in India - the dhana-jeera (cumin-coriander) ground together into a powder.

Gujarati Spice Box arrangement from Route 2 Roots. Photo: Sheetal Bhatt


Peanut oil is a common cooking oil and Vadi (lentil dumplings) are always around to add a burst of flavour to any meal. They are made from mung dal or chora dal and are sun dried. They become part of the Gujarati vegetables or curries. Especially when there is lesser availability of fresh vegetables. And since Gujarat is predominantly a vegetarian state, Vadi also act as a protein provider.

Handmade Vadi preparation in Gujarat. Photo: Sheetal Bhatt

Want to explore more about the flavours of Gujarat?
Check out Sheetal's videos. In this video she takes us on a virtual tour of her kitchen and introduces us to the dynamic dishes of the state.

In the second video Sheetal takes us on a journey through Rural Gujarat, and shows us the unique tools and forgotten foods of the state.

Gujarat Ingredients & Products rural Virtual escapes traditional dishes Article Video
Sheetal Bhatt

Sheetal Bhatt

Sheetal Bhatt is a social development professional, who had worked extensively with some of the most marginalised communities of Gujarat. Child Rights, Biodiversity Conservation, Conservation of traditional farming practices are the causes dear to her. Sheetal has been documenting the native foods of Gujarat along with fading culinary practices and traditions through her blog TheRoute2Roots. Follow her on Instagram.

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