FOOD TRAVELS: JODHPUR (RAJASTHAN, INDIA)
I have for the longest time been enthralled by visions of Jodhpur – the blueness of the houses stark against the backdrop of sienna, brown and tan. The city of Jodhpur has eluded me, but last month (March), I packed my bags and off I went. I did of course have some help from a friend who now calls Jaipur her home (full disclosure – my friend is the heart and soul behind Travel & Special Things; a bespoke travel and experience company).
Mine is not a travel blog (although I would so recommend going to Jodhpur and seeing the place), so I will need to take you on my Jodhpur journey via what I ate and drank (and if I have some shots of the places I will share those too)… hopefully it will give you an birds-eye view of what the city has to offer..
The Step Well Café
The magnificent triple-decker hovers above the historic Toorji’s Jhalra, an early 18th century Stepwell which has incomparable views of the stepwell and offers Indian and Continental food. I for one visited here after a long walk around the Clock Tower area and all I could think of was a nice refreshing drink and a place to sit down before dinner. I had a virgin mojito – the perfect choice.
Location: The Step Well Square, Toorji Ka Jhalra, Mokrana Mohalla, (Landmark: Next door to Raas), Jodhpur Tel: +91 7230021024/ +91 291 2636455
Dari Khana (Raas Hotel)
Set in Jodhpur’s old walled city, in the shadow of majestic Mehrangarh Fort, Raas Jodhpur brings an 18th-century haveli (Maharaja’s mansion) feel to me. I wanted to enjoy a good Rajasthani meal (not the thali – had done that before umpteen times. But if you haven’t I would totally recommend you try a Rajasthani thali – my only advice would be have it at lunch as it’s a filling and heavy meal) and so choose to dine at Dari Khana, a relaxed space of cushioned banquettes, candle-lit tables and scene-stealing fort views.
What I had on recommendation of the server were Tandoori Lamb Chops – perfectly cooked and delicious. And yet, the Laal Maas (‘laal’ as in red which is the colour of the gravy as a result of the red Mathania chillies that are used and ‘maas’ as in meat, in this case it was lamb) is still a dish whose taste enfolded in a nice buttery garlic naan refuses to let me forget.
(Spoiler alert: the floodlights that you see at the top of the fort are thanks to the filming of a Bollywood movie – Thugs of Hindostan. I imagine this view to be even more spectacular with just moon-kissed light casting a gentle glow over the fort enhancing its silhouette).
Location: Raas Jodhpur, Toorji Ka Jhalra, Makrana Mohalla, Jodhpur Tel: +91 291 2636455
Chokelao Garden Terrace Café
A visit to Jodhpur would be incomplete without you visiting the Mehrangarh Fort. What I find with some people is that they very often fail to explore and just keep on the beaten track – very often missing on some hidden gems. The Chokelao Garden Café is one such place which you will find at the base of the Fort and is an 18th-century garden that has been converted into a lovely café. It is also a great place to rest up after having walked for nearly 2-3 hours trying to navigate the rooms and corridors of the fort, taking in the vistas of the blue city while attentively listening to history being retold via a pair of headphones.
Location: Chokelao Garden Terrace Cafe, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur Tel: +91 291 255 5389 /254-8790
A trip to Jodhpur would be very incomplete if you don’t try two things – Pyaaz ki kachori (onion filled spicy deep fried snack) which is believed to have originated in the city and the famous mirchi vada (stuffed chilli pakodas). You get these all over the place – so personally I won’t recommend one place over another but just let you know that my hosts recommended that I try mine at Jodhpur Sweets. Sorry, I did not get a shot of the mirchi vada – my bad!!! On a side note, the last 3 kachoris in the photo below all came home with me!
Location: Jodhpur Sweets, 9th ‘C’ Road, Sardarpura, Jodhpur. Tel: +91 291 263 3762
Jhankar Choti Haveli
I walked past this garden restaurant on my way to see the Step Well and was instantly thought it must be popular based on how many people there were – all of them tourists. So, on one of my marathon walk-a-about on the following day I decided to stop, sit and have a nice cool drink here. It was around 5ish – too early for dinner but just the right time for a nice chocolate milkshake. I also took time to look at the menu and its 100% vegetarian and alcohol-free. Here you could get a thali, vegetable biryani or even a pizza – basically it caters to everyone – no wonder it was so popular.
Location: Jhankar Choti Haveli, Makarana Mohalla, Jodhpur Tel: +91 291 261 2590
Jodhpur is in fact a great city to have a snacking experience – everywhere you go – you will find namkeen (Namkeen is the Hindi word used to describe a savory flavoured snack which is more likely than not to be deep fried) being sold – in carts, in road-side stalls, in small humble walled ‘restaurants’. You just can’t miss them – even if you try! (Forgive the Jalebi shot – its sweet but also sold everywhere)
Location: Everywhere you look!!!
Just outside Jodhpur, Rohet Garh (Fortress of the Sun) is a family-owned fort in a rural Rajasthani village which I had the pleasure of lunching in post my village safari (totally recommend you do this). The weather even in the afternoon under the shade of deeply rooted trees was pleasant enough for me to want to sit and enjoy the beautiful well-manicured garden. I asked for something chicken – yet traditional and the Anokhi Handia made with local herbs and spices was recommended to me. To accompany it, they insisted I try both the Makki ka Sogra (in the picture it’s the one in the cane basket) which is made with maize and Batiya with its pastry-like layers of concentric circles are nothing short of artwork. I found myself flitting between the two breads – after each bite I felt I needed to have another mouthful with the other bread.. and that oscillating went on until the very end of my meal.
With no space for dessert and dejected looks from my servers and emotional conversations telling me who I could not leave without having something sweet, made me ask for my childhood favourite which I somehow forgot to include in my food eating habits as I grew older – ‘gud’ or jaggery. This seemed to appease both my servers and the minute that small piece of sweetness hit my tongue I was back to being my 4-year old self and I made a promise to myself that I would reintroduce it into my kitchen once I came back to Dubai.
Location: Rohet Garh C/o Rohet House, PWD Road, Jodhpur Tel: +91 8448 285349
Ker Sangri originated on the arid land of Rajasthan and evolved as a vegetable dish that is now a must on every menu. Ker, a shrub berry and Sangri, a bean of a flowering tree called Khejari, come together to make this absolutely delicious traditional dish. I was told that the green ker berries and sangri beans are dried until they shrink and turn a dark brown, almost black color and are then stored which is what they used to do in bygone days after harvesting the land which only got a few months of rain when crops could grow. I had the ker sangria with naan and I think I might have had to stop eating when I was scraping the bowl.
Location: Winds, Near NCC Bhawan, Jodhpur Tel: +91 99822 22272
I knew Jodhpur was a city I would fall in love with, what I did not know was how much their food and flavours would find a way into my heart. There were times when my choices of food made me question who this city had changed me into – I choose lamb over chicken, gud over chocolate, ker sangri over a non-vegetarian dish.
Jodhpur – the people, the food, the culture and the colours – have all come back with me to Dubai – in spirit, in my smile and in my memories. #Grateful