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Celebrating undhiyu | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

January 14 has been marked as National Undhiyu Day. A regional speciality of the state of Gujarat, this winter mixed vegetable dish enjoys a cult status here, and is especially made and consumed during Uttarayan (the festival of kites) in households across the state. It gets it name from the Gujarati words ‘matlu’ meaning earthen pot and ‘undhiyu’ meaning upside down since it was traditionally cooked upside down in an underground space in earthen pots fired from above.

Origins of this winter vegetable casserole 

According to Kamlesh Barot of Revival Indian Thali, this regional favourite can trace its origins back to pre-industrial India, when food was cooked on wooden fires. He shares, “Even today, deep in the heart of Gujarat, it is still made the traditional way. It is the flavours from the sheer freshness of the veggies, the smokiness of the earthen pot and the bio-fuel that combine to give it the seasonal punch.”

The sheer variety on offer

Kamlesh informs us that from one tip of Southern Gujarat to the Northern-most tip of the state, undhiyu comes in different tastes and forms. It all depends on the availability of the ingredients. He shares, “While the Palanpuri undhiyu has mustard oil, the Kathiyawadi undhiyu has muthias, Ahmedabad’s undhiyu is reddish in colour and spicy while the Surti undhiyu is green and garlicky. The Valsad region creates an umbadiyu out of the same recipe. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that a different type of undhiyu comes from every 10 kilometres of Gujarat.” In fact, his wife, Vandana also takes orders for an authentic organic undhiya.

The Bohri connection...

Munaf Kapadia of The Bohri Kitchen, who also makes a mutton version of it, spills the beans on how this winter vegetable casserole got a meaty twist. He says, “The Bohri community is believed to have come from Yemen, and slowly migrated to Surat in Gujarat and now are present in all parts of the world. This migration resulted in a cultural exchange and hence you will see that Bohri food has traces of Yemeni and Gujarati food.” His mother Nafisa Kapadia, who mans the kitchen at TBK, adds her own twist to this Gujarati classic. She shares, “Along with the mutton and other winter vegetables, I use surti papdi (green flat beans) — a vegetable that’s only available during this time. The muthia is traditionally made with bajra/besan and moong dal, but I make it with jowar aata; this trick that I picked up from my mother-in-law helps making the muthias softer. I also add some coconut and green lasun to it that makes it flavourful.”

While not everyone has had a chance to taste the different varieties available, surti undhiyu is something that most have sampled thanks to the restaurants who specialise in it and add it to their menus year after year. Mularam Maharaj of Golden Star Thali who serves it here, informs us that undhiyu with puri and shrikhand is often eaten in Gujarati households during winters, adding, “Surti undhiyu is a variant that is served with puri at weddings and banquets. Again, it is a mixed vegetable casserole, made with red lentils and seasoned with spices, grated coconut, and palm sugar in a mild sauce. It is garnished with chopped peanuts and toasted grated coconut, and served with rice.”

Undhiyu and kite festival 

Gujaratis as a community love their jalebis, but the former gets stiff competition from the latter during winters. Maharaj Jodharam Choudhary, corporate chef, Khandani Rajdhani, tell us why. He says, “This dish is a speciality of Gujarat. It is made with over 15 vegetables that are seasonal. On Uttarayan, when the kites soar in the sky, people make a beeline for the undhiyu doing the rounds, and it’s as popular as a platter of jalebis.”

Clearly, if there was one dish that could divide loyalties in the state, the honour would go to undhiyu for its cult status that has transcended borders. Elevating it from a regional dish to a national one, that has a special day dedicated just to it.

Surti UndhiyuIngredients

750 gms flat Green beans (surti papdi)250 gms fresh Green pigeon peas (lilva dana)250 gms Fresh split pigeon peas (tuver dana) 100 gms Green peas200 gms Baby brinjals400 gms Baby potatoes400 gms Purple yams250 gms Sweet potatoes4 Rajgiri bananas30 ml Oil1 tsp Asafoetida (hing)A pinch of Soda bicarbonate 2 tsp Carom seeds (ajwain) 2 tsp coriander and cumin seeds powder

For methi muthias

1 cup Wheat flour3 tsp Gram flour (besan)1 tsp Ginger and green chilly paste3 tsp Fenugreek leaves crushed (methi)1 tsp Asfoetida (hing)1 tsp Turmeric A pinch of Soda bicarbonate1 tbsp OilOil 

Method for methi muthias

Mix together wheat flour, gram flour, chopped fenugreek leaves and all the masalas, and oil. Add little water and ensure that the dough is stiff and hard and not very soft. Make one inch balls and deep fry till golden brown. 

For the masala mix

3 Grated coconuts2 tsp Green chillies1 Big piece of pounded ginger1 Small bunch of Green garlic2 cups Coriander leaves chopped3 tsp Coriander and cumin seeds powder3 tsp Sugar1/4 tsp Asafoetida (hing)1/2 tsp Turmeric Salt to taste

Method

Cut the potatoes and brinjals into segments taking care not to separate them at the base. Take half the quantity of the masala mix and fill the masala in the segments. Keep it aside. In a thick and broad based vessel, add mustard seeds. When it starts crackling, add the green beans, along with the green pigeon peas and split pigeon peas. Add a pinch of soda bicarbonate to it. Add salt, carom seeds, ginger and crushed green chillies, coriander and ginger powder, half the green garlic and the remaining half masala. Mix the flat green beans when it starts simmering. Arrange the brinjals, potatoes, purple yam, diced sweet potatoes and green peas all around the simmering beans. Add the remaining masala and cover with a lid with a little water on top of it. Add the methi na muthias. Be careful as not to stir the veggies rigorously as the sections tend to break. Cook on a slow fire. When done, add the diced bananas and coriander and cumin powder, and cook for five minutes.

Recipe courtesy: Mularam Maharaj of Golden Star Thali



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