Rajasthani cuisine is predominantly vegetarian and heavy on the use of pulses and hardy grains, such as millet, due to the state's arid desert climate. However, in Udaipur, the cuisine has been influenced by the Rajput rulers of the Mewar region, who founded the city. They were keen hunters, so game meat predominated in their diet. The royal cooks used plenty of ghee (clarified butter), yogurt, chilies, and garlic to flavor the meat and match it to the tastes of the powerful warrior kings. In addition, the climate of the Mewar region is less-parched than other parts of Rajasthan. Thus, the cuisine also includes freshwater fish from the region's lakes and corn that flourishes in the region's richer soil. Here are the top foods you should try while in Udaipur.
Dal Bati Churma
Rajasthan's most iconic dish consists of three items: daal, a soup-like mixed lentil dish; baati, balls of bread made out of wholemeal wheat or jowar flour; and churma, baati crushed into a coarse powder, and fried in ghee and jaggery (a type of cane sugar). Dal Bati Churma is a fixture at festivals and other celebrations including weddings.
Gatte ki Sabji (Gatta Curry)
Steamed chickpea flour dumplings are cooked in a tangy, spicy yogurt-based curry to make this ubiquitous Rajasthani dish. "Gatta" refers to the solid dumpling pieces in the curry. The Mewari style, prevalent in Udaipur, has tomato and onion added to the gravy. Pair it with Makki ki Roti (corn flour flatbread).
You might be familiar with pakoras as a popular street food in India. They're also added to curry in Rajasthan, albeit without the fillings such as potato and onion. Small portions of chickpea flour batter are deep-fried until golden br, and then placed in a thick gravy of yogurt, chickpea flour, and spices.
Kadhi Pakora appears on menus all over Udaipur though diners praise the dish at Tribute restaurant, overlooking Fateh Sagar Lake. Or, if you'd prefer a rooftop view of Lake Pichola, head to the restaurant at Jaiwana Haveli.
Banjara Murgh (Nomadic Chicken Curry)
Banjara Murgh is a chicken curry prepared with coarsely pounded spices and slow-cooked over a fire, as was done by the region's nomadic people. The Banjara Murgh at Royal Repast is recommended by the chef. This restaurant specializes in the traditional Mewari style of cooking and is located in the owner's ancestral home. The owner's grandfather was Prime Minister of Mewar state, and his mother learned many recipes from the expert royal cooks.
Ker Sangri is a rather unusual dish comprised of pickled wild indigenous berries and beans. The ker berries come from a thorny leafless shrub and resemble capers, while the long stringy sangri beans are pods from Rajasthan's state tree, the khejri tree. Both grow in the Thar desert. The berries and beans are picked and dried, to be used when seasonal vegetables are scarce.
The dish is a specialty at Hari Garh restaurant, alongside Lake Pichola.
Laal Maas (Red Mutton Curry)
Carnivores who love their food hot and spicy will definitely want to sample the formidable signature dish of Mewari rulers: Laal Maas. It is a fiery crimson mutton (usually goat not lamb) curry loaded with pungent red Mathania chillies and ghee.
Enjoy it in style with a signature Udaipur view across Lake Pichola to the City Palace at Upre or Ambrai restaurants. Or, if you'd rather somewhere less fancy head to Rajwada Bites. But be warned: this dish burns!
Machli Jaisamandi (Fish Curry)
Unique to Udaipur, Machli Jaisamandi gets its name from nearby Lake Jaisamand. Mewar ruler Jai Singh created the lake in the 17th century and it's among the largest artificial lakes in the world. The dish is a light, tomato-based freshwater fish curry, and one of the tribes in the area is thought to have served the dish to the ruler.
Safed Maas (White Mutton Curry)
While the royal men feasted on Laal Mass, a much more mellow Safed Maas was served to the ladies. The mutton in this dish is cooked in a creamy white yogurt and cashew nut gravy, lightly spiced with cardamom.
Dine on it in a regal setting at Paantya, the restaurant at Shiv Niwas Palace hotel inside the Udaipur City Palace Complex. Many authentic Mewari dishes are available there. Safed Maas is a chef's special at Tribute restaurant as well.
Boiled Egg Bhurji
For a fuss-free snack, grab yourself some piping hot boiled egg bhurji from The Egg World at Chetak Circle in Udaipur. Owner Jai Kumar gives a twist to the popular Indian take on scrambled eggs, flavoring it up with his special blend of sugarless ketchup, spices, onion, and tomato. Jai's inventive egg recipes have taken him all the way to be a contestant on "MasterChef India."
Biting into a crispy mirchi bada will definitely wake your taste buds up! This famed Rajasthani street food features large green chillies stuffed with spices and potato, and deep fried in chickpea flour batter.
Manak Balaji's Mirchi Bada Center, opposite Jyoti Secondary School, has been in business since 1967. It's open from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m, and the lines can get long. Jagdish Misthan Bhandar (JMB) in Surajpole is a more central and convenient option.
Khargosh ke Kebab (Rabbit Kebab)
Mewar rulers considered wild rabbit to be a delicacy and these days, it's only offered at a few restaurants in Udaipur. The minced rabbit kebabs at Royal Repast are prepared according to an old family recipe, with freshly ground whole spices, and shaped like a shami kebab (resembling a flattened meatball). Upre also serves minced rabbit cooked in spices (Khargosh ka Keema).
Come 7 a.m. and a crowd is already eagerly awaiting fresh kachori (deep-fried pastry discs stuffed with fillings such as spiced lentils or onion) at Paliwal Misthaan restaurant near the Jagdish Temple in Udaipur. In case they're sold out, try Jagdish Shri Restaurant close by. Other renowned alternatives are Shri Lala Kachori near Asthal Mandir, or one of the branches of JMB (JMB Nashta Center near Chetak Circle makes many different types of kachori).
Traditional Rajasthani malpua may be the sweetest pancakes you've ever had. They're fried and then dunked in sugar syrup. The use of coarsely ground wheat flour (atta) in Udaipur gives them a crispier texture. Many local roadside sweet shops around the City Palace sell malpua. For a more hygienic environment, visit Jodhpur Misthan Bhandar sweet shop at Bapu Bazar, opposite the Town Hall.
Regarded as the king of sweets in Rajasthan, ghevar is a super-indulgent cake-like dish that will alarm your arteries. It's soaked in sugar syrup and ghee, and sometimes topped with nutty rabri (thickened sweetened milk). Ghevar is commonly made during religious festivals such as Teej and Gangaur in Udaipur, as it's offered to the deities before being distributed.