HomeTravelBikaneri bhujia: The Indian snack that gave a Rajasthan town its identity

Bikaneri bhujia: The Indian snack that gave a Rajasthan town its identity

Bikaner, Rajasthan, India (CNN) — Indian poet Ashok Vajpeyi referred to as Bikaner “a city where one half of the population is occupied with making bhujia and the other half eating it.”

Anyone visiting this far-flung vacation spot in northwest India’s frontier state of Rajasthan may agree. The golden and crispy fried snack, formed like noodles, is served in every single place from tiny roadside tea stalls to high-end cocktail bars.

It finds its approach onto each course — as toppings on breakfast and on lunch and time for dinner curries. Why? Because it is scrumptious — made with a native bean generally known as moth or gram flour seasoned with conventional spices. Another fashionable variant, aloo bhajia, is made with potatoes.

Bikaner is not missing in taste itself. A spot of shifting dunes, camels and historical forts constructed by warrior kings, simply 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the Pakistan border, it is a quintessential desert panorama.

Locals check with themselves as being saral, sukh, and sust (easy, joyful, lazy). Simple and joyful, maybe, however the bhujia makers listed below are removed from lazy — they begin work at 4 a.m. most days to be able to collectively produce greater than 250 tons earlier than clocking off.

Some bhujia makers have experimented with flavors like barbecue and wasabi.

Gyanpratim/Adobe Stock

A scrumptious historical past

It’s an obsession almost 150 years within the making.

The story goes that in 1877, Bikaner state monarch Maharaja Shri Dungar Singh commissioned a novel savory merchandise to deal with friends at his palace — and the royal cooks got here up with bhujia.

Little did Singh know that what emerged from his kitchen would turn out to be an edible Indian nationwide treasure.

News of bhujia unfold quick and shortly it was being made in properties across the state. In 1946, one enterprising native, Ganga Bishan Agarwal, started promoting the snack from a humble store in a Bikaner backstreet.

A decade later, Agarwal left town to create his personal candy empire, which proved so profitable that a number of curious businessmen from farther afield had been prompted to hint his origins and found the magic of bhujia.

This gate once marked the entrance to the old city of Bikaner.

This gate as soon as marked the doorway to the previous metropolis of Bikaner.

Stefano Barzellotti/iStock Editorial/Getty Images

Today most bhujia-producing companies have their roots again in Bikaner. But that doesn’t imply that you possibly can arrange a wok and churn out bhujia wherever and name it ”Bikaneri.”

For many fans, only bhujia made in Bikaner counts as the “actual factor.”

In 2010, the Bikaneri bhujia was issued a coveted Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government. Now only those manufacturing inside the geographic territory of Bikaner are allowed to use the adjective ”Bikaneri” to label their bhujia — just like only one region of France can call its sparkling wine Champagne.

Despite it’s fame, Bikaneri bhujia remains a cottage industry in Bikaner — albeing one that provides employment to around 2.5 million people, especially women, in the region’s villages.

From a local favorite to a global brand

But what makes Bikaner’s snacks so special?

“The magic is within the air,” claims Deepak Agarwal, a descendant of the Ganga Bishan family who is a giant of today’s Bikaneri bhujia scene, selling the delicacy under the popular Bikaji brand name.

“While the remainder of our household took over totally different geographical areas of India, my father determined to settle right here and began his enterprise,” he says.

“You can not get the identical taste even should you export the components from right here to fabricate it elsewhere.”

An arid climate, a distinctive red chili known as longi mirch, which blends well with local spices, and the region’s saline water are also key ingredients, he says.

Bhujia is namkeen -- a term that refers to many savory snack foods in India and elsewhere in South Asia.

Bhujia is namkeen — a time period that refers to many savory snack meals in India and elsewhere in South Asia.

Deep Creation/Adobe Stock

For Dr. Chef Saurabh, a culinary writer and educator, “Bikaneri bhujia will not be a meals, however an emotion.”

“There is a distinction within the style of any meals when it’s sourced from its origin, and bhujia from Bikaner is a good instance,” he says.

And now bhujia is attracting global attention.

In 2019, international food giant Kellogg’s contemplated buying a stake in best-selling Bikaner bhujia-maker Haldiram Snacks, although the deal was subsequently scrapped.

PepsiCo attempted to launch its own bhujia product in 1996. The masala-spiced product, which it called Lehar, couldn’t compete with Bikaneri classics and eventually vanished from store shelves.

A snack that travels

Meanwhile, a world away from Bikaner, bhujia from one of the brands owned by Ganga Bishan’s family can even be found on the shelves of a New Jersey Walmart — to the delight of Rajasthan emigrant Aartee Sodhani,

“We have a giant inhabitants of Indians right here,” she says. “Besides Walmart and Indian shops, it’s even out there on Amazon.com. I typically add it on a burger or a sandwich to quirk up my child’s meals. It gives some ‘Indianness’ to the overseas meals.”

For Sodhani and different Indians overseas, bhujia serves as an anchor from historical past to the ever-changing culinary scene of Indians irrespective of the place they’re on the planet.

And Ganga Bishan’s success story is only one of many. Today Maharaja Singh could be resting proudly in his grave realizing that Bikaner has produced bhujia barons who’ve made their presence felt approach past the desert alleyways of a small town in northwestern India.

Top picture: A lady buys bhujia from a road stall in Bikaner (Purushottam Diwakar/The The India Today Group/Getty Image)

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