When the rains come lashing down and the sweltering heat ends, different parts of the country start rustling up special dishes that go beyond the usual pakoras, bhutta, and chai. Here’s what India puts on its plate when monsoons awaken the appetite for something richer, crisper, and extra tempting than summer fare.
When it pours, it is time to leave the guilt behind and bite into one of India’s most delectable sweets called ghevar. An unusual texture like a honeycomb it’s made of flour and milk, fried in ghee then dunked in sugar syrup. Shops across Rajasthan offer this sinful sweet around the Teej festival. Laxmi Misthan Bhandar in Jaipur, one of the oldest mitthai shops in the city, has been selling ghevar since the 18th century.
Makai No Chevdo, Gujarat
Eating corn on the cob (bhutta) from the street vendor with a sprinkle of masala and lime is popular during monsoons when bumper corn harvests arrive. But Gujarat serves it up differently. Makai no chevdo is steamed corn kernels that are tossed with toasted peanuts, chillies, and sprinkled with masala and sev. You will see it flying off carts in Ahmedabad but it is easy to make this apt monsoon snack at home.
Malpua, North India
When flour, khoya, dry fruits, sugar, and ghee all combine to make a rich pancake, how can it not be delicious? Eaten with rabri, this deep-fried sweet is traditionally cooked twice a year – around the festival of Holi and when the rains arrive. While most sweet shops in north India serve malpua, the best ones are usually prepared at home. Fry it a bit longer so that it becomes crisp around the edges while the centre remains soft.
Fishing is not allowed in the monsoon season, but Goans cannot do without seafood, so how do they satisfy their craving? They stock up on extra shrimp or mackerel in summer, salt and sun-dry it. It’s then tossed up in salads typically with tamarind, coconut, onions, and chillies with a dash of lime. It’s crunchy, sour – almost like a seafood bhelpuri. It’s also prepared with prawns, bitter gourd, jackfruit stem, and beans.
Rushichi Bhaji, Maharashtra
Monsoons signal the start of the festive season and one dish that is prepared extensively across Maharashtra on the second day of Ganesh Chaturthi is rushichi bhaji – a concoction of seasonal vegetables like yam, green banana, corn, amaranth stems, and arbi. It is a one-pot dish that’s slow-cooked without onions and garlic. Instead, its distinct flavours come from tamarind, coconut, jaggery, and green chillies. Some chefs liken it to the English potpie. It is typically not served in restaurants but The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai did their version of rushichi bhaji in their monsoon special menu last year.
Fiddlehead Fern, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh
Call it lungru, linguda, lingud, kutelda, or karsod – this healthy fern is high in antioxidants and fibres, grows abundantly in the Himalayan region, and is plucked in the monsoons. Many households in Uttarakhand and Himachal cook it as a simple vegetable without adding too many spices to preserve its nutritional value. The fern can also be used in salads or even turned into a pickle. It is served as part of the Himachali dham during this season.
Khichuri, West Bengal
Bengali people will agree that the first dish they eat when it rains is ‘Khichuri’. The mix of dal, rice, a few veggies with a dollop of ghee is true comfort food. The accompaniments matter even more – pickle, fried pappad and fritters called bhaja – it can be potato, eggplant, or even egg. Restaurants in Kolkata include this in their menu during the monsoon season.
Ilish Maach, West Bengal
Like Goans, Bengali people love their fish and when the monsoon makes its way to the state; it’s time to tuck into hilsa, considered a delicacy. One of its most popular preparations, called sorsheIllish, is typically made with mustard and relished with steamed rice. Eating it is like an art since the fish is full of tiny bones.
Karkidaka Kanji, Kerala
This porridge made of red rice, coconut milk, jaggery, peppercorn, cumin, and fenugreek, is widely believed to have healing properties as it is supposed to ward off colds, flu, and is also an immunity booster in the wet months. But a steaming bowl of karkidaka kanji, sprinkled with fried onions, is as soul-satisfying as it is healthy, especially when dark skies are bringing those bountiful rains.