Even nomads get a day off

Jaisalmer, India. While we are still in the general area of Jaisalmer, we have moved about seven miles away from the center of town to a resort further in the desert, called Jaisalkot.

This is a combination rest time and a catch-up-on-paperwork stopping-place.

The resort is very beautiful, and our room is stunning. Cannot complain about a lack of space or a lack of grace and charm. If this is desert living, I can highly recommend it.

The restaurant is quite lovely, though the stained glass windows throughout the resort do make me feel like we’re in an NBC sitcom. So far, we seem to be about the only people here, though they tell us the hotel is fully booked. Hmmm. Why are we always eating alone?

Tomorrow is definitely a work day till 3PM when we are picked up to go into the desert for a village tour, campfire dinner, and a sunset camel ride. Who knows when – or if – the next post will appear?

Don’s Food Corner

We’re in the desert, so why not sample some of the classic dishes of the region? And not just the general region of the large area of Rajasthan but the even more local cuisine of the Thar Desert.  When I expressed my interest to the waiter, I was directed to several choices. I chose three: ker sangrri, a “dry” vegetable dish of Ker berries and Samgri beans, both of which about the only vegetables that can grow in the desert; safed murgli, slow simmered chicken in cashew gravy; and missi roti, a flatbread made with a little wheat flour and a lot of chickpea flour.

Apparently this combination of traditional dishes was such an unusual request by a westerner that the chef came out of the kitchen just to look at us. The waiter explained that these dishes were truly traditional and had no Mughal influence. (Actually the Mughals never had direct control of this area and, reportedly neither did the British, although the people here are very bitter about how the British arbitrarily determined the nearby Pakistan border in 1947.)

Needless to say, perhaps, these dishes bore very little resemblance to any “Indian food” I’ve ever seen or tasted. Although I can’t judge how these dishes are made everywhere since my reactions are to the results from one kitchen, but overall I’d say they didn’t have that complex layered mix of spices.

In the south, where the largest array of spices come from, you can get a dozen or more spices in one dish. These are all combined in a careful balancing act to deliver the unique taste of each different dish.

The two main-course dishes I tried today — the vegetable and chicken dishes — didn’t have that kind of complexity. In fact, they seemed a little light on salt. Here, the vegetables were the main attraction. The sangri beans were kind of like green beans, but very different, almost like limp twigs. The cashew gravy, drizzled with a little yogurt, was the main ingredient in the chicken dish. There seemed to be very few other spices added to the cashew gravy. Perhaps in the desert the full spectrum of spices seen elsewhere were simply not available. The waiter doubted that we would ever taste these dishes prepared in this way anywhere else. I think that’s because they don’t seem “Indian” enough and wouldn’t be added to any menu without alteration to meet expectations.

The missi roti, the bread choice, also seemed to be lacking much spice or salt. But what a great color.

When I was ordering and asked if I needed rice, the waiter gave me a somewhat horrified look and a firm “no.” Rice, you see, would not be part of a desert diet since rice requires a lot of water to grow. Today there is plenty of rice available, but not when you want to do a desert meal in a traditional manner.

The meal was more of an interesting experience of Indian desert cuisine than a thrilling one. I’m afraid that I’m not going to add either to my cooking repertoire.

4 thoughts on “Even nomads get a day off

  1. Glad you tried the Ker Sangri and Missy Roti. I can understand them not making your cooking repertoire. Ker Sangri is hard to like and is so local that even most Indians are not familiar with this dish. Missy Roti, seasoned properly is more desirable as breakfast bread.
    The resort looks beautiful. Can’t wait to read about the Camel ride.

  2. I just saw this in my latest issue of “BBC History” magazine. Thought it might be helpful. It was published in the November 14, 1879 issue of the “Litchfield Mercury” in Staffordshire under the heading of “Camel Riding”. “Readers were told to seat themselves in the broad saddle and cross their legs in front of the pommel and then to expect the unexpected: Before you are ready something like a private earthquake begins under you. The camel raises his hindquarters suddenly, and throws you over upon his neck; and before you recover from that, he straightens up his knees and gives you a jerk over his tail; and, when you are not at all certain what has happened, he begins to move off with that dislocated walk which sets you in to a see-saw motion.” Have fun.

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