travelBLOGueAs an avid foodie my travels are directed by a quest for food. Food with a story, food that helps me learn a little more about a place and its people-food that is made with love, and of course, food that tastes delicious.
Flavors of the DangsBy Kirkin
The end of the year was marked by a road trip, an adventure into the jungles of the Dangs, a mad weekend of driving, eating, meeting people, being with nature and greenery. Leaving Ahmedabad late one night, we weave in and out of the cars and trucks heading south. Valsad was our destination, the entrance to the Dangs. Here the pace changes, the view begins to clear and trees come up all around us. Both sides of the narrow road are lined with mango, chikoo and teak wood interspersed with small villages, dhabas and the occasional shepherd. We drive with the windows down, enjoying the fresh breeze, birds and the smell of nature.
Today we are looking for a Dangi joint, one of the few goals of our trip, but eventually our hunger has us stop at a dhaba, run by two young boys. They served what looked like the usual dhaba food - pav bhaji (a spicy vegetable dish eaten with bread) khaman and samosas. We take a punt on the pav bhaji and our apprehension turns to joy, their food is delicious. Great spicy bhaji and the highlight, a special condiment made from a local plant that looks like basil and tastes like lemongrass. It was spicy, sour and with a certain bite to it that was just very, very tasty. Our curiosity took us out the back to see the plants for ourselves, a bunch of bushes clumped together at the edge of a big orchard in an area that is incredibly green and thriving. Back inside, we downed our second chai, delicious, thick and spicy; it was the perfect end to our meal.
Stuffed and sleepy we decided to get going, but when the boys told us there was a place about eight kilometres down the road which had Dangi food, we knew we had to find some space to sample this unique local cuisine. And when we arrived at Nahri, a friendly roadside restaurant run by a local women's cooperative we knew it was going to be worth it. The warm atmosphere and natural surroundings set the scene for the delicious, healthy thali that was to come. We could see why they were so popular with locals and visitors alike. In fact, their food was so good we took a detour on the way back home to eat there again.
Their specialty is naagli na rotla (a heavy rose colored millet bread, usually cooked on a griddle over an open flame), and urad ni dal (a lightly spiced, thick black and white lentil dish) which they serve with a shaak (vegetable dish), salad, rice, another dal and pickle. Naagli is the traditional grain of this community and they regard it as holy. It's supposed to be hard to buy the flour used to make rotlas as the local communities don't want to see it wasted. This leaves Nahri as one of the few places to taste naagli, as well as other local vegetables, a few of which are displayed on the walls of the restaurant.
Eighteen women work at the cooperative and each brings her own touch to the menu, keeping the meals fresh, tasty and local. My favorite addition was a chutney made of dry red chilies, ginger, lemon and a little sugar - tangy, sweet and spicy, a great accompaniment to the rice and dal that followed our rotla.
Happily satiated and with very full bellies we left. Thanks to the lovely old man who ran the well-kept nursery next door, every time I look at the green and yellow plant that now sits on my balcony, I am reminded of this peaceful place.
Posted on: Feb 25, 2011