Desert Cuisine: Rajasthani Ker Sangri

At the July 4th Barbecue, I was tasked with a vegetarian side-dish. Taking a gamble, I turned to Rajasthan, a state in India’s northwest that almost completely encompasses Thar desert (also called the Great Indian Desert). My wager paid off. With timely tips from my Udaipur friend Pankaj, Ker Sangri was a resounding hit !!

A few weeks ago I had ordered panchkutta— a mix of five kinds of dried vegetables– for this iconic Rajasthani dish. The shipping fee was ungodly, but so was my enthusiasm. The package arrived all the way from Jodhpur, to my complete amazement (I thought there would be a local NJ supplier 🙂 )

Regional Indian Cuisines never fail to amaze me. Truely. The five classic tree ingredients of this dish are ker, sangri, koomatiya, goonda, and mango. Koomatiya in particular caught my attention- it is the berry of a variety of mimosa native to Sudan! So with a fascinating backdrop of food anthropology, hyper-traditional-meets-modern-accessibility, ker sangri came together for a finger-licking finale. Enjoy!

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • Tree ingredients: Soak in water for 2-3 hrs (or, till bite-test) 1/2 cup sangri + 1/4 cup each of ker, koomatiya, gunda
  • Sour: 2-3 dried mango pieces soaked in 1/2 cup water (while you soak the above)
  • Sweet: 2 tbsp raisins soaked in 1/4 cup water
  • Spices: 1/8 tsp turmeric + 1/2 tsp red chilli powder + 1/4 tsp coriander powder + a pinch heeng
  • Tempering: 1/4 tsp ajwain + 2 bay leaves + 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil

Method

Drain the hydrated tree ingredients. Heat oil. Add all the tempering ingredients. When the seeds pop lightly (about 1 minute) add the spices and quickly mix (without burning) for 10 seconds or so. Add all the hydrated tree ingredients and fold in. Next add the sour and sweet ingredients along with their soaking water. Cover and let meld together for 8-10 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your taste. Serve hot.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I ordered the ingredients from Spice Platter.
  2. If you have a scale, then use 100 gm of sangri to 50 of gm each of ker, gunda, kumatiya.
  3. My version was light both in oil and spices, contrary to recommendations. Feel free to adjust to your taste. I found that I did not even have to salt it. Wonder why.
  4. Here are some interesting sources that you may like to read and view.

Photo: Tree ingredients pre-soaked; Hydrated, drained ingredients; Sautéed vegetables.