90s kids would know best that Madhya Pradesh has been popularized as the “heart of Incredible India” with the tourism board’s television ads featuring colourful visuals and catchy tunes. From religious sites to dense forests – these advertisements deftly covered most of this state’s charm. But what they forgot to mention was its rich relationship with food. From daily dishes to quick street food, desserts, and puddings to even homemade liquor – each region of Madhya Pradesh is known for its different taste palettes. In the drier areas of north and western parts of Madhya Pradesh, wheat, and meat play an important role, while the south of the state is wetter and is dominated by fish and rice.
Madhya Pradesh cuisine also borrows heavily from its Neighbours. With the Malwa region around the western part of the state, Bundelkhand, and Mewar in the north, the food in Madhya Pradesh has flavours of Rajasthani food (especially the Dal Bafla) and Gujarat (with the Kadhi-Fafda). Madhya Pradesh is truly a gastronomic adventure for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike! No visit to Madhya Pradesh is complete without a tasting of the wide varieties of food it has to offer. Here are only some of the many dishes and beverages that make Madhya Pradesh a true culinary haven!
Poha has become a popular breakfast food in most of North and West India, but the Indori Poha is a class apart. This dish is made of flattened rice cooked with boiled potatoes, onions, curry leaves, and peanuts mixed with spices like turmeric, topped with lemon juice. It is a favourite amongst many Indians and can be found widely in all parts of Madhya Pradesh. But what makes Indori Poha different is the toppings of pomegranate and Sev – which is a noodle shaped snack made of chickpea flour and spices. A popular accompaniment with the Indori Poha is the jalebi. This combination of sweet and tangy food makes for the perfect breakfast – or a quick street side snack!
Dal Bafla is Madhya Pradesh’s answer to Rajasthan’s widely popular Dal Bati Churma. Dal Bafla is often considered to be a dish which is served on special occasions. The Bafla is a small ball made of wheat flour dough. Unlike Rajasthan’s fried Baati, the Bafla is first boiled in water and then baked on iron griddles over dung cake stoves. The Bafla is then dunked in ghee to reduce the dryness and eaten with spicy dal and coriander chutney. In rural Madhya Pradesh, this dish is more popularly known with its traditional name, “Gakad”.
Bhopali Gosht Korma
Owing to its long history of Mughal rulers, the influence of Mughlai cuisine in Madhya Pradeshi food is evident. One such famous dish is the Bhopali gosht korma. This Nawabi dish consists of mutton slow-cooked over several hours with spices that render it rich in taste and so silky in texture that it melts in your mouth. The mutton is served doused in a spicy curry and eaten with tandoori roti. Bhopal’s “Chatori Gali” – a market lane especially reserved for gastronomes and foodies – is the perfect place to grab a piping hot plate of this delicacy.
Chakki Ki Shak
Chakki Ki Shak is yet another Madhya Pradeshi dish that largely owes its origin to Rajasthani cuisine. This dish consists of dumplings made of wheat dough which are first steamed with select spices, then cooked in a curd-based gravy. Traditionally, a local variant of wheat known as Tapu is used in Chakki Ki Shaak. This dish is especially famous in Indore and Neighbouring regions and is a side dish that is majorly prepared during special events like religious festivals.
Just as Lucknow and Hyderabad are famous for their renditions of the Mughlai Biryani, Madhya Pradesh has its own version too! Mostly found in the region of Bhopal, the Biryani Pilaf traditionally comes with mutton. This dish is quite common in Bhopal, especially in the “Chatori Gali” market. The Biryani Pilaf is often accompanied by Zarda, which is a sweet, kheer-like pudding. Zarda is heavily dependent on dry fruits like almonds, pistachios, and raisins, and spices like cardamom and saffron.
Kadhi-Chawal is the comfort food of many Indians, but Kadhi-Fafda is a street snack which has its origin in Gujarat but is most popularly found in Madhya Pradesh. This dish consists of Fafda – a Gujarati cracker made of chickpea flour – Eaten with Kadhi – a tangy gravy made of curd and turmeric. Fried green chillies act as a great accompaniment to this dish for an extra punch!
Kopra patties are popular street food in Madhya Pradesh. This snack consists of mashed potatoes and grated coconuts mixed and made into balls which are deep-fried after being coated in a layer of besan or chickpea flour. This heavenly snack is served hot, accompanied by tangy coriander and mint chutney. They are also known as Indori Patties and are a popular food during fasts, especially during the Hindu festival of Navratri.
A Paniya is made of maize flour which is then put between the leaves of the Aak Plant (Calotropis Gigantea) and then cooked on an open fire of dried dung cakes. The accompaniments of Paniya are the same as that of Bafla – spicy dal and chutney.
Bhutte Ka Kees
Bhutte ka Kees is a corn-based dish widely famous across the Malwa region. This dish consists of grated corn which is roasted in ghee before being cooked in coconut milk. Spices like mustard seeds and green chillies are used to enhance the flavour.
Badkul is an incredibly famous sweet dish of Madhya Pradesh, mostly found in the Jabalpur region. This dish looks like a jalebi but tastes like a gulab jamun! This godly dessert is made of Khova and arrowroot batter which is deep-fried before being soaked in a sugar syrup – much like jalebi. Badkul owes its name to Harprasad Badkul who first invented this recipe in 1889 in his Halwai shop called Badkul Halwai. You can still visit this shop for an authentic taste of the dish near Kamaniya Gate in Jabalpur.
The Doodh-Jalebi is a winter favourite of the Khandwa region of Madhya Pradesh. It is a simple delicacy that consists of jalebis dunked in hot reduced milk which is relished very fondly across this region.
Though folks from Uttar Pradesh know Shikanji to be a kind of lemonade, for people in Madhya Pradesh the Shikanji is quite different. The Shahi Shikanji is essentially a thick milkshake served with a mixture of spices like saffron, mace, nutmeg, and cardamom. The milk used in this Shikanji is reduced for 12 hours, and then cooled for another 12 before being converted into this famed milkshake!
Suli or salfi is a naturally occurring beer extracted from the sap of the mahua tree. It requires no brewing and tastes somewhat like coconut water, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is traditionally consumed in cups made of the mahua tree leaves and is also commonly found in Chhattisgarh.