Through the rustic, sandy, princely state of Rajasthan was born a simple snack that would someday represent India in front of the world. The Bikaneri Bhujia is not just any other namkeen and anyone who has tried this snack at least once would know. It is a mix of spices and flavours that depict the state and city it was born in. Although Bhujia is made in parts of the country and distributed everywhere, those made in Bikaner has a taste that stands out.
The Bikaneri Bhujia
History of the national namkeen:
It all started in 1877, under the reign of Maharaja Shri Dungar Singh of Bikaner. The first-ever batch of Bikaneri Bhujia was produced. Before long, the delicious and catchy taste of the Bhujia spread to other parts of the state and then the country. Now, this simple snack has become the representation of Indian namkeen snacks, all over the world.
This bhujia and the princely state in which it was made, has become popular all over the globe. Bikaner even received a Geographical Indication tag in September 2010. This means that the name Bikaneri Bhujia can only be given to bhujia made in the Bikaner region. Hence, the product will forever remain distinct from its numerous counterparts made all over the country.
From 1877 to now, Bikaneri Bhujia has grown a lot in terms of its popularity and demand. And its state, Bikaner, is more than ready to accept the challenge and deliver the much-loved namkeen to people across the world. Especially, the Bhujia bazaar where you will find lanes full of people that wake up early in the morning every day to make Bhujia. There is also a famous quote from poet Ashok Vajpeyi that said that Bikaner is the city where half the population was busy making Bhujia while the other half was busy eating Bhujia.
The place where it all began – Bikaner
Surrounded by the Thar Desert, Bikaner is filled with red-stone houses, grand forts, and pieces of art and history that show the rich history and culture of the city. It is a vibrant city oozing with the characteristic old-world charm that has engulfed the whole of Rajasthan. But one major aspect makes it different from the other cities in the state, which is the aroma of Bhujia spread out in every street and corner. More than 60,000kg of Bhujia is made in this city every day.
The people of Bikaner wake up at 4 AM to start making the bhujia. People have worked for decades, perfecting their recipe for the famous snack and passing it on to the next generation to do the same. Other than its crunchy, delectable namkeen, the city is not known for much else. It is laid-back, peaceful, and perfect for a relaxing desert safari. The foodie within will make you explore the streets and try out the various dishes it has to offer. And let’s face it, there is no way you can leave this beautiful city without having your stomachs full of bhujias, sweets, and all other kinds of fried namkeens and mouth-watering sweets.
The famous recipe
Bhujias are made all around the country, but the taste you get from eating the ones made in Bikaner is not the same as the ones you get in bhujias made elsewhere. This difference is not just present due to the huge leap in experience between Bikaner and the others. The fundamental difference comes from the change in the recipe followed. In places outside Bikaner, the batter for bhujia is made with besan (gram flour). In Bikaner, people use ground moth lentils instead. This is a crop that specifically grows in the dried, arid regions of Bikaner and Jodhpur. The credit for making Bhujia synonymous with Bikaner goes to its recipe that enchanted the world with its crispy namkeen.
The recipe for the Bikaneri Bhujia is:
Ingredients needed –
- Moth flour
- Gram flour
- Pepper powder
- Cardamom powder
- Salt as required
- Water as needed
- Oil for deep-frying
Mix in all the ingredients together and form a dough. Knead the dough properly to make it soft. Pour the oil kept aside for deep-frying into the pan and heat it. Use a sev press or mould to shape the Bhujia by passing the dough through it. Then drop it into the hot oil. Wait until the Bhujia turns golden brown and then get it out of the oil. Drain the excess oil from Bhujia and get ready to stuff yourself with a crispy, tasty savoury.
Haldiram is one name that goes hand-in-hand with both Bikaner and bhujia. With the rise in fame of bhujias, there came an opportunity to spread this taste outside of Bikaner. Production of bhujias takes place throughout the city. But, very few ventured into sharing this product outside. In the Bhujia bazaar, the Agarwal family’s Haldiram Bhujiawala started as a regular vendor of bhujias. But the passion he had for his food and the penchant for business helped him grow. Slowly, he gathered faithful customers and spread out his products throughout India. The shop he had in the Bhujia bazaar has now shut down. A new, high-end factory situated in the outskirts of the city has taken its place.
The Agarwal family now has a business empire of 5,000 crores, with over 500 products under its belt. The sixth generation of this family is running the business now. They own several brand names like Haldiram’s like Bikaji, Bhikharam Chandamal, Bikanerwala, and Bikano among others. The company has made a tremendous effort in growing its market. They achieved this success through years of constant effort in reaching every customer in each corner of the country, and not by spending a huge amount on marketing gimmicks.
Haldiram’s or otherwise, enjoying a bowl full of Bikaneri Bhujia has been a favourite for many Indians since childhood. And there’s nothing as joyful as falling in love with food that is not only delicious but can be eaten along with just about anything else!
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