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Bhujia origins to Bikaner
- Food For Sale
Bhujia origins to Bikaner
The golden and crispy fried snacks with shapes like noodles are popular snack food worldwide. Bhujia is available everywhere from tiny roadside tea stalls in India to high-end cocktail bars. Thus far, it finds its way onto every course. It is common as a topping on breakfast and on lunch. So, for dinner use it in crafting various curries. It is so popular because its delicious. In fact, an Indian poet, Ashok Vajpayee relates Bikaner as a city where half the population is busy in making bhujia. The other half are occupied in eating it. In fact, anyone who may visit this destination in northwest India might agree.
Bhujia is mostly made with local bean, moth or gram flour in Bikaner. It is often seasoned with traditional spices and herbs. Another tasty variant is aloo bhujia with uses potatoes.
Bikaner is a place of shifting dunes, camels and ancient forts. These forts were built by warrior kings. It is a quintessential desert landscape only 150km from the Pakistan border. Thus far, the locals refer to themselves as saral, sukhi and sust. It means simple, happy and lazy. Perhaps they are simple and happy. However they are far from being lazy. Bhujia makers mostly start work at 4.00am. So, collectively, they make more than 250 tonnes of bhujia in a workday.
Bikaner has a delicious history starting in 1877. Maharaja Shri Dungar Singh, Bikaner’s state monarch commissioned a novel savory item to treat guests at his palace. Thus far, the royal chefs developed bhujia. Maharaja did not realise that what was developed in his kitchen would become Indian national treasure. So, it has been a obsession of almost 150 years in the making.
The news of bhujia spread quickly. Soon it was being made in homes around the state. So, enterprising local businesses began making and selling the snack in Bikaner backstreets. About a decade later, it proved so successful that curious businesses from a farther afield were tracing the origins. Thus, the discovery of the magic of bhujia.
Nowadays, bhujia producing enterprises are across the world. So, their roots go back to Bikaner. Thus far, many bhujia lovers believe only bhujia made in Bikaner is the real thing. In fact, in 2010, the Bikaneri bhujia was given the coveted tag for geographical indication by the government of India. So, only those manufacturer’s inside the territory may label their bhujia as Bikaneri. It is similar to one only one region of France calls its sparkling wine Champagne. Despite it popularity, Bikaneri bhujia remains a cottage industry in Bikaner.
The bhujia business from its humble beginning today employs about 2.5 million people. Most workers are women in the region’s villages. Several manufacturers moved over to various geographical regions in India. Some took on other international markets selling the delicacy under the famous Bikaneri label.
However, manufacturer’s concede they cannot get the same flavour. It is even when they import ingredients from Bikaner to manufacture elsewhere. It is possible because of the arid climate, specific type of red chilli which blends well with local spices. Furthermore, the region’s saline water may be the key ingredient.
Bhujia snacks are now available globally from Australia, UK, NZ to USA. It is sold in most Indian shops throughout the world, Walmart and Amazon.com in the USA. So, for the Indians living abroad, bhujia servs as a historic anchor. It is central to the everchanging culinary scene for Indians.