I remember first buying a packet of Kachchi Dabeli masala in a supermarket and wondering why it was called Kachchi. It took me a few moments to discover that it was not कच्ची or ‘raw’ but कच्छी or ‘from Kutch’.
Dabeli is a very popular snack which has its origins in the Kutch region of Gujarat. During our Gujarat trip, we were in Bhuj and our driver insisted that we shouldn’t leave without tasting Kutch’s famous Dabeli. He drove us to Dhirubhai Dabeliwala, which is a food cart parked at the edge of a busy street.
As I got chatting with the owner, he boasted: “Watch me on Youtube to know all about me”! He got offended when some folks asked him whether his Dabeli was good. “Eat first and then decide whether you want to pay me! I have people who eat and drive away only to return to pay after they remember”.
The name Dabeli comes from the act of pressing or दाबना. It has its origin in the Gujarati language. So it is essentially a snack where a potato filling is pressed into a paav or a bun.
Dabeli is believed to have been invented in the 1960s by Keshavji Gabha Chudasama in Mandvi in Kutch district of Gujarat. It is popular as an all-in-one snack: spicy, sweet, sour, crunchy all at once. The dabeli masala is spicy dry-paste made from dried red chillies, black pepper powder, dried coconut, salt, clove, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, star anise turmeric, cardamom, bay leaves, black-salt, and other spices. The potato filling cooked in dabeli masala is garnished with sev, pomegranate seeds and roasted peanuts which add the crunch.The essence of the dabeli are the chutneys: the sour and sweet tamarind-date chutney and the fiery chutney made of red chillies and garlic.
As I left I picked up my annual stock of Dabeli masala from the vendor. One more snack tasted. I needed a cool chaas to wash down the dabeli. India is full of culinary surprises. Always something to tantalize your palate.