The Georgia Straight
Rajasthani restaurant marks a milestone in Indian cuisine
Over the past year, it has seemed like Indian restaurants are popping up all over the place. There’s Bombay Kitchen and Bar (1480 West 11th Avenue), Bombay Flame (8265 Oak Street), Cilantro Indian Cuisine (189 West Broadway), Sula (4172 Main Street), and Saucin Staples (1073 West Broadway), to name just five within Vancouver city limits.
This is a testament not only to the enduring popularity of Indian food but to the resourcefulness of South Asia entrepreneurs willing to take a chance in a pandemic.
But only one eatery in the region offers the cuisine of Rajasthan. This is an Indian state best known for the Thar Desert, a.k.a. the Great Indian Desert, as well as some of the finest palaces in the world.
In fact, Tatta Chulha (147 East Broadway), which opened in February, claims on its Twitter feed to be the only Rajasthani restaurant in all of Canada. Located in the former Chutney Villa, it’s purely vegetarian. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that three out of every four residents of Rajasthan don’t eat meat—the highest ratio of vegetarians of any state in India.
Unlike many other Indian establishments, Tatta Chulha offers breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu includes several versions of parathas ($10.99), as well as Bedami Masala Poori and Aloo Sabji (four lentil breads served with potato curry for $9.99) and Methi Thepla (fenugreek-infused flatbread served with pickle for $9.99).
For lunch and dinner, Tatta Chulha serves several thalis, which feature a selection of different dishes. The Takeout Dinner Thali ($17.99) includes one kadhi (onion fritters in yogurt), gatte (dumplings from chickpea flour), and a daily special veggie, rice, and dessert dish, along with four rotis and two parathas.
Here’s something to keep in mind about the Rajasthani roti. Unlike what’s offered in many Punjabi restaurants, it’s much smaller, about the size of a palm, with ghee added to soften the dough. As a result, it’s more delicate on the taste buds.
Even though Tatta Chulha mentions “dessert” as part of its takeout thali, this word is not ordinarily used in connection with Rajasthani food. That’s because sweets are served at any time during the meal.
Because Rajasthan is so hot and dry for much of the year, it’s not home to the lush vegetation found in southern Indian states such as Kerala and Karnataka. In Rajasthan, beans, ker (capers), and gunda (the so-called Indian cherry) are what thrive in the arid climate—and that’s reflected in the state’s cuisine.
The owners of Tatta Chulha have renovated the interior, placing new booths on the eastern wall of the restaurant. They’re separated by Plexiglas, as are the booths on the western wall from the Chutney Villa era.
This attention to safety is something for local vegetarians to consider for whenever the B.C. government allows a resumption in indoor dining.