New Rajasthani restaurant marks a milestone in evolution of Indian cuisine in Vancouver

Tatta Chulha is in the old Chutney Villa location near the corner of East Broadway and Main Street

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      Over the past year, it has seemed like Indian restaurants are popping up all over the place.

      There’s the new Bombay Kitchen + Bar (1480 West 11th Avenue), Bombay Flame (8265 Oak Street), the new Cilantro Indian Cuisine (189 West Broadway), the new 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 Asian 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.

      Tatta Chulha (147 East Broadway) opened in February and claims on its Twitter feed to be the only Rajhastani restaurant in Canada. Located in the former Chutney Villa, it dishes up vegetarian cuisine.

      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. (Rosavara in Mississauga includes Rajasthani food along with Gujarati and northern Indian dishes.)

      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.

      The architecture in Jaipur, the capital of Rajashthan, attracted tourists from around the world before the pandemic struck.
      Satyam Bhardwaj/Unsplash

      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.