top of page

My particular favourite from among a plethora of homey Indian comfort food is the humble dhokla. Originating from Western India like many fan-favourite desi snacks, it has many variations and has been bastardized into several fusion dishes, but I love it best when had as God (and the Gujaratis) intended: a delicately spiced batter of semolina flour and yogurt, steamed until fluffy, garnished with an ASMR-worthy temper of chilies, mustard seeds, and curry leaves, served with coriander chutney. I don’t know what it’s like to have clouds in one’s mouth; it’s probably similar to how eating well-made dhokla feels. Just describing the dish makes my mouth water, my eyes well up, and my heart inexplicably full. 


My mother and I probably enjoy this dish most in our family. She’s not a gourmand, but she’ll go weak in the knees over a plate of dhokla and a glass of milky iced coffee. The fuss-free and mess-free dish that it is, we often broke from regular house rules and ate it in her room, sitting on her bed. The serving tray would hold 4 white and blue plates, some forks, a small bowl of chutney and a casserole shut tight to preserve the pillowy pieces of perfection that lay inside. Piling those plates high with lots of dhokla, slathering it with chutney, and scarfing it down without waiting for cutlery is a core memory for me. 


The boarding school that my sister and I attended broke the stereotype of awful mess food and kept us exceptionally well-fed. But amid the burgers and biryanis and ice creams and stir-fried noodles and curries, they never served us dhokla. I’m not sure how the logistics of making and feeding it to 600 rabid teenagers would’ve worked out anyway. Regardless of the hearty meals we had in our dining hall on plastic white plates (one indistinguishable from the other), home hit differently. There we were feted like war-weary soldiers returning from the battlefield. Our favourite foods were on the menu, four times a day. Our mother, who would otherwise uninterestedly pick at food, sat and ate with us for the sheer joy of watching us relish childhood delicacies. Dhokla, which she otherwise wouldn’t have the heart to eat in my absence for eight months of the year, would be made twice a week along with whatever else we so much as thought aloud about eating. Food, fun and family: it was the headiest of trifectas. 


When I got married and moved to Delhi from Mumbai four years ago, it wasn’t so much a culture shock as it was a complete overhaul of my life so far. The city, the weather, the people, the way of life - everything held snippets of familiarity in its newness, but the food was probably the biggest change of them all. North India has arguably the richest and most varied food traditions in the country, and post-marriage I continue to have routine access to many traditional and interesting dishes that I wager my parents don’t in Mumbai.

I am still learning the ways of my husband and his family, and I am learning to love the food they love. But the dhokla- the dhokla is not the same. The plate it is served in is not the same. I cannot replicate that salty tang of the piece melting on my tongue, the scraping of the fork on the empty blue-rimmed plate, or the contentment on my mother’s face as she’d watch me eat to my heart’s content.

I cannot recreate that experience here at home.

For that, I need to go Home. 

Words by Richa Gupta Jain

Photo by Rachna Gupta


Plate Pattern: Arcopal Romantique

bottom of page