Vya's meal service, Jaisalmer
Vya’s meal service, Jaisalmer

In 2008 we visited Vya’s Meal Service in Jaisalmer, in the province of Rajisthan in India. It is a tiny little backstreet house where we went to experience a home-cooked meal, in local surroundings.

After climbing the steep stairs you arrive in an immaculately clean one-roomed house, where Vya is waiting to invite you into her home to make a Rajisthani thali or meal made up of many dishes. A thali can include rice, dal, vegetables, chutneys, roti, papad, yoghurt and sometimes something sweet. While you come to Vya’s to experience the food, you also get to be hands on and help prepare the meal.

Vya didn’t actually know how old she is, and she took over running her husband’s cooking business once he passed away. She must be very old but she manages to squat on her haunches with way more flexibility than I ever could.

While Vya began preparing the meal, we were given potatoes to peel. There was no running water in her house, everything was in buckets. I couldn’t believe how clean and orderly it was, way better than most ‘Western’ kitchens I would say!

Vya in her kitchen
Vya in her kitchen

 

Me and our guide Ashok peeling potatoes for the meal.
Me and our guide Ashok peeling potatoes for the meal.

Next steps were to make the papad, which is essentially a papadum, made from seasoned dough containing black gram (urad flour) rolled really thinly and then fried. I got to roll the papad out, but I don’t think mine were as thin as Vya’s… 

Making papad
Making papad

Before long dinner was ready. A delicious plate of rice, yoghurt, potato curry, chutney and a couple of sweet dessert things – cake and cornflakes!

Our Rajisthani thali
Dinner is served.

 

Eating the thali
Eating the thali in traditional Indian style with our right hand (the left is reserved for ‘bathroom matters’)

Dinner at Vya’s was a wonderful experience, and an opportunity to have a small glimpse inside a local’s home.

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