Ratlam, now a small town in the Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh was actually a princely state with great culture and heritage. Formerly known as Ratnapuri, Ratlam now is an important junction in Madhya Pradesh and most of the long-distance trains from West and South of India pass through this junction while travelling northwards.
The famous Ratlami Sev is synonymous with Ratlam. This tasty snack was actually prepared around the 19th century quite by accident. The story is that the Mughals were passing through this region while on tour and suddenly felt the urge to eat sevaiyan (wheat vermicelli). As sevaiyan was prepared from wheat and wheat was unavailable in Ratlam at that time, the Mughals asked the Bhil, the tribals of this region to prepare sevaiyan with gram flour and lo! the delightful predecessor to Ratlami sev was born.
The gram flour sevaiyan was initially known as Bhildi sev and locals say this sev is unique to this town dating back at least 200 years and was commercially produced in the 1900s. The light yellow crispy sev made of gram flour and spices was granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2014-15.
What sets this savoury Ratlami sev apart from the rest is the addition of cloves, pepper and other spices during its preparation. The special spice blend makes it spicy and renders it a distinctive taste. Its crisp yet soft texture and potent taste is enhanced with carom seeds and its thickness distinguishes itself from other kinds of sev.
This tangy aromatic crunchy sev is a snack, a side-dish, a garnish and an ingredient. The local favourite breakfast of poha is always served with preferably two varieties of sev. Curries prepared are topped with a handful of sev. Even food that normally does not require sev is served with a handful on the side – such is the significance of sev in Ratlam and all surrounding areas of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)