As winter spreads its blanket of chill across the country, it brings with it different meaning to different cities. At this time, all roads leading to Surat from Vapi onwards, see smoke billowing from roadside stalls. The farm laborers from the Tapi to Vapi belt prepare a little known dish called the ‘umabidyu’ in winter. Umbadiyu is a little known cousin of the well-known undhiyu. It is generally darker and smokier. The best umbadiyu is made from the black papdi beans from the village of Bhata, along with yam, sweet potato, brinjal, potato, etc. marinated with ginger and chili paste, then baked in a clay pot sealed with aromatic leaves of Kaler and Camboi. The pot is then buried in a hole dug in the ground, covered with hay and cow dung cakes, and burnt for about 40-50 minutes. A small portion of the delicacy is also put in a small kullad above the pot to check when it gets done. The sampler who checks and assures if the umbadiyu is cooked or not, is commonly called a Daakan (the witch!).
The umbadiyu is generally served with coriander chutney and buttermilk. It is quite spicy, and doesn’t really need any oil to be added in for the cooking. It is very healthy, and the freshest vegetables are used to make it. It is one of the most delicious dishes prepared in winter here. It absorbs the smokey and earthy flavors of the smoke and the earthen pot in which it is being cooked. The umbadiyu vegetables are eaten with their peels, the peels are not removed before or after cooking.
In some parts of Gujarat, umbadiyu is also known as matla undhiyu, while Umbadiyu is a more popular name in South Gujarat. I had the experience of eating umbadiyu at the Sattvik Food Festival organized by Shrishti, and I still can’t get the taste out of my head.