The Undhiyu is a Gujarati vegetable dish. It is a heady concoction of vegetables, spices, masalas and 'muthiyas'. It is probably the most elaborate dish in the Gujarati cuisine. Surat is very famous for its Undhiyu.
The traditional method of making the Undhiyu is to put the ingredients into an earthen pot, put the pot into the ground and cook it with wood fire from the top. Once done, the pot is emptied into the serving dish. It is made 'undhu' - upside down in Gujarati, and hence the name!
As with most other food, the Undhiyu is rarely made this way these days. LPG and microwaves have robbed our palates of the true flavors of food and we have to make do with the quicker and easier alternatives.
Many people feel they can add whatever vegetables they feel like in their Undhiyu. They couldn't be more wrong. The vegetables must be chosen carefully. One wrong tasting vegetable and you can be sure to ruin the dish. The most important vegetable is the 'valor' which is broad beans in English. Apart from that, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, raw plantains and brinjals are added.
The 'muthiyas' are what differentiate the Undhiyu from the plain mixed vegetable curry. The 'muthiya' is basically gram flour (besan) and methi leaves rolled into a dough, turned into small balls and deep fried. These 'muthiyas' are added to the mix of vegetables and the whole mixture is cooked.
The Undhiyu can be eaten with pooris, rotlis (phulkas) and it tastes great with rice and Gujarati dal too.
It is quite difficult to find really good Undhiyu. Traditionally Surti families (families hailing from Surat in Gujarat) probably make great Undhiyu but you must be able to take the sweet flavor that goes into every dish that is made in Surat!
The best Undhiyu I've ever had was the one made (rather supervised) by an elderly Gujarati aunt from Chennai when she had come down for a wedding in our family many years back. There was a big family lunch and she took it upon her to make (or rather supervise the making of) the Undhiyu. The attention she gave to detail was evident when she asked a bunch of kids (yours truly included) to remove the skin of the seeds from the 'valor' or the broad beans. She insisted on this because she believed that the skin comes in the way of relishing the Undhiyu! The effort of course, was worth it. The resultant Undhiyu was heavenly.
Isn't that the key for all food? Tremendous care and attention to detail. No short cuts. A lot of people make the Undhiyu but it tastes good only when made the correct way. A warning: don't try making the Undhiyu by looking up a recipe on the internet. Take it from me. It won't work. This is an art that is mastered by first learning it from an experienced chef (the female kind mainly) and then making it three to four times before you have mastered it!