Begin with the quintessential undhiyu, a regional speciality of Gujarat. Undhiyu is a mixed vegetable dish, the name of which comes from the word matlu, meaning ‘earthen pot,’ and undhu, meaning ‘upside down,’ since undhiyu is traditionally cooked upside down, underground, in earthen pots fired from above.
Undhiyu is a seasonal dish, composed of fruits and vegetables that are available during the winter season, such as green beans, unripe bananas, small eggplants, muthia (dumplings made with fenugreek leaves and spiced chickpea flour, either steamed or fried), potatoes, purple yams, and sometimes plantains. These ingredients are spiced with a dry curry paste that typically includes cilantro leaves, ginger, garlic, green chili pepper, and sugar. The mixture is slow cooked for a long time with some vegetable oil and a very small amount of water sufficient to steam the root vegetables.
Undhiyu is dry and has varied, complementary flavours because of the spices and fruits/vegetables used. It is usually homemade and eaten with puri during Makar Sankranti. Some places also prepare chicken undhiyu, and the dish can be bought from specialty shops in the city.
When on the kite-flying battlefield, eating til chikki is a good way to boost energy levels. As the name suggests, til chikki is a biscuit made of til (sesame seeds) mixed in jaggery, dried to harden, and cut into rectangles.
Likewise, singdana chikki, which is made of groundnuts (instead of sesame seeds) and jaggery, makes for a good source of energy and is a delicious way to pass the time while kite-flying.
In some homes and shops, you may find sesame and groundnut laddoos: small balls of jaggery mixed with sesame seeds or groundnuts. These are equally delicious and worth battling for.
Another popular Makar Sankranti snack is cholafali: chips made of gram flour and Urad dal flour. These are hard to make at home, so if you find homemade ones, don’t hesitate to try them. Most shops sell cholafali during Makar Sankranti.