History of Bhujia: The Journey of Nostalgic Snacking By most accounts including popular history, it is believed to have royal roots. The story goes that it was Maharaja Dungar Singh of the then princely state of Bikaner who first had this delectable savoury prepared for his guests way back in 1877.
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For years, the humble bhujia has been an insanely popular snacking choice for Indians. Whether it is for starting the day early morning combining with tea or any other beverage, for taking a short break from work in the afternoon, or whether it is for evening snacks, the delightful bhujia has been omnipresent in our eating habits and routine. It just cannot be missed!
INVENTED UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF THE BIKANERI ROYALTY
But not many people know that the humble bhujia does not really have humble origins. Instead, by most accounts including popular history, it is believed to have royal roots. The story goes that it was Maharaja Dungar Singh of the then princely state of Bikaner who first had this delectable savoury prepared for his guests way back in 1877. And to everyone's delightful surprise, when the snack was served to the Maharaja and his guests, they couldn't stop themselves from wanting something they'd never had before. The light or golden yellow coloured snack made of moth bean and besan or gram flour cooked in groundnut oil and seasoned with an assortment of spices had tickled the palate of the Bikaneri royalty like never before.
The usage of modern packaging material such as laminated low density polyethylene and polypropylene pouches for packaging these bhuji as has been particularly notable .
BECAME A MASS PRODUCT IN COURSE OF TIME
But that was just the beginning. The crispy, crunchy and the unbelievably irresistible newly-invented savoury soon travelled from the royal kitchen and the households of the nobility to those of ordinary folks and families becoming a culinary rage in Bikaner and beyond. In no time, small businesses, food adventurers and entrepreneurs tapped into the raging popularity of this savoury turning this obsession into organized business outlets. In due course of time, bhujia became one of the most permanent and staple offerings of innumerable street food vendors, snack stall owners and food and snack business operators who began to not only serve bhujia as an independent offering to their customers, but also combined it with other food items and tidbits. From push-carts, cycle carts, on-head vendors to established shops and stalls, bhujia became a perpetual presence everywhere.
FAMILY BUSINESSES TOOK THE LEAD, FOLLOWED BY MULTINATIONALS
By the turn of the century, a good number of small localized players in Bikaner and even beyond in Rajasthan had emerged advancing bhujia as a core product of their larger offerings. Capitalizing on this, few iconic family-owned ethnic food businesses were set up around the middle of the 20th century with bhujia and its variants as their core product. They have gone on to become dominant ethnic food brands today with national and international footprints. Wanting to jump on the bandwagon, in the last few decades, several multinational companies have also come up with their own variants of bhujia and related savouries to compete with family-owned Indian ethnic food and savoury brands.
MODERN PACKAGING TO INCREASE SHELF LIFE WHILE RETAINING IDENTITY
Unlike the traditional open and loose forms of bhujias sold earlier, the advent of modern and designer packaging has not only increased their shelf life but also truly given bhujias their own distinct identity. With time, several types and variants of bhujia have come up depending on the key ingredients used for their making. With scaling of bhujia, the need for keeping the purity and the freshness of the product has made packaging a crucial part of the whole process. So, today it has come a long way. The government granting it the Geographical Indication tag in 2020 attests not only to its abiding popularity but is also a resounding recognition of the uniqueness and the exclusivity in terms of appeal and name that this savoury from Bikaner region has carved for itself.