India has a rich culinary heritage and is internationally famous for the amazing variety that it offers for the palate. Regional diversity in food gives rise to traditional as well as newer treats that have always been tempting and pampering for our taste buds.
Odisha, previously known as Orissa, is one such state that is traditionally famous for its mouth watering delicacies throughout the past centuries. The coastal state boasts of a huge menu that spans over different varieties of rice, lentils, desserts and sea food. Jagannath Temple in Puri is internationally famous for running the largest kitchen in the world. The Prasada (communion) is cooked on chulas and served to over 10,000 worshippers daily. Based on popularity, some of the most preferred Oriya dishes are:
Khechadi is a well-known dish which is offered as Prasada to the almighty deity Lord Jagannath in the Jagannath temple. It is made by cooking rice and lentils together in ghee that gives it a rich flavour. The rice and lentils are first soaked and then steamed together to the desired consistency. It is then garnished with appropriate enhancing spices fried in ghee. The dish is simple, filling and satiates the taste buds with its distinct flavour. The Khechadi is basically the Oriya version of the Indian ‘Khichdi’.
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Dalma is a very popular vegetarian recipe in which lentils and vegetables are boiled together and garnished with aromatic spices. Toor dal is the most commonly used lentil. Vegetables used may be Pumpkin, gourd, green papaya, drum sticks, unripe banana and banana stem, locally called as manja. The flavour is further spiced up by frying with panch phutana (a mix of mustard, cumin, kalonji, aniseed and fenugreek) and turmeric. It came out as a signature dish when it was chosen by former Indian President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to be merged in the President’s House menu.
3. Chungdi Malai
Odisha has a vast coast line along the Bay of Bengal and also has many rivers flowing within the region. Owing to this proximity, its sea cuisine is an inevitable part of Oriya diet and majority of its population prefers non vegetarian food. Out of the many varieties in the sea food platter, Chungdi Malai tarkari is a lip smacking non vegetarian dish. It is basically a creamy prawn curry that gets its rich goodness with coconut milk that gives it a distinct flavour. Its taste is further enhanced by treating the curry with simple and mild spices that make the prawn curry a very popular local dish. Teamed up with fresh steamed Basmati rice, Chungdi Malai is a delicious finger licking Odisha speciality.
Pithas are an important part of the traditional food served in Odisha. No festivities or major celebrations can do without serving this traditional Sweet. Usually these are made at home during religious festivals and also served in local roadside stalls with other famous Oriya desserts like the Rasagolla. A Pitha is essentially a country cake. Most common variants that are usually indispensable in an Oriya cuisine are Chhena poda Pitha, Enduri Pitha and Chittau Pitha. The famous Chhena Poda Pitha is made up by caramelizing chhena (well kneaded homemade cottage cheese) with the richness of dry fruits like cashew nuts and raisins. The burnt cheese taste makes this dish a one of a kind dessert in Odisha. Enduri Pitha consists of soaked rice and blackgram dal batter that is filled with a coconut, sugar and cheese stuffing and steamed in a turmeric leaf. Similarly, Chittau Pitha is a steamed rice and coconut delicacy with a sweet cardamom flavour.
Oriyas are well known for their sweet tooth. Their fondness for sweets is usually seen in a typical Oriya Thali, where it is not uncommon to have more than one sweet dish along with the main course. Malpua is a mouth-watering dish, also served to Lord Jagannath in his Sakala Dhupa (Morning Food). Though many varieties of Malpua are cooked in various states, a typical Odisha Malpua is a sweet pancake prepared by making a batter of coconut, crushed ripe bananas, flour with milk or water and seasoned with cardamoms. These pancakes are then fried and served hot.
Odisha gives a rich culinary experience when one experiments with its traditional and contemporary dishes which are healthy, diversified and tempting for the taste buds. Both beginners and advanced cooking experts can definitely try Odisha dishes in their kitchen in their own unique style.