The Magic Saucepan presents Food Trail - Tales of the Indian Kitchen. An attempt to learn about the vast and diverse Indian cuisine. The cuisine that boasts immense variety where no two regions have a similar flavour and taste palate. Each region has its own specialty and each Indian kitchen has its own compelling tales and spins to showcase. This is a periodic series where home cooks share their family traditions and food culture.
Tales of the Odia Kitchen
In the first post of the series, I have with me my good friend Snigdha from Odisha. She is one of the best foodie friends I have. She is an amazing cook, great artist, and a lovable soul. I have had the fortune of enjoying few of her home cooked Odia food and she is the perfect fit to start this series.
Over to Snigdha. Swagata!
I was born and brought up in the city of Lord Jagganath – Puri, Odisha. In our family, everything seems to revolve around food and I just focused on the eating until I got married to a foodie. That’s when I developed an interest in cooking and experimenting. I learned all about the spices and the difference they make to a dish from my Grandmother. Mom’s cooking made me try out fusion cooking. She mixed the east with the west and served it up in style.
My grandmom refuses to cook unless she has all the spices including the final garnish at hand.
The Odisha Cuisine:
“Simple, less oil, less spice and very flavorful”– that is Odia food to me. Rice is the staple food of this region. Most Odia curries will have a garlic, onion and ginger base (garlic: ginger - 2:1), mustard oil is used preferably and for tempering Pancha Phutana is used. Any Temple or Prasad food preparation does not allow the use of garlic and onion, and only pure ghee is used as a cooking medium.
The food in the region around Puri-Cuttack is greatly influenced by the Jagannath Temple. On the other hand, kalonji and mustard paste is used mostly in the region bordering Bengal and curries tend to be sweeter. In the region closer to Andhra Pradesh, curry leaves and tamarind are used more. The Brahmapur region has influences of South Indian cuisine.
The quintessential Masala Dabba (Spice box):
Turmeric, Dry red chillies (sukhila lanka) and “Pancha Phutana” - blend of 5 spices (cumin, mustard, fenugreek, aniseed, and kalonji)- used as a tempering in almost every ( Odia dish).
The Everyday Meal: A typical menu of the day. The common Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner recipes.
Usually, the inverted triangle diet chart is followed in almost every Odia household. Breakfast is heavy and for Lunch, Dhal is a must. Almost every meal ends on a sweet note.
Breakfast is heavy – sooji Upma(with all veggies) served with white pea curry on top, Any paratha with bhaji or stuffed parathas with curd, Vada with white peas curry to name a few. You have to see the quantity to believe me when I say breakfast is heavy.
Lunch is moderate – Rice, any dhal or Dalma (lentils cooked with vegetables), any vegetable curry or bhaji, any non-veg curry (depending on what day of the week it is). No matter what curry (veg/non-veg) is prepared, dhal is a must in lunch.
Dinner is light – Roti and Santula (boiled vegetables with the usual Odia tempering)
Odias are typically known for their sweet tooth. It’s a practice especially in Puri-Cuttack area to have some kind of sweet after every meal. They say it helps in digestion.
The Traditional Spread: The must-haves during weddings and festive occasions:
Different festivals had different Pithas associated with them. The wedding menu is extensive and varies broadly but it’s a must to have some non-veg item in the wedding – the more the merrier. (“Macha Mahura”, “Mutton Kasha” is quite common for most weddings)
While the north Indians had their Barfis and Halwas and the Bengalis had their Rosogollas, the Odias had their "Pithas"
A tradition common to every province in India is celebrating festivals with sweets. One just has to have something sweet to round up any festival. While the north Indians had their Barfis and Halwas and the Bengalis had their Rosogollas, the Odias had their "Pithas". Pithas (“Manda Pitha”, “Enduri Pitha”, “Chitau Pitha”, “Arisha Pitha” to name a few) are the traditional Odia sweetmeats that my Mom and Grandma used to make as special festival treats.
Some famous dishes from the Oriya Kitchens:
Snacks: Dahi Bara–Ghuguni–Aloo dum: This is Odisha’s cult favorite-you can find it in every nook and corner of Odisha. Anyone who has not tried this dish often wonders why curries like aloo dum and ghuguni (white peas curry) need to paired with dahi vadas but you just have to try it to understand the sentiments of the inhabitants of Cuttack who simply drool and preach about it.
Main Course: Santula: Growing up, I have to admit that we were kind of forced into having this vegetable soup(absolutely unadulterated by influences from other states) of sorts at regular intervals. Since this dish is an Odia staple, if you were from Odisha, you ate Santula. When I got married and set up my own home, I started experimenting with different cuisines. I have to admit that Santula took a backseat for a long time until my pregnancy. Thanks to extreme nausea and acidity this was the only dish I could eat. In the process, I realized some other things, the vegetables and quick cooking process make it a dieter’s and a nutritionist’s delight. Boil vegetables of your choice and then temper with mustard oil/ghee, Pancha Phutana, crushed garlic and tomatoes and its done. The dish is so mild in its flavoring, that it kind of refreshes your palate and actually makes you appreciate the other foods on your plate even more. And thus Santula was back on our family menu.
Dessert: Chenna Poda: I grew up with this sweet meat. Traditionally, this recipe involves making a thick mixture of fresh cottage cheese, sugar, a dash of sooji, shaping the dough as a cake, wrapping it in a special leaf and putting it in an earthen clay pot and baking it on high heat for hours. When it is ready to eat, the burnt leaves are discarded to reveal a very burnt layer outside and a nice brown caramel cheesy layer towards the middle of the cake. Hence the name Chenna(cheese) Poda(burnt). You really have to eat an authentic one in Odisha to taste how delicious the burnt layer truly is. I must admit however hard you try the homemade ones are not half as good as the real thing.
A funny incident happened recently. A south Indian friend had called me over for a huge party at her place. I promised to take some dessert and I made a batch of a typical Odia dish called Chenna Poda for the party. The Chenna Poda was a big hit and many of her guests have never heard of the dish. However, to my utter surprise, every time they asked for seconds, they used to burst into laughter and they pronounced the dish as “China Poda”! After some time they explained to me that “Poda” in Tamil means to get lost. So they assumed that the name of the dish was China get lost instead of Chenna Poda, which literally translated meant Burnt Cottage cheese in Odia!
A Family Recipe that you can share with all of us: Bhanda Tarkari
The banana/plantain flower curry – Bhanda, Curry - Tarkari. The banana flower is relatively easy to cook and delicious! The catch lies in cleaning and preparing the flowers for cooking. It is a tedious process. But it is not like you will cook it every day, so go for it. I can assure you, the results are well worth it!
- My mom uses the discarded peel as a serving bowl. That enhances the look of the dish.
- Smoke mustard oil before using for vegetables or any non-veg curry by heating it to a point till light white smoke emerges from it. This would remove the potency from the oil.
- Always remember to present the food in style. We eat with our eyes first.
The Street food:
I just miss the “Gupchup” (panipuri) of Odisha, having tried panipuri all over in India, I can say for sure that Odisha has the best panipuri to offer. Ahh!!!
Bhata Mansha Salad (BMS), Kanika, is a place to go to taste proper Odia cuisine. But my favourite restaurant is an Indo-Chinese place called Chung-Wah in Puri, Odisha. In fact, it is every Odia's favourite.
The go-to place for Odisha cuisine: ( On the web preferably! )
Usually, I stick to my grandmother and mom’s recipes but sometimes I refer to the following blogs.
The banana/plantain flower curry – Bhanda , Curry – Tarkari. The banana flower is relatively easy to cook and delicious.
- 1 medium inflorescence banana flower
- 1 large potato
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated coconut
- ½ tablespoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon roasted cumin seeds powder
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Finely chopped coriander leaves (for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon Clarified butter | Ghee (Optional)
The Banana flowers come packaged in a deep purple inflorescence. It has many florets neatly arrayed inside each leaf. Keep peeling the leaves and collect all the flowers in a bowl.
Take an individual flower, Open it up gently till you locate the stamen. It will be a black and relatively hard stem. Carefully remove the stamen and discard. Repeat for all the flowers.
- Wash and clean the prepared flowers and soak for 15 minutes in a bowl of water to which a pinch of salt and turmeric has been added. Drain the flowers and chop into small pieces.
- Peel and cut the potato into small pieces.
In a wok heat a teaspoon of oil. Add cumin seeds to it. When they start spluttering in 2 seconds or so, add the grated ginger. Fry the ginger in oil for a couple of minutes.
Add the potatoes and sauté for 4- 5 minutes. Add the chopped banana flowers and sauté until the potatoes are almost done.
Season with salt, chili powder, and roasted cumin powder. Add grated coconut mix well. Remove from fire. Garnish with coriander leaves.
- Ginger Garlic paste
- Pancha Phutana
- Red chillies
- Mustard Oil
- Banana Flower
Recipes & Dishes
- Vegetable Upma with White pea curry
- Paratha with Bhaji (Vegetable side dish)
- Stuffed Paratha with curd
- Vada with white peas curry
- Roti and Santula
- Dahi Bara
- Ghuguni (will be posted soon)
- Aloo dum
- Gupchup (Pani Puri)
- Jump to Recipe Bhanda Tarkari
- Chenna Poda (will be posted soon)
Photo credit: Puri Jaganatha Temple - Photo by RJ Rituraj under creative commons CC-BY-SA-3.0