By Abinas Nayak,
Indian cuisine’s irresistible mix of spices and herbs exudes an alluring aroma that mesmerizes one’s appetite and continues to do so until one tries a portion of it. Being the cradle of exquisite, spicily prepared delicacies like Dalma, khichdi, Dahi Vada Alu Dum, and every other dish in Indian cuisine has a distinct flavour and originates from a different region of the traditional land.
The peacefully positioned province of Odisha in eastern India is renowned for its authentic, ancient tradition and is home to thousands of historic Hindu temples. The cuisines of Odia, which is nestled close to the coast, comprises rich, natural flavours that emanate eternal bliss. Despite having such a diverse range of flavours, the acclaimed Odia cuisine is not so well-known across the country. That is why we have collected a list of delicious meals that will satisfy your starving stomach and give you a satisfying feeling.
The first thing anybody looks for during the soul-sucking summers in India is iced tea or juice. Guess what the Odias do? They savour a bowl of pakhala while they satiate their spirit. Pakhala is made from cooked rice that has been fermented overnight and is served the next day, ideally as a lunch, with green chillies, salt, and a spoon of curd to enhance the tangy flavour of the meal.
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Sliced cucumbers and raw onions are provided with zest-enhancing elements to help cool the body. Fried fish, crushed lentil dumplings, stir fry of fresh vegetables, and chutneys are among the other side dishes served with the hearty lunch. After the meal, one can sip the leftover Toraṇi, the liquid half of the pakhala, to replenish the body’s nutrition.
If there’s one dish that defines the Odia cuisine, it is Besara. It is an authentic Odia dish ( a light mustard paste) prepared by grinding black mustard seeds, cumin, garlic, chillies, etc. The mustard paste is further used to create dishes like Chicken Besara, Fish Besara (fish cooked in mustard sauce), Vegetable Besara, etc. Besara is also a part of the 56 bhoga (Mahaprasad), also known as Abhada, offered to Lord Jagannath during midday at the Puri Jagannath Temple.
As mentioned above, Abhada is served as the Mahaprasad at the The Puri Jagannath Temple, which is one of the four pilgrimage sites of the Char Dham Pilgrimage. Though the temple’s architectural grandeur and supreme divinity may captivate everyone’s eyes, tourists must never forget to savour the exquisite Mahaprasad of the temple.
Though you may not be able to taste all 56 delicacies offered to Lord Jagannath, you can celebrate the flavour of some of them:
- Kanika – Flavoured rice with ghee and sugar.
- Mitha dali – A thick dal made from arhar dal (Pigeon pea/Legume) made with sugar and is sweet in taste.
- Goti Baigana – A dish made of small eggplants and coconut sauce.
- Mahura – A type of mixed vegetable curry that uses very basic ingredients like Kakharu (Pumpkin), Saru (Arbi/ Taro) Kanda Mula (Sweet potato).
- Khata – A sour item made with cooked mango, apple, grape mixed and cooked together.
- Rasabali – A famous sweet dish made of milk, sugar, and wheat.
Crab and prawn curry
How can a city near the ocean not have delicious seafood? The coastal region has an abundance of seafood that goes perfectly with steamed rice. Aside from fish, crab and prawn curries are Indian cuisine’s staples. The curry is prepared with freshly caught crabs and prawns thoroughly cooked with a wide assortment of spice mixes, tomatoes, onion, fresh green chillies, and ginger garlic paste, elevating the curry’s pepperiness.
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Once the sauce is sufficiently heated, a dash of all-Indian favourite garam masala is added to level up the texture and flavour of the curry. Then voila, you are presented with a warm and succulent Odia favourite crab and prawn stew.
Name one dish that possesses the perfect harmony of sweetness and tanginess other than cheesecake. We have one, and it is none other than Lord Puri Jagannath’s favourite prasad, chenna poda.
Chenna Poda is one of the beloved culinary delights relished by the people of Odisha, especially during the vibrant celebrations of Diwali and Durga puja. The twist of flavours offered by this sweet delicacy is the combined magic of carefully picked ingredients such as paneer, semolina, sugar, almond and cashew nuts. After the ingredients are thoroughly blended, they are topped with a dash of cardamom powder and baked until the perfect golden brown hue is attained. Once done, the sweet is ready to be devoured throughout the day.
“Eat, as nobody is watching. Enjoy food like that’s the only thing left in your world.” – Nikita Dudani. And that’s a perfect quote for those looking forward to relishing in the wealth of flavours of Odia cuisine.
(The author is Corporate Chef, Rroshashala. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)