Seven Delicious Odia Dishes That Are Worth Trying
As the East coast of India, we all know Odisha as a popular family holiday destination for its rich architecture-based temples (like the Lord Jagannath Temple), beaches, and zoological parks. Little did we know about its delectable Odia cuisine, which comprises a wide variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies (like Mansa Jhola, Chenna Poda, Santula, Gaja, Khaja) widely available across different eateries in the space. Rice is a staple food among Odia people, and most households use mustard oil as a cooking medium. Odias consider Yoghurt a significant ingredient in many Odia dishes, and its sweets are based on Chhena, which are authentic delights to our taste buds. The specific cuisine provides the foodies with a burst of flavour while being less oily than other regional cuisines. Hence, Odisha’s vibrant tourism spots and the traditional Odia cuisine make the place stand out. Abinas Nayak, Masterchef Winner and Corporate Chef, Rroshashala shares a list of seven famous handpicked Odia dishes that every culinary enthusiast should try.
Pakhala is the one dish that unites Odia people. Odias enjoy this best summer dish to beat the heat and have even dedicated a day called ‘Pakhala Divas’ on March 20 every year to celebrate the traditional food worldwide in the modern era. It is unknown when Pakhaḷa was first included in the daily diet of Eastern India. Still, the dish was included in the recipe of Lord Jagannath Temple of Puri circa the 10th century. It seems that Pakhala was first introduced in Odisha. Pakhala is the Odia term for cooked rice that is lightly fermented overnight in water. The water/leftover liquid half of the dish, called Torani, is known to replenish the body’s nutritional balance. People add curd, cucumber, curry leaves, and cumin seeds to fermented rice to make the traditional dish even more delicious. Pakhala can be consumed alongside other side dishes like fried fish, mashed potato, fried brinjal and fried potato.
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A lentil gravy and steamed rice is a regular meal for Indians, just as bread and butter are for the western world. Lentil gravy is a staple in every Indian household, and Odia is no exception. Though lentil gravy may have the same name, each city in India has a distinct flavour that reflects the culture and cuisine of the region. Odia special Dalma is cooked with yellow lentils and vegetables in a pot and later tempered with highly nutritious ingredients like Cumin, Hing, Ginger, Red chillies, Ghee, etc. Once prepared, the hot gravy is served with rice. This traditional dish is also served in Lord Jagannath Temple. Dalma, it seems, was a gift from the Savaras, the strongest tribe in ancient Odisha. Archaeological records state that the Savaras- the non-Aryan tribe of Odisha known for their social harmony, were the first to worship Lord Jagannath as Neela Mahadeb/ Mahadev.
Where Rasagolla is concerned, Pahala is known as the Rasagolla district of Odisha. It is a small place between Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar, with almost 50 sweet shops on each side of the road selling Rasagullas of different sizes. The colour of Odia special Rasagolla is light brown in colour due to the touch of caramelised sugar, and it tastes mildly sweet, unlike the Bengali counterfeit. Historically, it first made its appearance as an offering to Lord Jagannath of Puri temple in the 12th century.
This dish is widely consumed in the Western part of Odisha. Ambila is prepared from an assortment of seasonal vegetables, bamboo shoots (Karadi) and dried mango. These ingredients are boiled to form a gravy/stock (a soup-like consistency) and cooked with less usage of spices. Sometimes, broken rice is used on top of the flavourful profile, which is a little tangy and must be consumed hot. Ambila goes very well with rice and is a very healthy dish.
Dahi Baingan is a unique way of preparing brinjal by deep frying it in quarters and adding them to spiced and cooked yoghurt curry. The Yoghurt or Dahi is also flavoured with some sugar and tempering. This dish is quite popular in Odia and Bengali cuisine and is an ideal curry for lunch and dinner, which can be cooked within minutes by amateur cooks too.
It is a traditional Odia dish specially prepared for festivals like Prathamashtami, a festival celebrating the life and prosperity of a family’s first/eldest child. This aromatic steamed rice cake is prepared in turmeric leaves stuffed with urad daal. This batter is accompanied by a spoonful of jaggery and coconut mixture stuffing and steamed for 10 to 12 minutes until done. The dish’s flavour, delightful aroma, and turmeric leaf’s nutrient-rich properties make Enduri Pitha a mouth-watering dish.
It is considered a tremendous nutritional delicacy consumed mostly for dinner in every Odia household. Santula is prepared with various boiled vegetables, less oil, and very few spices (like turmeric) and tempered with garlic, mustard, red chilli, and panch phoron, making the dish healthy. At times, milk is also used in the dish, mainly in the southern part of Odisha, known as Khira Santula. Thus, Santula is healthy and easy to digest, which is ideal for a weight loss diet.
The lip-smacking healthy and tasty Odia dishes suggest Odisha is a quintessential gourmet central for every foodie. Now that Odisha welcomes thousands of tourists every year, it is high time that visitors also try Odisha’s diverse cuisine and satisfy their taste buds, followed by making their travel worth remembering.
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