Explore Odihsa in its cuisine Part-1

Odisha, formerly Orissa is the most underrated food destination. It’s the misconception that the Odisha Cuisine was inherited from Bengal which made Odisha cuisine forgotten.

 Team Food Culture in its third exploration visited Odisha to explore the local cuisine from different parts of the state. Odiya cuisine is very simple yet distinct from place to place. Odiya Cuisine uses less oil and the spice levels are on the lower side. People prefer using mustard oil for cooking.

Our first stop is hotel Odianee located in Soti, which is known for serving traditional and authentic Odiya food. This restaurant was started in 2009 to revive the traditional Odiya cuisine which is gradually missing from the place.

Dilip Panda took us to the kitchen, where we had a glimpse of Odiya cooking. A regular Veg Thali would consist of 30 dishes, which includes 8 types of chutneys, salads, rice and curries. One thing that grabbed our attention is Fermented rice dish called “Pakhal”. Pakhal or Pokhada is the popular traditional Odiya dish mainly consumed in summer to maintain body cool. Cooked rice is soaked over night in water with curd, ginger, lemon, chilly. This fermented rice is consumed next day for lunch.  

We were surprised when 9 out 10 persons had pakhal bhata in odianee, might be the summer effect. Pakhal can be consumed with accompaniments like fried vegetables or curries as well.

We began our lunch with Pakhal bhata. Aloo bartha, bendi Bartha, badi chura, chutneys and other condiments are served with the fermented rice. Rice absorbed the water and is swollen.  The sour fermented rice with condiments tasted really well. 

Next we were served with traditional Odiya thali, which has chutneys, veg and non-veg dishes. People of Odisha eat chutneys a lot. Chutneys are as important as the main course. Veg dishes includes Mirchi chutney with mustard, drumstick, zinga, simba, kunduri and non-veg includes the regular chicken, mutton, fish and prawns. Fish is deep fried and steeped in mustard gravy. Mustard is the common ingredient in most of the Odiya dishes. Though all the dishes are common and available in most of the states, the ingredients and the style of cooking makes the difference. 

We took enough time to finish the main course and left some space for the desserts. We had two types of rasagola. First is the regular rasagola served with boiled rice with added sugar and second one served with  mandya(ragi). The ambience of the odianee is filled with Odiya paintings and the lush green nursery.

After lunch we departed to Salepur to taste iconic Rasagola of Bikalanandakar. Late, Bikalanandakar ji started with a small outlet in 1924, is now spread across the state. Late Bikalanandakar ji is the man behind popularizing the Odiya rasagola which is completely different from the Bengal rasagola.

Top: Bikalananda kar's Rasagola in Salepur Bottom-Left: Chenna Ghaja Bottom-Right: Rasagola

Currently the third generation took responsibility of the business. Pradiptha kar, son of Bikalanandakar ji warmly welcomed us and shared their journey.

We ordered rasagola and surprised to see the size of rasagola we got. Its almost the size of a big apple. Rasagola of this place is soft and golden brown in texture. Pradipthakar mentioned that it is the iconic dish of their shop.  It is sweeter than the regular rasagola. Odisha Rasagola has the G.I tag as well. To revive traditional Odiya sweets, Govt. of Odisha started an ITI college and named it after Bikala ji.

After having a big apple sized Rasagola, our team called off for the day and were returning to  Bhubaneswar via Cuttack. Though our tummies were full, we could manage  a soft drink. Hence we went to Dilbahar Sharbat shop located in Buxi Bazar. 

There are two types of sharbat available in Dilbahar sharbat shop. First one is the dahi(Curd) sharbat and second one is Rabdi(sweet dish) sharbat.  

Sharbat ingredients :
sugar syrup
curd or rabdi - depending on type of sharbat
grated coconut 
vanilla and pineapple 
dry fruits 

Sugar syrup and curd( or rabdi)  are mixed well. Then a layer of grated coconut and rabdi is spread. Finally vanilla, pineapple essence and dry fruits are added on top.

With this our Day-1 of exploring Odisha Cuisine has come to an end. On Day 2 we travelled to Puri and Nimpada to have Kaja and Chenna Jhilli from the iconic places which will be published in next article.

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