Posts Tagged ‘Pakhala’
For most Odias no summer meal is complete without two dishes. The first is Pakhala and the second badi chura. Thanks to the efforts of the state government the Pakhala has now got due recognition and March 20th of each year is now celebrated as Pakhala Diwas. Similar efforts by the government and now badi are reckoned as a crunchy side dish and available across multiple outlets not only in odisha but also out of the state.
Traditionally the badis have been made in every household of the state. These are dried and preserved food items that are consumed as crunchy side items with rice or water rice ( pakhala). Made from split black gram paste that is put to dry in sun as dumplings, badi has been a favorite item of housewives in odia houses from ages.
Though not much is known about its origin, it is widely believed that the crispy crunchy dumpling marked its beginning in the districts of Keonjhar amongst the tribal populace. Even today it is offered as Prasad to the deities in many temples in Keonjhar. Ten varieties of the badis, for example, are offered to the deity in the Baldev Jew temple in Keonjhar district on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
It baffles imagination when one considers the fact that coming from the temples the badi has found its way to the dining habits of people of odisha. And what is more interesting is the fact that changing time the badi has dawned new roles. The dumplings are now available in different varieties and unlike common practice, are treated with spices and items like pumpkin, almonds, and cauliflowers to make it more appealing to the taste buds.
And also as it makes it way out of traditional odia homes to be sold in shops and outlets, badi has become the source of income for many families . It is estimated that today, around 850 families in Orissa’s Keonjhar District alone earn their livelihood from Badi making. The entire process has taken commercial proportion and bigger players in the market are turning on to mechanized production of badis to meet demands. What is heartening is the fact that now badis are in demand not only in other states of India but in countries like USA and China.
Various government agencies like ORMAS have helped a lot to market these commodities but as a popular odia dish, it also needs to be recognized just like the “pakhala”!
Orissa is a foodie’s paradise. The sheer variety and savor of Oriya delicacies is mind blowing. Delicacies are ingrained in the oriya religious, social and cultural application. The interesting thing about oriya food is that most of them have evolved independently out of the various religious rituals of Lord Jagannath. Fascinatingly, the Jagannath culture prides in beingthe perpetrator to many mouth watering dishes like the Kheeri & Rasagolla which are savored by most people of Orissa. Traditionally the Lord Jagannath has been served with the 56 sacred items (56 Bhogas) that contain indigenous oriya delicacy like Pakhala, Pithas ,Besaras and the Dalma. These centuries old food items have over the years made their way to the kitchens of Oriya people and form the major part of oriya recipes today..
In a befitting tribute to the culinary sense of Oriya people, a Delhi-based Hotel Management Institute has launched a six-month course on traditional cuisine of Orissa. The Bhartee Institute of International Hotel Management (LBIIHM) has launched the diploma course from this year. “For the first time an academic orientation is being provided to train students in Oriya food and beverages,” institute director-cum-chief executive officer Kamal Kumar, who belongs to Orissa, told IANS.“The first batch will have a strength of 15 students and the classes will comprise of both theory and practical components where students will be trained in Oryia Snacks, main course, sweets and beverages,” he said.
Describing Oriya cuisine as very healthy and delicious, Kumar said that he is trying to build a group of Oriya-cuisine ambassadors.“Moreover, it will be a very good launch-pad for the students to become Oriya-food entrepreneurs” he said. LBIIHM has tied up with the Orissa food stall at Dilli Haat for on-the-job training.
Efforts like such are laudable and will go a long way in promoting the Orissa Culture.
We used to wait eagerly for the summer vacations in our School days. Every year the period starting from May till the end of June, meant that we said farewell to our schools and books and enjoyed playing the whole day long .What made the vacations special was, our visits to the villages. I harbored a natural love for the village: the mango gardens, the rice field, the big open play grounds, the ponds and above all the authentic oriya food. I relished the oriya dishes – the saga bahaja,the aalu bhaja,aalu poda,sukua,badi chura and above all the Pakhala.There is something special about these dishes, some sort of simplicity that I find missing in other dishes. Probably there is something distinctly Oriya in Pakhala.Probably Pakhala is the food of Oriyas just as the Sattu for the Biharis and Dal Bati for the Rajasthanis.
However that does not mean pakhala is eaten and savored only by Oriyas. In fact,the popularity of pakhala transgresses the Orissa border to be enjoyed in states like Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh and even in some parts of Myanmar and Bangladesh. To the Bengali’s it is known as Panta Bhat,to the natives of Chattisgarh as Pakhal Bhat or Bore Bhat and to the Assamiya as Poita Bhat. Not only this, People in southern India have their own form of pakhala, the ‘tair sadam’ / curd rice which falls in the same category.
Nobody is sure about the origin of the dish or how and when it got embedded in our culinary habits. Vague references about a rice dish fermented in water can be found in ancient Buddhistic inscriptions in pali.But it was not until it got acceptedd as a main item of food for Lord Jagganth and began to be offered to the devotees as prasadam, that it started getting wide acceptance from local inhabitants. The ‘abhada pakahal’, in fact, greatly popular through out the state began from the kitchens of Lord Jagannath. If language be taken as the parameter to judge historical significance, then we will have some interesting but contradictory results at our disposal. The word pakhala , strangely, owes its origin to the Sanskrit word ‘Paka’ that means taste. The tribal equivalent of the word refers to something that is “Fresh and energeti”. Thus it seems in its heydays,Pakhala was consumed for its freshness and revitalizing effect. A staple diet of every farmer or peasant even today, it is not difficult to conclude what an important place it held on the dietary habits of our ancestors.Even to this date we can hear sayings that praise its worth. An old couplet that comes to mind is
Pakhala Bhata ku na kariba Hina
Pakhal Bhata Debata samana!
It is interesting to note here that during the period of Bengal renaissance, Brahmin cooks from Puri were hired en masse to cook in the kitchens of Bengali Zamindars.Famed for their culinary skills, they were referred to as ‘Ude Thakurs’.As a result of this migration, many Oriya Dishes like Rasagolla and Kheeri entered into the food habits of the Bengalis. But Pakhala could never really catch the fancy of the Bengali people.For many Bengali households, its inclusion in the local cuisine is regarded as embarrassing. Probably couplets like the one mentioned above were created in retaliation.
Whatever be the history, Pakhala Bhata holds its significance to our dining habit not only because of the taste but also owing to the geographical position and environmental conditions prevalent here. Can any other diet give us more satisfaction than a diet of pakhala in the scorching summers? Pakahala Bhata contains partially hydrolyzed starch and carbohydrates and many other vitamins along with sufficient water. This water is responsible for maintaining balanced temperature in the body during the heat of summers. Apart from the high cooling effect that it has, the fermented rice is a great protector of the Liver. Also the food being full of Yeast, promotes healthier cell production in the body.
With the kind of acceptance it has and the adoration it commands among the Oriyas, it is really astounding that, we hardly find any references about this wonderful dish in any culinary books. This is partly because of our accepting new dishes and newer eating habits. But does that mean we should move away from antiquity, our tradion? Pakhal is something that distinctly relates to Orissa. And even if we are moving into modernity, lets do our bit by preserving this. Bande Utkal Janani