• Regional Cuisine

    Odisha: A Tale of an Unbroken Culinary Tradition

  • Food & Wine India

     14th Feb 2018

    Apart from the cultural heritage, Odisha has a lot to offer from its long-lasting culinary heritage as well.

    Odisha also was known as ‘Utkala’ has a rich cuisine as the Odia people mostly prefer cooking with ghee, rice, and cheese. All your food cravings for the finest quality of food that dwells more on the natural flavours will end here. You will find some flavorful food with the sparse use of spices and oil.

    Behold the culinary tradition of Odisha with thousands of people eating every day at the Jagannath Temple of Puri with around 1000 chefs working around 752 chulas at the temple site. In addition to that, the food techniques vary from region to region, adding different flavors to the cuisine of Odisha. The region near Puri-Cuttack is influenced by the Jagannath temple traditions of doing away with garlic and onion in the food preparations. The regions of Odisha close to Bengal are influenced by the Bengali cuisine with the generous use of mustard and kalonji and the curries tend to be sweeter. Regions close to Andhra Pradesh lavishly make use of curry leaves and tamarind in their food preparations while the food of Brahmapur has a hint of Telugu cuisine. Thus, the food travels all around the state of Odisha picking up different aromas and flavors.

    Visiting Odisha you will experience the love for rice. From savory dishes to the sweet ones, rice rules the taste buds here. Ghee is mostly preferred adding to the richness of the Odisha food followed by mustard oil. Yogurt is one of the mainly used ingredients here along with plantains, jackfruit and papaya. The curries are most often garnished with dried mango while the sweets of this region have predominantly chhena (paneer) as their base. One of the important significances of Odia cuisine is the use of Panch Phutana. It is a traditional mix of five spices namely mustard, cumin. fenugreek, aniseed, and kalonji. Garlic, ginger, and onion also find an important place in the food of this state except the food prepared in the temples.

    The food served in the temple of Jagannath at Puri deserves a mention here for its Mahaprasad which consists of 56 recipes called the Chhapan Bhoga. It is incredible how this region has a perfect balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food as you can see that the regions influenced by the Jagannath Temple have a vegetarian diet while the other coastal areas give you the most delicious Odia seafood curries prepared using prawns and lobsters. This cuisine also includes a variety of freshwater fishes such as Rohu, Catla, and Llishi.

    As rice is the staple food of Odisha, this cuisine consists of many rice dishes from which Pakhala is the most popular one. It is made by adding water to cooked rice and either letting it ferment or consuming it unfermented. The fermented version of Pakhala is known as the Basi Pakhala while the unfermented version is called as Saja Pakhala. It is primarily eaten in summer and is considered as the traditional food of every Odia family. Pakhala is generally served with green chilies, onions, yogurt, badi etc.

    The other rice dishes of the cuisine include,

    • Khechidi- An Odian twist to Khichdi.
    • Palau- An Odian twist to Pilaf.
    • Kanika- A sweet rice dish garnished with raisins and nuts.
    • Ghee Rice- Rice fried with ghee and cinnamon.

    Dalma, a dish made from dal and vegetables is another of Odisha cuisine gems which deserves a mention. Generally, toor dal is used to make Dalma with vegetables like raw papaya, unripe banana, eggplant, pumpkin, and gourd. The dal is then garnished with turmeric, mustard, and the Panch Phutana. You will find various different versions of this dish depending on the region it is influenced by.

    Another significant dish when it comes to the Odisha Cuisine is Santula. It is a curry made by finely chopped vegetables with garlic, green chilies, mustard, and spices. You will find various versions of Santula throughout Odisha. Coming to the curries, there are many varieties of it found in the Odisha cuisine balancing both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian palate from the Chaantu Rai, Alu Potala Rosa, Besara to Egg Tarkari, Chicken Tarkari, Maccha Besara, Chingudi Malai Tarkari (Prawn Curry), Kankada Jholo (Crab Curry) and many more mouthwatering dishes.

    Now coming to the sweet treats, one theory says that rasgulla was originated in the city of Puri. Whatever the theories say your sweet tooth will be all happy with the special rasagulla of Odisha. Along with it, there are many other sweets that can make you weak in your knees. You will see various treats such as the most famous rice porridge named Kheeri to the all popular Chenna Poda, Chenna Jhilli, Chenna Gaja, Malpua, Chenna Kheeri, Rasabali and much more of the lip-smacking goodness.

    Along with being the most delicious destination for all the food connoisseurs out there, Odisha is well known for its rich art culture as well. Visit the beaches of Puri and you will find the magnificent sand art sculptures that will surely leave you wonderstruck. The city of Puri is all famous for the Jagannath Temple with millions of pilgrims visiting the temple every year for the Rath Yatra from all over the world. Another place to visit that reflects the architectural splendor of the Odisha artisans of the past is the city of Bhubaneswar. This city which is believed to be 2500 years old and also known as the temple city of India is popular for its beautiful temples. Also, Bhubaneswar is famous for its local food served at various local joints in the city. The Nandankanan Zoological Park is also one of the worth visiting places in Bhubaneshwar.

    Coming to Orissa and not munching on the street food delicacies of Cuttack is like missing the best part of this state. Your taste buds will be all happy tasting the Piyazi, Sigara, Aloo and Vegetable Chop, Gupchup, Bira the black gram jalebi and much more from the gullies of Cuttack. This city is also famous for its pretty handicrafts. Following these three locations, there are other places to visit such as Sambalpur most popular for its scenic beauty, Rourkela, the famous Konark, Barbil, Jeypore etc.

    Another name that deserves a mention here when it comes to the visiting the beautiful places of Odisha is the Chilika Lake. In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated as the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is a brackish water lagoon spread over the Puri, Khurda, and Ganjam districts of Odisha. Out of many, eleven species of fish, five species of prawns and two species of carbs which are commercially important are found in this lake. To name  a few, the giant tiger prawn, Indian prawn, and the mangrove crab are the most commercially important shellfish found in the Chilika Lake.

    All in all, Odisha is a food paradise. This cuisine brings out its natural flavors in the most incredible ways that connect you with its unbroken culinary tradition forever.