Here are some flavourful and relatively unknown dishes from kitchens all over the country.
Odisha, the land of Lord Jagannath, has some of the most drool-worthy delicacies on offer (read mutton mudhi, Dhenkanal bara). But the showstopper is the quintessential Chhena Poda (sweet cottage cheese). Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi calls it “the signature dish of Orissa,” which is available in roadside stalls and confectionaries throughout the state. According to folklore, this sweet dish originated accidentally in the town of Nayagarh in the first half of the 20th-century. Known for its lingering taste of burnt cheese, this sweetmeat was invented by late Sudarsan Sahu while experimenting with the leftover cottage cheese. A favourite sweet dish offered to the Lord, it is sold in small traditional roadside stalls and confectionaries. Chhena Poda is made by kneading chhena and semolina along with sugar and flavoured with cardamom powder, raisins and roasted cashews.
The undiscovered Pahari cuisine is unique constituting mainly herb and millet-based dishes. Fiddlehead fern, a speciality of New England and the eastern coast of Canada, is widely grown along the banks of Uttarakhand during the rainy season. This power-packed vegetable rich in iron enhances immunity and promotes bone growth. Chef Sokhi recalls, “I came across this vegetable in a pickle shop in the state when I was shooting there. Earlier the fiddlehead ferns could only be obtained through foraging but they are now easier to source. In India too, home chefs and restaurants are increasingly relying on local food wisdom and incorporating these unknown vegetables in their menus.” This green pickle is the perfect accompaniment with hot parathas and phulkas.
Thekua is a popular crunchy and mildly sweet whole wheat cookie made in every household during the Chhath Puja and other festive occasions. This healthy dish doesn’t require any fancy ingredients. Traditionally, this deep-fried snack is made using wheat flour, sugar and ghee. Try baking it if you don’t want it fried.
The cuisine of Chattisgarh is flavourful and spicy. The quintessential thali has a rustic flavour with rice and rice flour preparations and a variety of leafy vegetables. Dishes like Aamat, rice pakodas and dehati bada (urad dal fritters), gulgule and kusli are common. But perhaps it is the Khurmi (sweet dish), a tribal favourite, which tops the food charts. Khurmi is an oval-shaped sweet deep-fried dish made up of wheat flour and jaggery. Coconut is added to enhance the flavour and for some crunch. The dish is served traditionally as a prasad along with Thetri and Biriya during the occasion of pola festival in which bulls are decorated and worshipped by the farmers.
So what’s your favourite regional delicacy? Share your comments with readers below.