Odia Food has been a seldom explored cuisine. Even though Odia cooks have been the most sought after in many kitchens throughout India, they have never ventured into cooking their own state-food. Odia Food is rich in flavors and has mostly never left the state’s borders.
It is in this context that the Odia Bhoji food festival holds special importance. Aish at The Park, Hyderabad is conducting the Odia Bhoji and given a special platform for a little known cuisine. Having heard of Chef Mandaar’s penchant for creativity and Chef Bibu, I knew I was going to have a good meal ahead.We started off with the most famous street food of Odisha, the Dahibara Aloodum and Piaji Ghuguni.
Now the denizens of Cuttack take their Dahibara Aloodum real serious and me kind off fall a little into that category. The Dahibara Aloodum served at the food festival blew me away. It was the right proportion of spicy and delicious. The aloodum was a standout topped on the soft dahibara. The Piaji was served exactly the way it’s made in Odisha. The Odia prefer their snacks in small, tiny pieces and the piaji was made the exact same way.
Moving on to the Maccha Bhaja and Mangsa Chop, I only knew the wave of nostalgia flooding over me. Next up was the Kanji which is a yogurt and rice soup bursting with loads of garlic. Pakhala is in itself a huge meal in itself. It’s fermented rice served with loads of accompaniments on the side. Each household makes it’s own version of ingredients to go with the Pakhala. The odia style of mashed potatoes, Aloo Bharta, Chingudi Checcha (smashed prawns), Sajana Chuin Aloo Bhaja (drumsticks and Potatoes fry) and Badi Chura completed the presentation of the Pakhala.
Coming to the mains is where the bhoji (feast) literally starts. The Odias prefer a lot of khattas (sour chutneys) with their food and here in the food festival that was displayed proudly. From the Ambula Rai (chutney of dry mangoes and coconut), Khajuri Khatta (date chutney with tomatoes) and Oou Khatta (Elephant Apple chutney). Among the mains on that day was the Maccha Tarkari (Fish Curry) and Mangsa Kassa (Mutton kassa).
Besara is another beautiful preparation in Odia households making use of mustard. Now the besara can be made using lots of ingredients from vegetarian to non-vegetarian variants. The Besara served at Aish was on the lines of the food served in temples. Odisha takes great pride in it’s temple food where culture has played a great part in reshaping the cuisine of the state. Hence many dishes at the Odia Bhoji had temple food like the Mandira Dali, Chenna Tarkari, Kanika and Pheni.
Among the desserts were Odisha’s famous Rasgollas and Chenna Poda. Lots of sweets in the state are made pre-dominantly using chenna (cheese). The Rasabali comes from the town of Kendrapara and also had been made by Chef Bibhu as part of the festival.
The Odia Bhoji is one of those unique food festivals which delves into the authenticity of a lesser explored cuisine. The Odia Bhoji is on till the 19th September 2016 at Aish, The Park.
Thanks to Swati for the invite and bringing Odia food to Hyderabad.