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Rasgulla, Rasogulla or the Rôshogolla. You might call it anyway you like, but the unofficial national sweet of India has been in a center of fight between the Bengalis and Odias. I’m not going to get into the history as written already on Wikipedia. It’s recounted to have originated from the temples of Lord Jaganath in Puri. Every time someone posts about rasgulla on a public forum, the Bengalis and Odias have been ready to get on with the tussle, to claim it as theirs.

A Typical Shop At Pahala
Being from Cuttack, I have been bordered by the two phenomenal cities on either sides, from where rasgullas are said to be the best. Pahala on one and Salepur on the other. Everytime I drove down to Bhubaneswar, along the NH-5 a stop at Pahala was guaranteed, for having some of the piping hot rasgullas. Unlike the ones from Bengal, these aren’t spongy, but more melt in the mouth. They are mostly preferred had piping hot.

The Pahala Shops
The modern version of the Rasgullas, considering it’s been around for more than thousands of years is a very recent phenomenon. Having added, semolina to it and making the syrup thicker, Nobin Chandra Das went on to give this delicious sweet a better shelf life. And his son went a step further on canning them, so that people all over could relish it without having to think much of having to gobble down as soon as cooked.

Rasgullas 2
This time wanting to get into the history with the locals on a visit to Odisha, I drove down to Pahala again for primarily two reasons. One to have a plate of the piping hot rasgullas and two to actually hear out their version of the story. Some say that Pahala has been a recent phenomenon. But the shops say otherwise. Some of the shops making the rasgullas, have been doing it for more than a 100 years.

Rasgullas Being Made
You’ll find the shops at Pahala named quite funnily after relatives. While one simply translating will be “Aunt’s Son” while the other will be “Grandma’s Grandson’s shop”. All of them though have been very consistent with their sweet-making.

Chenna Used In Making Rasgullas

The use of chenna (a form of cottage cheese) is abundant in most of Odisha’s sweets and is used quite extensively in the Rasgulla too. Ranging from really small to much larger, they come in different price ranges. The bigger ones have a hidden cashew, elaichi or raisin fitted in them. The Rasagullas made at Pahala have a thinner syrup to it. They are best had hot once out and tend to spoil in a good 10-12 hours. Once refrigerated, their taste decreases over time and subsequently spoilt. They are mostly off-white to cream color and very different from the ones made at Salepur.

Hidden Inside Is A Surprise
Salepur can literally be called the place where you get the most delicious of sweets ever. Period. Like almost the best in all of India. A few 10-15 kms from Cuttack, Salepur was made famous and put on the sweet map of India by the Kar Brothers. As I rode over to Salepur one fine day, I couldn’t help but notice that rasgullas were part of almost every meal of theirs. They love having it with rotis, puris and just like that too. The Rasgullas at Salepur are thick, with a denser syrup and completely brown-ish. They are a bit sweeter than their Pahala counterparts.

Salepur Rasgullas
If not for Bikalnanda Kar, the rasgullas would have remained restricted to the temples of Puri. He is said to have been the one who perfected the art outside of temple premises in the town of Salepur. This is one reason why the Salepur version of the rasgullas have a longer shelf life than their other counterparts found in Orissa. The Bikalnanda shops have now expanded out of Salepur and have opened up many outlets in the capital city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

Rasgullas 4
Rasgullas have always been a part of the Odia meal from ages ago. From marriage parties, to birth ceremonies, to just plain binging on them, Rasgullas hold a special place. Everyone has their own version of the rasgullas that they are attached to. The Bengalis love theirs, while the Odias love their version. But for India, this is one of the best sweets that a person can’t get enough of having only one.

Below is a video of Rasgulla being prepared in Pahala.

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For a city where every resident, from all walks of life thrive on one dish and can have it for all breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is difficult to argue as to where do you get the best Dahibara Aloodum. Every resident has his/her own personal favorite. It might be the one in his street, the street where his/her crush lives, right outside the school/college they’re studying at or maybe 15 kms away so that he can make the ride simply to enjoy a dish of awesomeness.

Dahibara

Cuttack is one hell of a labyrinth for the people who aren’t accustomed to it’s lanes. If you are a newbie around and have pushed your car into one of those narrow lanes, chances are you would have already caused a roadblock with every one trying to cut through or giving you the hand signal to help you drive through the narrow roads. But the bonding of every Cuttackian has happened over a plate of Dahibara Aloodum. The love for it encompasses any other food item they would have ever had and they might just be born with the gene to already love it by default.

Spicy Aloodum

So what is it about this simple dish that has a 1000-year old city crazy about it and licking their fingers? The bara’s are soaked and left in Dahi so that all the marinating seeps into the bara’s making it a lot softer and flavorful. And add to it the Aloo Dum and Guguni piping hot with the garnishing of sev, pudina and coriander and you have got one hell of a dish licking your fingers.

Kanika Chaaka Dahibara

The numerous Dahibarawalas can be found in plenty of spots in the 52 streets, 53 lanes city. Driving to houses in cycles, setting up stalls under trees and parking their lot outside of popular places, it’d be hard not finding one every 100 metres away.

The most famous ones:

  1. Raghu Dahibara – In Bidanasi, this guy has been around for so long that people even travel from other cities all the way to have his yet. He doesn’t believe in the concept of spoons, so better be licking the spiciness off your fingers and then asking for a sweet peda to douse that spiciness off your tongue
  2. Kanika Chaaka Petrol Pump: Has since shifted base to a shop adjacent instead of opposite and you can follow the crowd to his stall
  3. Deula Sahi: One of the few places where the mitha Dahibara is as good as the savory one. Personal favorite and swear by the guguni
  4. Ishuwar and Other ones outside Barabati Stadium: Used to be good and still attract the crowds though have lost some of the sheen in my opinion

The Various Stalls Outside Barabati Stadium

So after having some of the lip-smacking Dahibara Aloodum in the city, don’t forget to ask to fill up on some of the dahi to drink up, that’s your mocktail alongside and a handful of sev to go about then after.

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