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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sijha (Muan) Pitha ( And A Happy Raja to All )

The swings have sprung up all over the city. The latest Odia blockbusters are also out. Malls look all spruced up. Ongoing sales have the people coming out of their home in droves. Pretty girls are everywhere to be seen. And there is even a 'Raja Queen' contest to anoint the prettiest amongst them. That's the typical scene in Bhubaneshwar or even the smaller towns and cities of Coastal Odisha during Raja, the 3 day festival that is celebrated in honor of Mother Earth. Being one of the rare festivals that celebrate menstruation, the three days signal a period of complete rest from physical labor ( in accordance with what Ayurveda prescribes and not what marketeers of the extra absorbent winged protection and menstruation cups would like us to believe ) and eating to one's heart content.

Now for a scene from a typical Odia household that boasts of a hell raiser (aka a teenager). Makeup. Check. New outfits. Check. A spring in the step. Check. Pitha. Skip. "It's so loaded with calories", being the most common refrain with teenagers who are turning weight conscious. "What ? Do these teens think that KFC and their ilk fry chicken in water ?", I want to shout back. But then I already know the answers. As do these people.

But then, some wise Odia lady of yore was obviously thinking ahead of her time as she lovingly doled out pithas to her extended family. The humble pitha or the traditional Odia snack ( both sweet and savoury ) comes in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes and flavors. And thankfully, all of them are not ghee-guzzling entities that could give nightmares to any fitness freak. Or for that matter, any individual who believes in a moderate diet. The 'Muan Pitha' or 'Sijha Pitha' is just one among them. A steamed savoury delight with just the right amount of sweetened roasted coconut stuffed into it, it is usually eaten with a yellow peas curry or Ghuguni.

The traditional method of preparing one is to tie a piece of clean cloth over the mouth of a wide vessel containing water. A thick batter is poured over the cloth, covered with a lid and steamed till it is cooked. But I have employed the steamer attachment of a rice cooker to prepare this Pitha with almost identical results. Plus, it is minus the mess caused by the traditional one.

Read on for the recipe -



















Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients -



  • 1 cup urad dal ( skinless )
  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 cups freshly grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup powdred jaggery ( as par taste )
  • 2 green cardamom ( powdered )
  • 1 tsp black pepper ( powdered )
  • 1 1/2 tsp ghee
  • salt to taste


Preparation - Soak the rice and urad dal overnight. Wash and grind into a fine paste the next morning. Allow to ferment for 10 hours or so depending on the climate. 

Season the batter with salt just before steaming the pitha.

Cooking - Heat the ghee in a wok. Add the coconut and roast till it starts getting a little brown.

Add the powdered jaggery and cook till jaggery melts and coats the coconut evenly. Finally add the powdered spices,mix in and switch off the flame.


















Grease a steamer pan with ghee . Pour a layer of batter about 1 cm thick. Spread a layer of the sweetened roasted coconut over it and finally cover it with another layer of the batter.


















Boil water in the main pan. Place the steamer pan over it and close lid. Let it steam for about 15-20 mins.

Switch off the rice cooker/steamer. Remove the steamer attachment carefully. Let it cool down for a while before you cut the pitha into pieces of desired size.

















Serve with a curry of your choice.





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