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Showing posts with label Dahi Chenna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dahi Chenna. Show all posts

Friday, November 19, 2021

Dahi Chenna : The lesser known Chenna from Odisha

Dahi Chenna, the cheese procured from the spent curds after butter has been extracted. Pinkish brown-hued, chewy, and with a slight note of sourness, it acquires a unique character by virtue of fermentation and the hours of slow cooking done on a wooden fire. A uniqueness that is apparent in the very first bite. It's the complexity of its flavor that sets it apart from the more easily available 'Dudh Chenna' or cheese obtained simply by splitting the milk. 

Interestingly, this was one ingredient I discovered by taste rather than sight when I unsuspectingly bit into a 'Chenna Manda' at a relative's place. Perplexed by the 'chenna' stufffing that did not have that underlying 'milky-ness' to it, I had asked the host about the ingredients of the stuffing and learned something new. A lot of years have passed since then. I did not get another opportunity to taste it until last week when a relative came from my in-laws native bearing gifts of homemade ghee and the most delicious 'Dahi Chenna'. 

Most of it was turned into 'Chenna Kakara' as expected and the last bit of it was mixed with parched rice for breakfast. Induced into a state of nostalgia, the kind of which is mostly acquired by good food, the MIL reminisced her childhood days when 'Dahi chenna' was easily available and almost a breakfast staple for most Brahmin families. Made possible by the easy availability of good quality milk and free firewood procured by backyards trees and coconut and palm groves, it seemed the best way to make use of the huge quantities of spent curds produced at home. But with firewood becoming more and more inaccessible and adulterated milk on the rise, it is becoming increasingly rare for people to make it at home. Seasoned 'Gudiyas' or the 'Gaudas' who still have access to good milk and firewood share that apart from these two, the 'Dahi Chenna' gets its complex flavors from the earthen pots and some of the liquid that has been retained to add to the next lot. 

But the USP of the 'Dahi Chenna' is not just taste or texture for that matter. Being lighter on the stomach as most of the fat has been extracted during the churning and with a greater shelf life, it was more coveted among the two types of cheese prevalent in Coastal Odisha. Its exalted status is reflected in its usage in the various 'pitha's made during various occasions like Manabasa Gurubar, Bada Osa and Prathamastami. This custom is now seriously threatened by the unavailability of the Dahi Chenna and most people have taken to using regular Chenna instead.

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