Oriyarasoi is on twitter !

Showing posts with label odishaonmyplate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label odishaonmyplate. Show all posts

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Khesari Dal : A victim of propaganda ?












I first read about Khesari dal in the textbooks in school. It was the villain who seduced the poor into consuming it in large amounts and then promptly turned them into miserable cripples. Sadly, I believed every word of it. Such was my faith in the written word. But then everything comes with an expiry date. Or at least an upgrade patch. Much needed to fill those gaps in the software or in the context of real life, the half-baked textbook knowledge religiously fed to unassuming schoolkids. 

The Khesari dal's notoriety as a 'paralysis inducing' ingredient is only second to its disrepute as a cheap adulterant used to bulk up more expensive pulses. And it has actually been found to have been added to everything from toor dal to 'besan' to even the 'sattu'. But then not every part of the world eyes it with suspicion or explicitly bans its cultivation and sale. Lathyrus Sativus is an important crop in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Ethiopia for reasons that range from meeting the protein requirement of the poorer sections of society to its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and also its usage as animal fodder. Though it was banned for sale in India in the year 1961, states like Bengal, parts of Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh have continued to use this dal for human consumption. And importantly, Maharashtra has overturned the ban on the cultivation and sale of this dal based on the research findings of a Nagpur-based nutrition scientist Shantilal Kothari. His work makes for an engaging though lengthy read.

While reading up on Khesari dal, I stumbled upon the fact that it had been banned first in 1907 by the Maharaja of Rewa(Madhya Pradesh) after a severe drought drove . While one cannot deny the presence of the neurotoxin ODAP in Khesari dal, it is shown to have an adverse effect only when consumed in excess amounts, almost skewing the normal carb to protein ratio of a regular Indian meal . Medical texts state the 400 g of Lathyrus consumed daily over a period of 3 months or more may increase the risk of Lathyrism. While such instances have occurred during periods of drought or crop failure, the resilient character of this legume makes it an asset during such periods. It can grow in almost any kind of soil and provides a good amount of protein even when consumed in moderation. Soaking the dal in hot water for 40 mins to an hour and washing it thoroughly multiple times is supposed to cuts down most of the neurotoxins. Even soaking in normal water cuts down the neurotoxins by half. (Haileyesus Getahun 1Fernand LambeinMichel VanhoornePatrick Van der Stuyft) . On the other hand, consuming sufficient cereals with the dal to balance the essential sulphur aminoacids can help prevent Lathyrism.(Fernand LambeinYu-Haey Kuo)

As per Ayurveda, 'Khesari dal' is 'cold and heavy' with laxative properties and hence should be consumed accordingly. For example, if one visualizes a proper Indian meal, a decent chunk of it is the carbohydrates that provide the most calories. Then comes a bowl of dal, one or two servings of vegetables which change according to the season, maybe a chutney or a pickle, even papad or badi. All of it together makes the meal complete. There is no concept of 'Ati' or excess. A fact reiterated by some of the families who cultivate this dal in Odisha. All of them use it occasionally and in small amounts. Mostly for making a snack called 'piaji' (not to be confused with the onion extravaganza by the same name) and then very rarely for a regular dal to be eaten with rice. Research literature points to the usage of the green pods as a snack very much like the Bengal gram. 

While there is ongoing research to develop newer cultivars with lower ODAP levels, one can still consume them in smaller amounts as the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and it is also easier on the pocket. It is known to strengthen the bones, balance Pitta-Kapha dosha, reduce inflammation, enhance potency, and also stimulate the appetite. In the coastal parts of Odisha, especially in Cuttack and nearby areas, the 'Piaji' or fried fritters are almost always made with Khesari dal.








A side by side comparison of Tuvar(tur)side-by-side and Khesari dal to help in identifying the latter. While Tuv has a rounded shape, the latter has a rather irregular shape and yellowish-orange color. 

Sharing a quick recipe for the 'Piaji' or 'Dal vada' I made with it -

Khesari Dal Piaji/ Vada

Ingredients -

1/2 cup Khesari dal

1 small onion (finely chopped)

1/2 inch ginger (crushed)

1-2 green chili(crushed)

1/2 cup chopped greens (coriander/tender mustard greens/moringa/radish greens)

salt to taste

200 ml oil for frying 

Preparation - Wash and soak the dal for 1-2 hours. Drain off all water. 

Transfer to a chutney jar and give a quick pulse. Add the rest of the ingredients except oil and give another pulse. The paste should be a little finer than the coarse texture we prefer for Channa dal when making dal vada.

Heat the oil. Don't get it smoking though. Add small dollops of the paste. Do not crowd the frying vessel at any time and keep the oil at a constant temperature. 

Turn it a few times and remove it when it starts to acquire a light brown color.

Serve immediately.

The remaining 'piaji' can be refrigerated and added to a curry. 












Alternatively, one can also make a thin and flavorful dal with it.



Sunday, November 21, 2021

Janta Ruti : Just do'ugh' it !!












Sometime back in 2013 when I was experimenting with foods meant for my ever-hungry toddler, I discovered the 'Janta ruti', a kind of bread popular in Odisha. It was tasty, easy enough to chew, and light on the stomach too. Plus it made a perfect pair with the boiled veggies (read 'Santula' minus the 'chunka' or tempering). It became a part of our menu and stayed that way. And incredibly, it's most salient feature remained overlooked. 

But everything changed a few months back when I was reading up on research papers about gluten. Or rather how to minimize the formation of this unavoidable protein that has been haunting quite a few people. Honestly, going the sourdough route or switching to 'Gluten free' flour isn't an option for everyone. Or even switching to 'ghar ke chakki ka atta' or 'home processed flour' if I have to put it in the Indian context.

But why this growing dissent with 'gluten' which has always been present in wheat? Gluten intolerance may also have become fairly common because of changes in the way wheat is processed. Earlier, wheat was harvested, shade dried, washed down, and sun-dried before making it to the local chakki where it was ground and distributed. But increased demand has led to manufacturers bypassing all the steps between threshing and processing. Most of the packaged wheat is not properly shade dried and sun-dried - the two processes that broke down gluten (or rather glutenin as gluten comes into the picture only when after the flour is hydrated ) into smaller particles.

Preferences also play a role here. Demand for white-looking bread or 'roti' has led to the market being flooded with certain varieties like durum which have higher gluten content in comparison to varieties like 'Emmer' or 'Kaphali' which have lower gluten but are much darker in color. In spite of this selective breeding, the gluten content has remained constant over the last 120 years, although the composition of the gluten has changed slightly. While the proportion of Gliadin fell by around 18 percent, the proportion of Glutenin rose by around 25 percent. 

While it is tough to dismiss the external factors, the formation of gluten has a lot to do with how the dough is manipulated. Everything from the amount (and temperature) of water added to the dough, to the kneading technique (damn!! there are so many of them) and duration of kneading to the usage of shortening agents( term used for fats that coat the gluten components and prevent them from forming lengthy chains resulting in a flaky crumbly texture) plays a definite role.  

Somewhere in the middle of processing it all, it struck me. I was seeing the 'Janta ruti' through the lens of my newly acquired understanding. It ticked all the boxes. Temperature, hydration, and fat. The boiling water denatures the wheat proteins, limiting the formation of gluten. This makes the dough soft but not stretchy(read 'hard to tear'). Second, the hot water gelatinizes the starch allowing it to absorb more water. This makes the dough smooth and supple and a lot easier to work with. As a bonus, it stays soft long after it has cooled down. The fat, though in a limited amount, prevents the linkage of gluten strands and ensures that the dough doesn't turn sticky. Hence one ends up with a dough that is easy to work with and the end product (roti/paratha) stays soft and fresh for a longer duration. Best part? It is that it is just so much easier on the digestive system (and the jaws too).

Check the recipe of Janta Ruti - HERE

Monday, November 15, 2021

Decoding the Habisa Dalma




















Panchuka or the five days of abstinence in the Odia calendar. As the holy month of Kartika draws to a closure, the religious fervor goes up by a few notches, and folks who had not given up nonvegetarian food for the entire month turn vegetarian. Even onion and garlic are struck off the menu. It is easy to get into a debate about the actual period of Panchuka with one group advocating that it begins right on the day of 'Anla Nabami' while another one claims that it begins on Ekadashi. But we will not get into the details of it because it is purely a matter of personal belief rather than something which is backed by evidence. And belief mingled with a need for validation can sometimes give rise to urban legends. Like the one which says that even the crane gives up fish during these five days. A story that is likely attributed to another mythological tale that mentions Lord Vishnu awakening from his slumber after four months on the day of Ekadashi and taking the disguise of a fish to reclaim the Vedas stolen by the asura Hayagriva.

But 'Panchuka' or for that matter, the month of Kartika is not just about abstaining from food. While it explicitly calls for giving up non-vegetarian food, certain vegetables, grains, and all greens except Agasti, that is just about the easy part of it. It is marked as a period of abstinence from everything that keeps one from attaining Moksha. Right from consumption of intoxicating substances to restraining one's speech and sexual conduct. A person is expected to immerse himself/herself in the scriptures or chant the name of the Almighty. So, one can say that in some ways it is similar to 'Paryushan Parva' of the Jains. Both are a time to introspect on one's actions and purify oneself from the accumulated sins. However, with the passage of time, Panchuka or even the month of 'Kartika' has been reduced to a period that calls for dietary restraints or if one is more religiously inclined, reading the Kartika Mahatyma. 

Coming back to the food practices followed during the month of Kartika, it is interesting to note how different regions have modified the ingredients used in the Habisa Dalma, an almost iconic dish prepared during this time of the year. Shorn of the golden glow of turmeric, this spartan dish is symbolic of the 'Habisyali' or widows who flock to Puri to perform the most rigorous version of this 'Vrat', subsisting on just a single meal taken before sunset for an entire month. With a little effort, one is able to uncover regional variations of this iconic recipe. I am unwilling to dwell on the topic of authenticity at this point for certain reasons. The variations are perhaps an attempt to assimilate more of the seasonal produce of a particular area. But that does not explain why certain commonly available ingredients have gone missing from it. Making it appeal better to the taste buds? Possibly. Substituting with newer ingredients available to one? Why not?  For example, most of us cannot imagine the ideal Habisa meal without the 'Kandhiya Pagaw', a kind of citrus mashed together with salt and green chilis. But chilis are themselves a 'New World' ingredient and were not available a few hundred years ago. What did our ancestors use instead? A good amount of ginger perhaps to provide the right amount of heat minus the excitement offered by the chilis. 

The most striking departure in this study has been the discovery of a version that I would like to call the Sagaw dalma, another Karthik month specialty in some parts of the state but one that uses 'Kosala saga'. Most interesting because the 'Kartika Mahatmya' explicitly prohibits any kind of green except for the Agasti or Agastya Sagaw (leaves of the Hummingbird tree). Digging a little deeper or rather after asking a dozen of questions, I figured out that most people in that particular region were not aware of the Agasti plant. But that hardly explains the usage of Kosala leaves in the Kartika dalma. Except for pointing to the most primitive practice of offering the first harvest of any crop to the Gods. 


 [ The image represents the Habisa Dalma prepared in most homes in and around Puri. Made with split green moong dal and a few vegetables like elephant apple, taro, yam and plantain, it is sans turmeric and any kind of tempering.]


Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Ancient Practice of Cooking In Leaves : GajaPimpali Enduri












What does Chenna Poda, Poda Pitha and Sikar Purga have in common? Apart from being capable of rigging one's salivary gland at a mere mention, these dishes bear the stamp of the ancient practice of cooking in leaves. Each of these is traditionally made by wrapping the ingredients in Shorea Robusta or Sal leaves. Apart from the sal, other leaves that are widely used in Odia cooking are the leaves of the turmeric plant which are used for making the steamed delicacy called 'Enduri pitha'.

But turmeric leaves are not the only ones used to make the Enduri pitha. Take a closer look at the last image in this post and marvel at the thick ovate leaves. And those prominent veins running along the length of the leaves. This Gajapimpali enduri is a beautiful example of Odisha's hitherto underexplored micro cuisines, a testimony of the diversity that exist within the state.

Scindapus Officinalis, commonly known as Gaja Pippali or Hasti Pippali, a comparative reference to the fruit of the Pippali or Long pepper, is a well known medicinal plant. Ayurveda prescribes the fruit as a remedy for a number of ailments like joint pains,  fever,  cough,  intestinal worms and other cold related ailments.  

The thick leathery leaves impart an intense smoky flavor to the food wrapped in it. While the steamed 'Enduri' is the more traditional way of using it , mushrooms or fish steamed in those leathery leaves taste simply out of this  world. Some communities also refer to it as the 'Pitha patra', a vine that once used to grow wild on mango trees and even on the thatched roofs of village homes in Odisha.

It doesn't come as a surprise that a community calls for it's ritual use in the autumn season. Small communities that live in close range of the forests have defined rituals and festivals that call for use of the seasonal produce. They have become a part of the lesser traditions or folk wisdom that has been passed on from one generation to the next one by oral means. A way of life that needs to be respected and preserved. We need to realize that many of such practices cannot be made mainstream as it would  lead to over exploitation of the forests. The family that got these leaves for us has been complaining that the vines are becoming  increasingly rare to spot. Perhaps the result of human intervention and climate change both. 



The Winter Vegetables of Odisha : A Recce of the local Haat







I walked into the crowds. The hiatus had been longer than anticipated. The feeling of venturing into alien territory gripped me at first. I stumbled blindly for the first few meters before I started picking out the shapes. Just as the eyes get accustomed to the darkness when one enters a dark room. I found myself seeking out familiar faces in the crowd. Perhaps it mirrored my own need to be recognized. By the old lady who stocked my favorite greens and tried to offload her entire stash on me. Or the man who was sometimes accompanied by his son who happened to be a little older than my own. I failed to spot either of them. Did she find someone as gullible as me ? How is the boy coping up with the online classes ? Questions flocked to me. The answers were nowhere in sight.


Getting back to the local 'haat' after all these weeks felt nothing to like a homecoming. The crowd was thinner than usual. The shops fewer in number. The only thing that had not changed was the freshness of the vegetables. Mostly sourced from the local farmers, the 'haat' had the most glorious winter produce on display. Greens dominated the scene with generous pools of white. Reds, pinks and purples stood out rather conspicuously . The browns were sadly stashed behind or occupied the fringes reflecting our general apathy of these vegetables that are lumped under the category of 'alu', 'kanda' or 'saru'. These fall into the unenviable category of the 'character actors' who prop up the screenplay but remain unsung. Odia cuisine makes ample use of these 'underground' vegetables but at the same time it is not entirely difficult to conjure up an Odia meal without them. Hence they remain unseen. Just like they have been for the most of their lives. 

There is no Odia equivalent of 'Arbi ki subzi' or 'Yam Kulambu'. Neither a 'shakkarkandi halwa' for that matter. For these vegetables add body, texture and even sweetness to numerous dishes like Ghanta, Santula, Dalma and Besara but lose either own identity in the ensuing medley. A rare Khatta or Bhaja is just not enough to redeem their stature. But isn't this unassuming characteristic the very hallmark of Odia cuisine ? This coming together of elements to assume a collective identity that is more than the sum of its individual components is what sets us apart. Don't you agree ?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Enduri Pitha ( Haldi Patra pitha )



Enduri Pitha is traditionally prepared during Prathamastami or Padhuanstami, a festival during which mothers offer prayers for their firstborn. Enduri pitha is also called 'Haldi patra pitha' in Western parts of orissa, especially in Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Bargarh districts. Prathamastami also marks the day when people first start making 'Badis' . The first batch of 'Badi' is worshipped with 'Doob' grass and vermilion (sindoor). Usually, people lay badi in these winter months (November-January) and store it for usage during the entire year. This is because the low temperature and mild sun ensure that the badi dries up evenly without cracking up at places.

In some parts of Orissa, like Cuttack or the nearby areas, seven pieces of Enduri pitha are offered to the God while other areas offer seven pieces of Chakuli as the prasad. The firstborn child is decked up in new clothes, Chandan/sindoor is applied on his/her forehead and 'Aarti' is done with raw rice, doob grass, flowers and a Deepam (lamp) in our place. However other parts of the state use about five to seven leafy greens to complete this ritual.

Cooking Time Required: 30 mins
Makes 8-10 pithas.


Ingredients: Black gram ( beeri dali, 1 cup ), rice rawa 3 cups or rice 2 cups, coconut ( 1 no. ), sugar ( 5-6 tsp ), ghee ( 1 tsp ), cardamom ( 1-2 nos ), turmeric leaves ( 8-10 nos ), salt, refine oil for greasing the leaves.

Preparation: Soak the black gram for 5-6 hours. Grind into a fine paste.

Soak the rawa for 1 hour. Squeeze out excess water. Add to the gram paste along with 1/2 tsp salt. Keep overnight or 10-11 hours.

Grate the coconut or cut into big pieces and grind into a coarse paste in a grinder.

Cooking: Heat a wok. Add 1 tsp ghee. Add the cardamon powder, grated coconut and sugar. Stir fry for 5-6 mins. Remove from the wok and keep aside to cool.

Heat water in a idli maker/pressure cooker. Bring to a boil.

Wash the turmeric leaves. Add 2-3 drops of oil and smear it all over each leaf. Take a blob of the batter and spread evenly on the leaf.

Spread 2-3 tsp of the coconut over the batter.
















Fold the leaf carefully and place on the idli stand.
















Repeat the process for the remaining batter/leaves. The leaves can be stacked one over the other for 2-3 layers. Close the lid and steam for 15-20 mins. Remove from the stove.

















Remove the turmeric leaves. Serve the pitha with ghee/sugar or dalma. Sada enduri ( without the sweet stuffing ) is very popular with Mutton Jholo or Mutton Kasa.

NOTE: Usually raw rice (aruwa) is used instead of rice rawa but I sometimes use rice rawa as it is cuts down soaking time and the subsequent grinding effort. The rice to black gram proportion is kept 2:1 . Rawa is used to cut down on the overall preparation time and simplify the dish without compromising on the taste.

Featured Post

Green Papaya Laddoos (SugarFree recipe)

Mom is undoubtedly the dessert specialist at home. God forbid, if she takes to blogging, she could give a lot of folks a run for their mone...