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Showing posts with label thunka puri chenna tarkari. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thunka puri chenna tarkari. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bali Jatra 2014 (Odisha's Largest Fair)

Crowds set my heart rate soaring. I even start getting nauseous and my palms get cold with all that sweating. It is due to this reason that I avoid crowded places and even train journeys to whatever extent possible. Maybe it boils down to that childhood trauma of being separated from my father in a Puja mela. Even though it was only for a few minutes, those memories continue to haunt me at times. So, when I decided to visit the Bali Jatra fair this year, it took a solid resolve and a desire to put those demons to rest. "Some things just need to be done. Even if it feels like a kick in the ass."

Most of my Odia readers would be well aware that being the largest trade fair in Odisha, the Bali Jatra is host to various artists and craftsmen of Odisha. The cultural programs are attended by eminent artists from all over India. Though it is not as popular as the Puskhar Mela or the Boat races of Kerala, the Bali Jatra has its fair share of tourists from outside the state. This fair is held on the Gadagadia ghat ('Gada' refers to the dilapidated Barabati fort) of the river Mahanadi and pays tribute to the rich maritime trade legacy of erstwhile Kalinga. 'Bali Jatra' literally translates as a journey to Bali or the distant lands where the sailors (known as 'Sadhabas' in local lingo) of Kalinga had established their trade links. However it is not uncommon to come across an ignorant person who puts Bali Jatra as a fair held on 'bali' (which means sand). Kartik Purnima is supposed to the holiest day in the Hindu calendar and the traders used to set sail on this particular day after worshiping their boats (also known as 'boita'). Hence the tradition of Boita Bandana or the symbolic sailing of paper/thermocol boats on Kartika Purnima.

The entrance to the fair grounds is in the shape of a gate which upholds a huge boat. The crowd start flowing in around 2-3 pm and peak time is usually from 6-9 pm. Though the crowd thins out after that, the fair goes on till the wee hours of the morning. With almost 1300 stalls and maybe an equal numbers of vendors displaying their wares, it almost takes the entire duration of the fair, that is seven days, to browse through it. Also, one must visit the Barabati Stadium and the Barabati fort which are situated very near to the fair grounds.

Once we entered the fair grounds, we encountered vendors selling almost everything from paper toys to hangings to artificial flowers. The stalls were taken up by the big and medium sized enterprises/traders of Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar. Home electronics, cooking ranges, furniture, two-wheelers, furnishings, cosmetics, home decor, name it and one will find it here.

However, we headed straight to the 'Pallishree' section of the fair which showcased the Handicrafts and traditional wares belonging mostly to Odisha and few other states of India. There were stall displaying Filigree work, brass artifacts, bamboo paintings, Sambalpuri sarees, Pipili hangings, and various pottery items.

Sambalpuri Weaves in gorgeous colors/patterns

All the shopping and bargaining had made us hungry and yet we were feeling reluctant to move away from the beautiful handicraft stalls. Finally when we could not take it any longer, we headed towards the Food Plaza held by Ruchi Foods. They were selling lassi in various flavours, milkshakes, biryani, tikka, chicken nuggets, spring rolls, malpua-aludum, etc.  In addition to the hygiene factor, they had something to suit everyone's tastebuds. However Bali Jatra is famous for its Thunka puri-chenna tarkari and Cuttacki Dahi bara- Alu dum, and the more adventurous folks should not miss it. There were also quite a number of stalls selling Mathura cake, lanka chop (Mirchi bajji), Kulfi, fried crabs and various chops.

Can you see the fried crab hanging in the middle ??

After a quick bite, we rushed to explore more stalls. As it was almost five, people had started flocking and it was getting increasingly difficult to take at dekko at the displays. Since we were staying near to the place, we decided to return home and get some rest. By the time we were back, the crowd had thinned out and it was easier to get a close look at the stalls. After picking some junk jewelry, a pair of mojdis, a few puja items, some artificial flowers and ceramic ware, the shopaholic in each of had reached an Utopian state. Happily trudging back home, I could not resist casting a last look at the fair grounds. One day is just not enough to soak in the flavours of Bali Jatra.

Great collection of junk jewelry at great prices

Manna with Goddess Lakshmi painted on it

Various moulds for making Rangoli/Muruja

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chenna tarkari ( cottage cheese balls in a savoury gravy )

Travelling on a long stretch of road between Oltapur and Pahala on a late Sunday afternoon, our car is overtaken by an auto crammed with passengers inside and at least a dozen bundles of white cloth hanging outside. The watery fluid leaking from those bundles catches my attention and I throw a curious look at the husband. 'Freshly made chenna being transported to Pahala and Bhubaneshwar' comes the reply.

I had been in a dreamy state till now, capturing the sights of a setting Sun playing peekaboo among the trees, and lush fields swaying in the winds. Occasionally jolted out of my reverie by stray cattle blocking our way or scores of urchins asking for money ('chanda' as we call it in Odia) to build a temple/celebrate Durga Puja, the ride had been uneventful till that point.

In no time at all, we came across several autos, bicycles, rickety old mopeds (Luna/TVS), and even a swanky bike or two carrying these leaky bundles with the fluid leaving a trail on the dusty roads. In a few hours' time, the contents of these bundles would be processed and displayed as a mouth-watering array of sweets (chenna poda, chenna gaja, rasagulla, chenna jilapi, rasmalai, raj-bhog, etc ) on the shelves of a Ganguram/Atmaram/Capital sweets. Or maybe they will find their way into one of the many quaint-looking shops that dot Pahala and will be turned into the most melt-in-the-mouth type of Rasagola ever invented. One needs to visit these places in Orissa to experience the magic of making 'chenna' sweets.

More on the sweet stuff another time. Today I am sharing a savoury recipe made out of fresh home-made chenna. Chenna tarkari is the Odia cousin of the Paneer curry but with a unique texture and flavour of its own.

Update - The deep fried chenna balls are easily available in the sweet shops of Bhubaneswar these days.

Preparation time - 40-50 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 1 litre whole milk 
  • 1/2 cup sour curd  
  • 2 heaped tsp maida
  • 1 large tomato pureed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • oil for shallow/deep frying.

  • 1 medium-sized onion(finely chopped) 
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly made ginger garlic paste
  • 2 green cardamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 inch long cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 bay leaf 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder

Preparation -

To prepare chenna - Bring milk to a boil. Add the sour curd and wait for a few minutes till the milk solids separate from whey. The whey should have a clear appearance at this point. If not add more curd and boil for another 5 mins.

Once all the solids separate, strain the chenna using a fine cloth or even a strainer with very fine mesh. Allow to stand for sometime till excess water is drained.

Take the chenna in a vessel/mixing bowl and add the maida. Crumble and knead the chenna to remove lumps and it just comes togather into a soft dough ( takes abt 5-6 mins, do not overdo the kneading ). Pinch small lumps out of the dough and shape into balls. These balls can either be shallow fried or deep fried.

Cooking: Heat sufficient oil in a wok. Put one ball into the wok and test if it holds together. If yes, add the remaining balls into the wok and fry them to a brown color on medium heat. (If it starts to crumble/break, add a little more maida to the chenna dough and knead for another 2-3 mins.)

Once the balls are fried, keep them aside and drain the excess oil from the wok.

Put the whole spices into the remaining oil in the wok and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the chopped onion and saute on low flame till light brown ( abt 6-7 mins to allow the sugar in the onion to start caramelizing ). At this stage add the sugar and allow it to melt. Once the sugar melts, it gives a deep brown color to the onion. Sprinkle the soy sauce at this point.

Add ginger garlic paste and stir fry for 2-3 minutes till its raw smell goes away. Pour in the tomato puree and cook for another 2 minutes.

Now add turmeric, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt. Roast the masalas for 1-2 mins.

Add about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of water and bring to boil. Allow water to reduce to 2/3rd.

Put in the fried chenna balls and simmer on medium flame for 2 minutes. Cover with lid and switch off the flame. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.


1. One can also use lemon juice/citric acid to prepare the chenna but using sour curd gives it a better flavour. Also the chenna turns out softer.

2. One can also make a paste out of all the ingredients mentioned under spices and add it at once instead of doing it in steps.

3. There is a no onion - no garlic version of this recipe which uses a different masala paste and some amount of milk for added creaminess. 

4. For making the 'no onion no garlic' masala paste - 

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp fennel 
1 tbsp melon seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds 
2 green cardamom
1 inch long cinnamon stick
1 inch long ginger
1 dry red chili 

Soak everything in warm water for 2 hours. Grind into a medium fine paste. 

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