Joy of being Odia : Enduri Pitha
Winter has already set in & the season brings in a lot of celebrations with customary preparation of delicious Odia cuisines. For each Odia festival, there is a cuisine which is prepared and relished by all & its mandatory. Winter reminds me of the ripened paddy swaying in air, the dew drops on the grasses, the fragrance of marigold & ganga shiuli flowers and aroma of delicious pitha. Most of our childhood is stored in such memories, smells and emotions.
The English month November coincides with the Odia hindu month Margashira and the 8th day of dark fortnight is celebrated as Prathamastami in Odisha. Like Raja, this is also a very authentic Odia festival. The festival is in honour of the first born child of the family. Our age-old Hindu traditions have mandated the elder child to take all the responsibility and care of the family. So, for the well being and prosperity of the elder child Prathamstami is celebrated. On this day, the new dress and gifts for the child comes from the maternal grandparents /uncle’s place. Even, Lord Jagannatha is bound by this sweet tradition.On this day a special “Bandapana” is arranged for Him. On this day, Lord Lingaraja’s representative deity Chandrashekhara is taken out in a palanquin to “Kapali Matha” regarded as His maternal Uncle’s home. Lord Lingaraja is offered with new dress and Muan ( sweetened rice flake balls) by His uncle Shri Baruneshwara.
As a child, I resented because my birthday fell on Prathamastamai (yes, I am born on prathamastami). It lessened my chance of getting 2 new dresses. My mother paid no heed to my request to avoid my birthday celebration as per tithi. There was no fun in losing a new dress. Oh, God those fights I had with my mother and the demand for varieties of Pithas.
On Prathamastami, a special type of pitha known as Enduri pitha is prepared and that is the star of the day. What makes these “Enduri pitha” special is the steaming technique. These are steamed in fresh turmeric leaves. This is done by layering the rice-black gram batter and coconut- jaggerry mixture on the leaf, then closing and steaming it in a athara handi (Steamer). This pitha is prepared for continuous 7 days starting from Prathamstami and the on the 7th day the athara handi used to steam the pitha is immersed in water.
Use of turmeric leaf plant is quite popular in many Indian states. In Goa, these steamed rolls known as “Patoleaos” are prepared by a Brahmin community on Ganesh Chaturthi. Use of raw turmeric is quite popular in South Asian countries. It is believed to be the centre of origin of turmeric. Indian cuisine is incomplete without use of a pinch of turmeric.
The morning air in Prathamastami, filled with the aroma of turmeric leaves, smell of marigold flowers and the sound of the conch slowly peels off the layers those are attached while growing up. While I am hugging the inner child in me, here is a recipe you would definitely want to try & you MUST try.
Enduri pitha Recipe
For the outer cover
- Skinless split black gram : 200 g (Soaked overnight)
- Rice (raw) : 200 g (Soaked overnight)
For the inner stuffing
- 1 cup grated coconut
- Jaggery :100g
- Chhena or Cottage paneer :1/2 cup
- Cardamom powder: 1 tsp
- salt to taste
Turmeric leaves to be used as mould.
Make smooth paste of soaked black gram and rice separately. Add salt to the black gram batter and beat it through hand. Now mix the rice and black gram batter. Make the batter sit for 3 hours. It will allow the batter to ferment.
Put a heavy bottomed pan in the gas and add jaggery to it.When the jaggery starts frothing, add grated coconut and chhena into it. Lower the flame and mix it thoroughly with a spatula.Switch off the flame &let it cool. You can omit chhena if its not available with you. Add 1 tsp of cardamom powder to this stuffing.You can also replace jaggery with sugar.
Take the turmeric leaves and rinse them in water. Cut the base stalk of the leaves. Now from the middle, slice the leaf into two parts without breaking it.Press the middle vein while doing so.
Preparing the pithas
Now, put a scoop of batter in the leaf and evenly spread it. Put some stuffing in the middle of the leaf. Now gently fold the leaf horizontally and press the edges to seal it. My grand mother used to steam these in bigger handis known as athara handi. It was a very cumbersome and tedious to do. With invention of modern day steamers, the steaming technique has become very simple.Arrange the rolled leaves in the steamer in such a way that they don’t overlap. Cover the lid in a way that the vapors don’t escape.It will take approximately 15–20 mins to get the steamed pithas.
Note: Don’t overdo the steaming. It makes the pitha hard and dry.This pitha alone is a platter to satiate your taste buds but if you want it can be served with dalma or any mixed vegetable curry.
If you are an Odia, I know you can relate to my story. You must be thinking of an escape route from the mundane life. That longing to live the memories of childhood, an echo from another time and place is so strong. Isn’t it ? Yes, go ahead, soak in the nostalgia and prepare this mouth watering pitha. Relish and relive your childhood with this very authentic, very own Odia pitha. Happy Prathamastami folks.