Divine Desserts : Mandua Pitha
There are a thousand ways to tell a story. You frame it through a song, through a drama or through a poem, I choose to tell you through the food. Why? Because, you may forget all the stanzas in the poem, the action filled drama, but your palate will always cherish the love, the soothing, food gives to its frayed nerves. That is why, food stories are immortal, food stories would not fade away, they will make us indulge more in happiness called life.
In my previous post, I have mentioned about festivals those are centred around agricultural activities, precisely growing of paddy. Akshya Trutiya, or the 3rd day of Baisakha, marks the start of paddy season in Odisha. It signifies the beginning of paddy sowing in uplands of Odisha. The celebratory ritual called Akhi Muthi Anukula, which means sowing of the hand full of paddy seeds marks the celebration of Akshya Trutiya. Unlike the folks of other parts of India, who indulge in buying gold believing it be Goddess Mahalakshmi, our ancestors believed in the golden paddy as the incarnation of Mahalakshmi and held with utmost reverence. If you check the history of origin of rice, it is believed that the cultivated species of rice has originated from the wild variants of rice grown in Koraput region of Odisha. Of late Koraput district has been declared as biodiversity region in the country.
From Akshya Trutiya, Lord Jagannatha goes on a boat ride for 21 days, the major part of the festival known as Chandana Jatra. The representative deities are taken in a decorated palanquin to the holy Narendra Puskarini, where the deities are taken around the pond in a boat. This ritual is known as chapa and in side the pond, the deities are bathed in scented, aromatic water and offered bhoga. Starting from Akshya Trutiya, this ritual continues for 21 long days. The main offering in this Chandana Jatra, is a pitha known as Chhena Mandua, which has been mentioned in many folk songs and devotional renditions.
In his Chandana Jatra song, 18th-century poet Pitambara describes the fanfare of devotees to witness this beautiful ritual and of course, about Mandua pitha as the offering to Lord Jagannatha.
ମାଣ୍ଡୁଅ ଭୋଗ ଚଢ଼ାଇ ବିଜେ ଚାପ ପରେ
“After having Mandua pitha, the lord proceeds for the divine cruise.”
So, on this auspicious day, here is another pitha from the treasure trove of Odia cuisine.
Mandua Pitha Recipe
Wheat flour : 2 cups
Jaggery : 2 cups
Pana Madhuri / Fennel : 1 tsp
Gola Maricha/ Black pepper : 1 tsp
Ghee : for deep frying
First boil a cup of water, add jaggery and coarsely pounded fennel, black pepper powder into it. Add wheat flour into the boiling water, while stirring it continuously. Mix the flour into the boiling water and keep on folding the dough with the help of a spatula. Make sure no lumps are formed. Once the dough thickens and becomes firm, switch off the flame. Allow the dough to cool down. Take smaller balls from the dough, roll it on a rolling pan into small flat round shaped discs.
Meanwhile, heat ghee in a deep bottomed kadai or a skillet. Do not over heat the ghee. Fry the rolled pithas in the ghee under slow flame and gradually increase the heat. Fry until each side is golden brown. You can serve these pithas with Dalma as a complete Odia meal.
Tip: The trick is to prevent formation of any lumps while mixing the flour in boiling water. You can mix little bit of flour in water & pour it in boiling water, before you actually mix the whole batch of flour. This is the trick that my mother in law told me & it works nicely.
Chhena : 500 g
Wheat flour:250 g
Cardamom & clove: 25g (powdered)
Edible camphor: A pinch
Sugar: 1cup (powdered)
Ghee for deep frying
To begin with, mash & knead the hung chhena so that there is no graininess left. Add flour, cardamom & clove powder into chhena. Mix thoroughly and knead into a soft dough. Now, divide the dough into small balls and roll into flattened puri shaped pithas. Deep fry in ghee. Sprinkle powdered sugar on it. These unsweetened pithas are otherwise known as Tada.
I know, I know, what is in your mind. In this fast-forward, ready to eat, no-time-to-cook era, someone is preaching about a tedious pitha. But, before you judge me more, I remind you of a poem by W H Davies, (you might have read this in your school)
What is this life, if full of care, there is no time to stand & stare…