RCI: Orissa

“For me, a large part of the experience of being an Indian is the humbling realization that it will take considerably more than one lifetime to know even the basic history, geography, culture and food of my land.”

Nupur of One Hot Stove

lake huronΒ sunrise
serene sunrise over beautiful Lake Huron

This statement of Nupur’s struck a chord within, and it humbled me; I believe this rings true for people everywhere.
Now, I am not Indian, but my love affair with Indian cuisine has gifted me with a special affinity for the country, her culture and her people, so….

I was really excited about RCI: Orissa! Hosted by lovely Swapna of Swad, this challenged me to learn about Orissa — a part of India I knew absolutely nothing about. I now know it lies on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, and that it is home to, among other things, the famous Jagannath Temple at Puri, and one of the world’s longest dams (according to wiki) across the Mahanadi River.

And indeed, what little I do know; till now the only Mahanandi I knew was the delightful website, through which I knew Mahanandi is a temple town near Nandyala. New faces, new places — I am ever learning.
That’s what I love about blogging!

I really enjoyed this piece detailing Mahaprasad at the famous Jagannath Temple. Not only is the food (56-item thali!) described in great detail, but after reading it slowly, the whole ritual of temple prasad finally became a clear picture in my mind. Some of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever seen are here on this page, as well this very touching and beautiful tradition:

“To seal any promise or vow, two friends hold a pot of MAHAPRASAD together and eat together from this same pot. This pot is called ABADHA, meaning that which cannot be taken away or put into another pot. Friends then say to each other, “You are my MAHAPRASAD, You are my ABADHA.” When they see each other in the future, they address each other as “ABADHA” only, that which cannot be taken away”.

What a beautiful sentiment for a friend!

I loved making these Oriya dishes. Thank you Swapna, for choosing this wonderful region for your RCI and giving me the chance to learn so much more about Indian culture. I hope I make it under the wire for the 12AM deadline! πŸ˜‰

Four Oriya Dishes

I can’t wait to try this first one in the chill of winter — with mellow sweetness from horsegram and the rich flavor of drumsticks it’s sure to be a winner. The recipe didn’t specify how much water to use, so I saved half the dal-water to make this gravy. Another time I would probably save it all. It lends an earthy quality that cannot be replaced.

I halved the recipe, simply because I had no idea how it would taste.
I also made a few substitutions as noted below, according to what I had on hand. See the original recipe here at oriyanari.com. Who knew that of the four Oriya dishes I cooked, this would be my favorite.

Do try it.

Cook the horsegram beyond what you think it needs. Save the cooking water to make the gravy. Keep the finished dish overnight and reheat it the next day.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Kolatha Dali

about 1/2c horse gram (kolatha dali)
1/4c rice flour
1 big brinjal (long asian type)
1 medium potato
1-2 tomatoes
1-2 drumsticks (I had some frozen)
1/4 c green beans
1/4 c snake gourd (or use some other handy frozen veg)

For tempering:
(the original recipe calls for mustard oil, which I do not have; to compensate I increased the amount of mustard seeds for extra flavor)

1 teaspoon canola oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1-2 big garlic cloves

Salt to taste

~~~

The following instructions are taken directly from the original recipe:

“Boil the kolatha dali (horse gram) in pressure cooker. Cut and wash all the vegetables. Make a mixture of rice flour and water. Add the vegetables to the cooked kolatha dali and place the cooker on the flame with its lid open. Add salt. As soon as the vegetables start boiling, add the flour mixture and go on stirring continuously. Fry mustard seeds and garlic in mustard oil and add to the prepared kolatha dali. Now your Kolatha Dali is ready. It should be served hot. Tastes great if served with rice and fried vegetables, especially in the winter season. This is a popular dish of Sambalpur district.

(Contributed by: Subhadarsini, Sambalpur)”

Thank you, Subhadarsini, for this most different and delicious dal!

~~~

Here is another recipe from a different site. This time I adapted by using plain button mushrooms and omitting the potato. Otherwise I made it just as directed in the original post here — right down to soaking the mushrooms in water! That was something new to me — I was taught never to soak a mushroom, in fact brush off any clinging dirt and don’t really wash at all (though I must wash a really dirty mushroom!). This made me wonder, are oyster mushrooms in India different than the oyster mushrooms I know here? I haven’t associated mushrooms with Indian cuisine as I have with other Asian cuisines — Chinese or Japanese for example.
Just one more thing to learn!

Mushroom Besara
I used plain mushrooms — from Jihli of North Carolina, original recipe calling for oyster mushrooms here

1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

To grind:

1 TB soaked mustard seed
1 dried red chile
1-2 big cloves garlic

1 tsp canola oil

1 tsp punch-phutan

1/2 tsp amchur powder (original called for dried mango slice or tamarind)

salt to taste

~~~

Grind soaked mustard seed, chile, and garlic to a paste with drops of water and keep aside.

Slice the mushrooms and soak in water with turmeric powder “awhile” (I did about 10 minutes). Drain water well and squeeze any excess from the mushrooms.

In a small shallow pan, heat oil over med-high heat and add the punch-phutan. When fragrant, add the drained mushrooms. Raise heat to high and fry the mushrooms 5 minutes to take off the water. Add ground paste and stir well, then sprinkle with amchur powder.

Raise heat to high and cook, turning often, till liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are beginning to brown.

Add salt to taste, and serve hot or room temperature.

Thank you Jihli, for this great mushroom dish!

~~~

Summer Squash Rai
original recipe calls for ridge gourd

1 tsp canola oil
1 small onion, diced roughly

2-3 small summer squash, peeled and cut in cubes

To grind:

1 TB mustard seeds
1 tsp jeera
5-6 big garlic cloves

1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
salt to taste

Grind mustard, jeera and garlic to a paste with a little water. In a medium pan, warm oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook till it begins to brown and turn dry. Add the summer squash and stir well. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring. Add the ground paste stir again. Reduce heat to med-low and cook, covered, about 10 minutes or until squash is soft (your mileage — time — may vary here depending on what type of squash you are using).
Salt to taste and serve hot or room temperature.

See original recipe here.

~~~~

This last recipe doesn’t seem so unusual to me — lots of recipes out there for brinjals in yogurt — some call it raita, others dahi baingan, etc. As with so many variations in many dishes common to different areas, the difference here seems to be in the seasoning. I found numerous versions even within Oriya cuisine, but this one from Harmony India seemed a little different, and caught my eye.

~~~

Dahi Ke Baigan

8 oz brinjal

1 tsp canola oil (or use Pam)
1 TB ginger-garlic paste

Mix the following with 1/4 c water:

1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp kashmiri chile powder
pinch turmeric

1 c sweet yogurt mixed with 3-4 TB cold water

For tadka:

1 tsp canola oil
1-2 slit green chiles
few curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds

~~~

Slice brinjal long way and in half, to make spears.

Mix powdered spices with 1/2 c water and keep aside.

Heat oil (or use Pam spray) in a shallow pan and add ginger-garlic paste, fry for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the spices in water and let it boil just a second, then add sliced brinjal. Cook over medium-low heat till brinjals are soft but not mushy. Remove to a plate and hold aside.

Do the tadka with canola oil, adding chiles, then curry leaves and mustard. When mustard pops, pour the tempering over yogurt. Mix in the cooked eggplant stir well. Serve room temperature or chilled (I preferred room temp).

Thanks to Ranjita, “a young Oriya housewife”, and Dr. Pushpesh Pant for this recipe which originally appeared in Harmony Magazine.

~~~~

orissa delights
a humble attempt at oriya cuisine, clockwise from top left: button mushrooms besara, jahni rai (with summer squash), dahi ke baigan, and scrumptious kolatha dali — basmati rice in the center

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21 Comments »

  1. arundati said

    fabulous spread…..rci was on my mind for so long and then i chickened out!! what can i say 😦

    Glad you liked it, Arundati! I barely make it under the wire for most of these events — but there’s no deadline to try cooking some! πŸ™‚

  2. bhags said

    OMG, Linda…this is just amazing. There is just one word which describes the effect of this on me….inspiring

    Bhags, you are such a sweet soul. Thanks and happy if you get inspired! I know the feeling, I get it when I’m at your blog πŸ™‚

  3. chandrika said

    Linda, the spread is enticing!

    Chandrika, thank you for stopping — it means alot to me πŸ™‚

  4. srivalli said

    Linda…you are simply rocking…all this effort from a non-indian is so inspiring…and simply awesome…your research on orissa is so enlighting…being in India I have never attempted to know all these facts…thanks for sharing and your interest in Indian cuisine…

    Srivalli
    http://www.cooking4allseasons.blogspot.com

    Thanks, Srivalli, for your kind comment — makes me smile πŸ™‚
    Your jeera aloo is very tempting! I must try soon, that’s my fav. spice too πŸ™‚

  5. bee said

    what a gorgeous thali, linda. and such an informative post.

    Thanks very much Bee — it’s a poor photo but, deadlines and all. That horsegram is really worth trying — next time will add some chiles though πŸ™‚

  6. Suganya said

    You call that humble, Linda? Am so glad to have met you. Love yr post.

    Smiling, thank you for your kindness Suganya and hugs to you ….

  7. Jyothsna said

    Lovely spread, Linda and some good information here πŸ™‚

    Thank you so much, Jyothsna… you’re a great inspiration with your travel writings! πŸ™‚

  8. sra said

    Do you eat any non-Indian food, Linda? πŸ™‚ Never cease to be amazed at how you’ve made it your own, one day you must tell us how you came to adopt it.
    The dam you mentioned is Hirakud Dam, the river’s name even translates as ‘Great River’ – ‘Maha’ for Great, ‘Nadi’ for River – we learnt quite a bit about it in school. I’m going off to read the link about the ‘chappan bhog’ – the 56-piece thali! Burp!

    Sra, my daughter would appreciate your question! One day when on the phone with her boyfriend, they were describing their respective cupboards. He said “oh, we have some chocolate cake mixes!”, and she said, “oh, we have a bunch of Indian stuff”. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for your kind encouragement, and for the info on Mahanadi River. Wouldn’t it be great to have that thali, yes? πŸ™‚

  9. Nupur said

    Wow, Linda, what a terrific mouth-watering spread! Truly an Oriya feast. You know, it amazes me how much you love and embrace Indian food and culture. I think the key to world peace lies in people like you, who make no distinctions between countries.
    BTW, Mahanadi (the river) and Mahanandi (the temple town) have similar-sounding but different names (extra “n” in the latter makes all the difference). They are geographically quite distant from each other, as far as I know.

    And in people like you, Nupur, who embrace others so freely with nary a second thought but kindness. πŸ™‚

    Glad you enjoyed the Oriya meal, and thank you for pointing out my spelling error, too! Very easy to mix those two up, especially at midnight! πŸ˜‰

  10. indosungod said

    Linda, the thali looks so delicious, here I was thinking that horse gram was native to my just my small tiny region (just confirms Nupur’s quote at the beginning of the post). We had good fun at the beach kids enjoyed it a lot, we had to rush back DD starts school tomorrow. I have Dahi and fresh baigan and Dahi ke Baigan is cooking soon.

    Glad you liked it ISG, and welcome back! So happy to hear you had a fun beach-break! You would really be surprised at this horsegram dish. The rice flour makes for a very interesting gravy; it’s really more a stew and I can’t wait to try in cold weather. Very rich and you would not miss the meat.

    That dahi baigan was even better for breakfast next day πŸ™‚

  11. Priya said

    Amazing……………I am out of words. πŸ™‚

    Thank you, Priya! πŸ™‚

  12. Richa said

    What an amazing post! I’m totally amazed by this BEAUTIFUL post of yours!
    The touching description of the prasad, lovely recipes intertwined with your affection for my motherland, brings tears of joy!
    Hats off to you, Linda!
    This page is totally book marked, one of the most amazing real posts i’ve ever seen! You are a gem and it is my honor to know u in this blog world πŸ™‚

    Oh, Richa … thank you and you brought a great big smile to my face this morning! I am honored, and hugs to you dear friend πŸ™‚

  13. Asha said

    WOO HOO!!! I got four and you have got four dishes for Orissa.I am sure Swapna is thrilled with both of us!!:D
    Thali looks wonderful.A great assortment of dishes Linda. As I told you, you do rock girl:))

    Thank you, thank you Asha! πŸ™‚ You’re such an inspiration; I have a long way to go yet to make a splash with multi-dish posts like you can!! When you come up to MA we must have a foodie-fest and cook together :):)

  14. Mishmash! said

    Linda, you re an Indian at heart πŸ™‚ Everytime I come here and see your love for Indian cuisine and the passion with which you speak of all the ingredients, in its Indian names, always amazes me !

    Shn

    Thank you so much, Shn… your kindness is most appreciated! πŸ™‚

  15. Tee said

    Your thali looks amazing! You blow me away everytime with your knowledge and passion about indian cuisine. Loved the sunrise picture too! πŸ™‚

    Thank you Tee! Glad you enjoyed! Lake Huron has some incredible sunrises and I was lucky enough to see one this summer πŸ™‚

  16. Pragyan said

    Hi Linda, Amazing post. Till I read the comments, I thought you must be a fellow Oriya blogger πŸ™‚ I am an Odiya by birth, but I learnt so many many new things as part of this event. First time on your site..will keep coming back..

    Hi Pragyan, so glad to hear from a true Oriya blogger! πŸ™‚ I must check out your site. Thanks for your kind words — please do come back πŸ™‚

  17. Raaga said

    Loved this post… I agree with you when you say there’s no deadline to try a dish πŸ™‚

    I’m happy you enjoyed it Raaga! If there were deadlines like that, I’d be eating plain rice and dal ALOT! πŸ˜‰

  18. sharmi said

    delicious spread. I loved the sunrise photography. simply awesome. dahi baingan looks mouthwatering.

    Thank you Sharmi! Glad you enjoyed. The dahi baingan was a keeper for sure — even better next day! πŸ™‚

  19. Menu Today said

    Hi Linda,

    Fabulous Spread!!!!!

    Hi MT, so glad to see you back blogging! πŸ™‚

  20. Vani said

    Hi Linda! So true what Nupur says! I know so little about other Indian cultures, it’s not funny! But thanks to RCI and the beautiful posts by everyone, I’ve learnt so much more about other states. Orissa, in particular, I knew next-to -nothing about. Thanks for incorporating some interesting snippets about the state, Linda. I loved reading about the Mahaprasad!!

    The dishes all look yum, as always!

    Hi Vani — I love RCI for the learning aspect too. Am glad you enjoyed the Mahaprasad piece — I was really touched by it. And thanks for your kind words… I’m happy to see you here! πŸ™‚

  21. sandeepa said

    What an entry Linda…4 dishes…total wow

    Hi Sandeepa, and thanks! Hope you had a great vacation πŸ™‚

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