Originating in the eastern state of Odisha (or Orissa), Odia dishes are simple yet distinctive. Odia dishes are known for being flavourful, but with less oil and spices than most other Indian states. They often use mustard (both as a paste and an oil), as well as ghee, yoghurt, and chhena (cheese curd).
Dal is an Indian staple, but this dish comes with a unique Odia twist. It is made with roasted moong dal or toor dal which is cooked with pumpkin, potato, plantains, green papayas, and eggplant. It is then fried in a five-spice oil of fenugreek, cumin, black cumin, anise, and mustard (known as panch phutana), and topped with grated coconut
2. Chhena Poda
This iconic Chhena Poda is made with chhena (cheese curd) and dry fruits which are dipped in sugar syrup and baked until brown. The sugar caramelises bringing out the unique flavour.
Besara is a simple dish of vegetables or river fish with mustard-paste gravy. Fried potato, pumpkin, banana and papaya are most commonly used, and it is tempered with panch phutana a blend of five spices (cumin, mustard, anise, black cumin and chilli).
This sweet dished consists of deep-fried flattened patties of chhena soaked in thickened, sweetened milk or rabri. It is seasoned with crushed cardamom and often served at Baladevjew Temple of Kendrapara.
5. Saga bhaja
Saga, or leafy greens, are some of the most important vegetables in Odia cuisine. They are prepared in various ways, and one of the most popular is saga bhaja. Here leafy greens are leafy greens lightly fried with garlic paste and panch phutana mix.
6. Chhena Gaja
This chhena-based sweet dish from Odisha is not as popular as similar dishes like rasagola and chhena poda. It is made by kneading a mix of chenna and semolina until most of the water is squeezed out. This mixture is then moulded, deep fried, and coated with sugar syrup.
7. Chungdi Malai
A creamy prawn curry made with coconut milk, this popular dish is flavourful but mild. The prawns (chungdi) are marinated and then fried with onion, ginger, turmeric, and garlic. While malai means milk, here, the creaminess comes from coconut milk.
There has been a long-running rivalry over whether Rasagola (or rasgulla) was invented in Orissa or Bengal. However, the dishes made in these places vary quite a bit in colour and texture. They both consist of balls of chhena and semolina cooked in a light sugar syrup.
9. Aloo Potala Rasa
This dish is prepared with potato and parval (pointed gourd). They are mixed with cashew paste, onion, and ginger to create a popular curry.
10. Arisa Pitha
Arisa pitha is a traditional sweet pancake made with rice flour and sugar or jaggery. They are then fried in ghee or oil until the outsides are golden brown and crispy, but the insides are still soft.
11. Macha Jhola
This spicy fish stew can be found in both Bengal and Oriya. It is made with hilsa, rohu, or catla fish, mixed with tomatoes, turmeric, garlic, onions, and grated ginger. Potatoes are also added to thicken it.
12. Kakharu phula bhaja
Kakharu Phula Bhaja or Pumpkin Flower Fritters are a popular accompaniment to moany Odiya dishes. The blossoms are shallow fried in rice flour paste seasoned with cumin seeds, garlic and ginger.
13. Dahi baigana
This dish is made with yoghurt (dahi) and eggplant (baigana) and is popular during festivals as it has no onion or garlic. The eggplants are fried in vegetable oil or ghee, along with mustard seeds, cumin, fenugreek, fennel, dry chilli, curry leaves, ginger, green chilli, salt and sugar, before the yoghurt is added.
There are lots of other delicious Odia dishes you can try, such as Sarison Macha, Macha Ghanta, and Chhena Jhili. So, the next time you visit Orissa, make sure to try at least a few of these dishes.