Odisha, formerly known as Orissa (or Kalinga), is an eastern Indian state replete with history. It is known for the various tribes that it supports and many ancient Hindu temples. This is the land where Samrat Ashoka transformed himself from Chanda Ashoka to Dharma Ashoka. A gifted state, it has abundant natural resources and a long coastline, which lends itself to a wide variety of dishes and flavours. Odia people are gracious, warm-hearted, generous and down-to-earth. Their hospitality is superlative and worth experiencing.
Odisha is well-known for its temples and a large number of people come to the cities to gather blessings. The capital, Bhubaneswar, is home to hundreds of temples, notably the intricately-carved Mukteshvara temple. The Jaganath Temple situated in Puri, is one of the most famous temples in the state. It attracts hundreds and thousands of worshippers during the ‘Rath-yatra’ festival.
It is no wonder then that temple food is one of the most dominant aspects of Odia-cuisine. Purely vegetarian, it is prepared in desi ghee without even onion and garlic. It is offered as Prasada (offering to the God) and it generally consists of Arrna (rice), Khechidi (Odia version of khichdi), Kanika (sweetened rice), Mitha Dali (sweetened dal), Khatta (sweet and sour dish generally made of tomatoes, dates and other fruits) and Kheeri (kheer- Indian sweet dish).
Typical Meal (Lunch/Dinner)
Odia Cuisine itself is simple and flavourful, and relatively low on spices. The medium of cooking is usually mustard oil which is an essential part of Odia-cuisine. Rice is the staple carbohydrate in any Odia meal. It is typically accompanied by Dali (Dal), Dalma (slow-cooked vegetables with lentils), Macha Tarkari (Fish Curry) or Mansa Tarkari (Mutton curry), Bhaja (vegetables fried with light seasoning) and is always coupled with Bharta (mashed potatoes and brinjal mixed with Indian spices) and most importantly Saaga (green leaf prepared with some garlic and dried red chilly).
Snacks / In-between meals
The snacks and other local dishes across the cities are flavourful and interesting. Every galli (street) and nukkad (corner) has its own speciality, serving different snacks and delicacies. Some of the all-time favourite, in-between meal dishes include Dahibara, Aloo-dum, Ghuguni, GupChup (Gol Gappe/ Puchka) etc.
Chaat is a perfect evening snack, like across the rest of the country. However, the chaat in Odisha is quite different from the north-indian variety. It usually consists of a mixture of mashed potatoes and peas cooked in flavourful spices. This is ladled onto crunchy papdis and topped with curd and a sweet and sour chutney, before being garnished with sev.
Deep-fried fritters of different types are also common – Bara (vada), Piyaji (onion fritters), Biagini (brinjal fritters) and Vegetable Chop (vegetarian croquettes) are available across eateries.
Odisha has a wide variety of unique desserts on offer. Most of the sweets served here are prepared using ‘Chenna’ – cottage cheese made from cow/buffalo milk. The most popular ones are Chenna Poda (Baked cheese cake), Rasagulla, Chenna Jhilli (deep fried chenna dumplings soaked in sugar syrup), Rassaballi (flattened deep fried chenna in condensed milk) and Kora (coconut balls).
Odia cuisine is available across eateries in the cities in Odisha. However the following restaurants are among the better known places to enjoy authentic Odia food in Cuttack, especially a typical thali – Hotel Dalma, Odisha Hotel and Shola Ana Odia.