The Odiya’s are truly identified with rice & fish and the “Mahaprasad” of Puri. We come from the land of Jaganath Dham and are proud of ourselves – as we like our food, laid back life with festivity linked to our tradition and culture.
The state is crisscrossed with numerous rivers, streams, water bodies, lakes and the Mahanadi delta. The presence of these water bodies has made the freshwater fish a regular dish in the daily Odiya menu. These water bodies and a long coastline with a brackish water lake also provide quite an amount of crustaceans for the menu. Most of these are harvested sold and eaten in the daily menu of the Odiya’s. The typical fish curry in Odisha has its own aroma when it is served with lots of love in it. The same is the case of the crustaceans dish with its scarlet red colour of the shells with juicy flesh underneath it.
The cuisine through time has not evolved, thus it has got lost and our neighbours have happily done their own fusion and trade marked it as their own. The Odiya Cuisine has its own character, first the cooking method has it all it – from hearth, grilling, poaching steaming: you name it and we have a dish associated with it. The entire dish are served in a platter, the cuisine does not have the practice to be served through course menu/dish. The platter has all the taste senses – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungency. The best part is that ‘Umami’ plays quite a role in the Odiya cuisine.
Odiya Cuisine has now taken a back seat as compared with other cuisines, other cuisine food have trickled down and have changed the taste platter of the Odiya’s. The Odiya food has taken a back seat. But there are some good Samaritans who have preserved the traditional food; we embarked upon to identify those.
The pioneer been the Chairman and Managing Director of Swosti Group: Mr. J K Mohanty. He was kind enough to allow us to have a tee-a-tee with their chefs who have kept the Swosti tradition high for Odiya food and Odiya Cuisine.
Met Executive Chef Biswanath Dey and Chef Manas Ranjan Mishra. Both the chef have crafted out the best dish from their magical hands. Chef Manas is in charge of the Indian workstation with Odiya cuisine in particular. Both the chef had a common opinion that the Odiya cuisine is developing now. They opined that the food culture of Odisha has a common base with Bengal also. This was due to the fact that the cooks and other workers migrated to the neighbouring states as income from maritime business had dwindled. Thus the Odiya food with Bengal cuisine started to evolve and refined itself. This was not good for the Odiya cuisine; it got stagnated and did not evolve. All it could boast was the “Mahaprasad” of Puri. But according to Mr. Anil Kumar Satapathy, F & B Manager Odiya cuisine is taking a rebirth and slowly the cuisine is firmly putting its position on the food map of Odisha.
Odiya Cuisine has its own typicality: The food is not served in courses rather it is served in a platter. The food is either served in a leaf plate – sal leaves mainly or in a Brassware plates. The starting point normally starts with saag and fritters, the logic: the taste helps in predicting the palatability of the other dishes. The supposedly starter may be saag, rounded sliced eggplant fry, Badi Chura, or pumpkin flowers fritters. In the non-veg front it may vary from small fish fry (Chunna Macha), Fish scramble (pounded after been fried), Chunna Besara - Small fish cooked in Mustard paste, but the best comes in with dried fish (pounded with a pestle on a flat rock or on flat surface along with garlic and onions).
The chefs came up with these items: the treat was a feast for the eyes and the palate. There was lot of other surprises, which came in with Plain Rice, Ghee Arna, & Khichidi. This was accompanied with Dalma, and three types of Chatni, which was typical to Odisha Cuisine. A three cheers to the chef. As it was a platter thus the palate cleanser was Ambula Rai. The non – veg had the variation from Kukuda Jhol, Macha Jhol and Mangsa Jhol. These are the typical dish in the Odiya Cuisine and this was served to make us understand the taste but when asked about the recipe: the chef’s just smirked it away, we could know that it was a trade secret.
The showstoppers were the sweet dish. The kheer was followed by, Chen poda and Baked rasogolla. Having so many dishes felt bloated and thanked the chefs that they have gone an extra mile to treat the typical Odiya Cuisine. All said and done: kudos to Swosti management and their chefs for offering and kindling Odiya Cuisine to the people here in Odisha.