By Abhishikta Mallick

Delhi. It’s life, love, work, play. It’s where we’ve grown up, lost ourselves, found ourselves… Its where we’ve met some of our best friends, and it’s where we’re figuring out this madness called life!

I’ve spent the majority of my growing up years here, and love this crazy city for all that it is, and more; but I am also very attached to my Oriya heritage. Call it nostalgia, but I’d love to share with you all a quintessential part of Oriya cuisine – Desserts!

You can find a mithai shop on literally every street in Bhubaneswar – and not one of them is ever deserted – such is our love for sweets. Just off the National Highway No.5, between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, is a village of sweet shops, called Pahala, which is open well into the night, the delectable rasagullas selling out and refilling in a never-ending cycle – and really, this is as fresh as they come.

Sadly, there aren’t many places in Delhi where you can get authentic Oriya sweets; Bengali sweet shops are a “first copy” at best and Orissa Bhawan’s dessert menu is only the tip of the iceberg – but if you ever travel to my beautiful hometown, here’s a curated list of MUST TRY Oriya sweetmeats.

Rasagulla | I have been shouting this from the rooftop since time immemorial and no one seems to believe it – Rasagulla originated in Orissa! It has been the age-old traditional offering to goddess Lakshmi on the last day of the Rath Yatra, only after which the trinity of deities re-enter the temple; word is, this sweet is as old as the temple itself!

rasgulla

{Rasagullas vary from white to brown, colours depending on the consistency of sugar syrup}

rasgulla2

{Rolling out rasagullas with TLC}

Chhena Poda | Literally meaning burnt cheese, it is Orissa’s signature dessert – a baked cottage cheese cake. Wrapped in the leaves of the Sal tree and baked in a charcoal oven for many hours, the outer crust caramelizes and turns a delicious brown, while on the inside it remains soft and delicate.

chhena

{Chhena Gaja (L) and Chhena Poda (R)}

Chhena Gaja | One of the most popular desserts in Orissa, and made with the same ingredients as rasagulla and chhena poda {chhena, sooji, chini} but by an entirely different procedure, it’s phenomenal! {FYI, these three sweets are completely oil free!}

Chhena Jhili | En route Puri is a small village called Nimapada, and that’s where this beauty was born. It is essentially a deep fried cottage cheese patty, soaked in sugar syrup. Eaten hot, the soft, juicy cheesiness against the backdrop of a little hint of cardamom-y sweetness is gorgeous.

chhena jhilli

Kheersagar | Marble sized balls of chhena soaked in a thin rabri-type milk base – while the description sounds a little like rasmalai, you’ll only know the difference when you try it!

Kheera Gaja | A deep fried sweet khoya preparation, crunchy on the outside, moist and flaky inside. Sinful. {It’s also available at a tapir inside JNU!}

Khaja | One of the Chapana bhoga in the Jagannath Puri temple, khaja or pheni is a deep-fried, crisp puff, coated with sugar syrup. Legend is that Lord Jagannath appeared in a man’s dream and instructed him to make these!

khaja

Kheeri | A rice kheer, usually sweetened with gur {jaggery}, it isn’t as thick and creamy as its north and south-indian counterparts. Simple and soulful, best eaten warm.

Rasabali | A deep fried cottage cheese pancake drenched in a saffron based thickened milk.

Arisa Pitha | One of the simplest, and at the same time most intricate dishes…arisa pitha is a sweet, crisp puri made of rice flour {soaked and hand ground}, jaggery and topped with sesame seeds.

arisa pitha

Malpua | A deep-fried crisp fritter, dipped in syrup, the malpua has many variations in different parts of the country, and the Oriya version contains bananas.

malpua

One of my most memorable childhood treats, my grandma’s malpua is still a family favorite. Hope you enjoy it too!

Ingredients |

Method | Mash the banana and mix it with the flour and sugar in the blender for about a minute, adding milk little by little to make a medium-consistency batter. Combine fennel seeds and cardamom powder.

Heat refined oil in a kadhai, drop a ladle-full of batter into the hot oil and fry on medium heat till you get a bubbling, crisp-from-the-sides and soft-in-the-centre golden pancake.

Nani-ma’s special tip | Press the pancake between 2 sieved ladles for a crunchier and less oily malpua.

Serve hot.

malpua2

Where |

Pahala | NH5, between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, 14 kms from Bhubaneswar

Bikalananda Kar | Shahid Nagar and Ravi Talkies; Ph: 0674 2434874, 2546691

Nimapara Sweets | 80 Bapuji Nagar, Bhubaneswar; Ph: 0674 2536075

Cuttack Sweets Stall | 87/2 Janpath, Bapuji Nagar, Bhubaneswar; Ph: 0674 2597784

{Image courtesy: www.ifood.tv, en.wikipedia.org}