A cook-off in the lord’s name

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By BRINDA SARKAR
  • Published 19.07.13
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Some looked like momos, others like cakes. Some were age-old recipes handed down from mother to daughter while others were innovations using chocolates and jellies. But they were all varieties of kheeris or pithas entered in a cooking competition at the Odisha festival at Swabhumi.

Kheeri is the Oriya word for “kheer” and pitha for “pithe” and there were around 15 women competing at the contest organised by Utkala on Sunday.

“I’ve made Poda Pitha out of rice, coconut and urad dal and shaped it like a cake. It’s a summer speciality and a favourite of Lord Jagannath,” smiled Rupalekha Singh, who had come from Tollygunge for the show. Pratibha Debi Gosai of Behala made Bengali-style Patishapta and Dudh Puli and substituted the winter-ingredient jaggery with sugar.

Tripti Rout, a resident of EE Block, made Holud Pitha, using leaves of the turmeric plant. “This pitha is made in Oriya homes every year on Prathamaastami — a ceremony for prosperity of the eldest child. My mother would make this for my elder sister and I’ve tried to replicate it today,” smiled Rout.

Some dishes had funky twists, like Sonali Mohanty’s Carrot Kheer and Steam Pitha Cake, garnished with jelly. Nabanita Chatterjee Chakraborty made an original — Adurey Pithe — comprising everything that kids love — chocolates, crackers and dry fruits. This lady is in fact a pithe expert and will soon be opening a chain of pithe shops in the city that will sell sweet, sour and spicy pithes.

“All were delicious,” said one of the judges, Lakshmipriya Behera. “We marked them on the basis of taste, presentation and hygiene.” Before the results were announced, the audience was invited to come taste the goodies and they licked the platters clean. “I ate pithas made by six aunties,” said 11-year-old Ashisha Bishoyi. “I liked Pradhan aunty’s pitha the most.”

The judges too crowned Smita Pradhan of Kaikhali the winner for her suji pitha, dahi vadas and mung daler payesh. “My friend called me up this morning and asked me to participate. I raided my kitchen and made the items out of whatever I had,” she smiled.

Vieta Pradhan and Dolly Pal were the runners-up, and in their effort to serve others, didn’t get a single bite of anything anyone made. “It’s all right,” they said later. “Being able to feed others is like feeding Jagannath.”