Based in the capital city of Odisha as a local, today I bring before you the most popular and unique cuisine of Odisha – “Pitha” – pronounced : ‘Pee’ + ‘Tha’ (from Thackeray). The state of Odisha is known for its simple, yet delicious food with Pitha being an integral part of Odia Cuisine. There are different varieties of this delicacy, which is prepared during traditional Odia festivals. A lot of efforts are put in the preparation of Pithas, and it mostly requires an expertise to make the perfect Pitha. Considering our fast-paced lives, it’s a plight that the current generation does not have much time to indulge in the preparation of this traditional delicacies.
Here’s a list of 10 authentic Odia Pithas, which is a must-try on your visit to Odisha :
1. Poda Pitha
This Pitha is a major highlight during the Raja Parba, which is one of the most unique festivals of Odisha. Poda Pitha is kind of a rice and coconut cake, which is prepared mostly by the process of slow cooking. It is made by slowly baking fermented rice, black gram, grated coconut and jaggery overnight. Its crust is slightly burnt, while the inside is soft and white. The combined taste of coconut garnished with nuts and caramelised jaggery will definitely satiate your taste buds.
This Pitha is considered to be Lord Jagannath’s favorite and is regularly served in the most popular Puri Jagannath Temple, as part of the daily meals.
2. Enduri Pitha
Enduri Pitha is a very unique Pitha among all the other varieties of Pithas, because of its ‘health benefits’. It is mostly prepared during Prathamashtami and Manabasa Gurubara (two important festivals of Odisha). This is uniquely prepared by steaming rice and black gram batter with coconut, cottage cheese, jaggery and black pepper, wrapped in ‘turmeric leaves’. It is a very light snack and has laxative effects because of the turmeric leaves that are used to wrap the Pitha. The unique aroma of turmeric leaves in this Pitha enhances the overall taste of this delicacy.
3. Arisa Pitha
Arisa Pitha qualifies as one of the most popular traditional pancakes of Odisha. This delicious pancake is prepared especially on the occasion of Manabasa Lakshmi Puja. It is basically made of rice flour, kneaded in sugar or jaggery syrup and topped with sesame seeds. Since this Pitha is deep-fried, it is mostly dry and hardened, which makes it possible to preserve Arisa Pitha for about 2-3 weeks. It is a unique combination of being crisp outside, and delightfully soft inside. Arisa Pitha is a personal favorite!
4. Kakara Pitha
Kakara pitha is a sweet deep-fried cake which is mostly prepared as an offering to temple deities and served hot or cold on most traditional festivals. This is prepared in two varieties – either by using semolina or wheat flour. This is undoubtedly one of Odisha’s most special dessert delicacy. The sweet coconut filling, adds on to the taste of this Pitha.
5. Manda Pitha
Manda Pitha is a steamed Pitha which is prepared in all parts of Odisha during festivals falling on monsoon and post-monsoon seasons like Manabasa Gurubara, Durga Puja and Kumar Purnima. This is exclusively for health-conscious foodies, since this is prepared by steaming only. A single drop of oil is not used in its preparation. It is mostly made with rice flour or semolina and almost a steamed variant of Kakara Pitha. Grated coconut flavored with cardamom elevates the delicious taste of Manda Pitha even more.
6. Chakuli Pitha
Chakuli Pitha is a flat Odia rice-based fried cake, commonly prepared in every Odia household. It is prepared using rice flour, black gram, refined edible oil, and salt. This can be easily described as a softer version of the South-Indian Plain Dosa. This is generally served with a wide variety of Odia side dishes like ghuguni, aloo bhajan or just tomato ketchup (for weird taste buds like mine!)
7. Taala Pitha
This is a very unique form of Pitha, which is made exclusively with the fruit – Palmyra (called ‘Taala’ in Odia). The preparation is very similar to that of Kakara Pitha, with just a distinctive usage of ripe Palmyra, as one of the most important ingredient. The combination of Palmyra-flavoured semolina with coconut and jaggery, gives it a very unique taste of its own. This is a must-try for all people who believe in food-adventure.
8. Chitau Pitha
Chitau Pitha is extensively prepared in the Odia homes on the occasion of Chitalagi Amabasya, also known as Chitau Amabasya, a festival related to Lord Jagannath. This is a lightly-fried pancake, with a tinge of coconut flavour mixed directly while preparing the batter. This can be easily described as a different version of the South-Indian Neer Dosa. Being light and healthy, this Chitau Pitha is usually served with a side dish like dalma (lentils with vegetables), phula kobi tarkari (cauliflower curry). Since it has a unique flavour, Chitau Pitha never fails to impress. It is so easy to prepare that a non-Odia can actually try preparing it at home.
9. Chandrakanti Pitha
Chandrakanti Pitha is a succulent deep-fried dessert cake made from green gram and rice flour. It is a sweet dish originally from coastal Odisha. The unique aspect of using green gram (moong dal) in this dessert recipe makes it even more irresistible. It is made in almost every Odia household especially during Diwali.
10. Gaintha Pitha
The very popular Gaintha Pitha comprises of rice flour dough balls soaked in reduced cardamom flavoured milk. The rice flour is cooked with water and then kneaded to form a dough, moulded into balls, and dropped into simmering milk cream. This is one of the most preferred Pithas, for all the sweet-lovers. This is mostly prepared during fasting and who would not want to fast with an option of such delicacies!
The state of Odisha is undoubtedly, one of the most underrated food destinations in the country. If you are on the lookout for a refreshing travel-cum-food experience, Odisha should be your next destination. With such a wide variety of Pitha options, I’m sure you’ll leave this beautiful state asking for more. The multiple options available, make it a possibility to satiate every taste bud. So, if you are in a group, there’s nothing to worry! Each individual in your group will definitely savour a Pitha, according to his or her taste. Never miss tasting this most authentic and unique cuisine on your next visit to Odisha.