Brunches in Odisha are part of regular life. My mom always told me stories of eating complete meals before going to school. Meals could be as simple as rice and dal with vegetables or pithas (rice cakes/pancakes) of various kinds. Unlike the metros, the day starts late in Odisha. I think it’s a way of life there. There is no pressure of proving the point of being an early riser. Of course, it might simply be the sheer fact that people are content with a slower pace!
Growing up outside the state, I never had that experience, but marriage gave me an opportunity to live the Odia life. The nanasor cooks who knew every part of the cuisine would rustle up various pithas on a regular basis, under the supervision of my mother-in-law. She tried hard to make me enjoy this one early morning activity which was learning the making of unique traditional food like the phula badi, the dehydrated flower-shaped wadi or lentil dumpling. However, I was expected to be all dressed up at 7 a.m. in a saree and bindi, only ensuring that I ran away from the task altogether!
Kawdhai pitha is one such wholesome brunch dish, a savoury or sweet rice cake, made in many households. This is the one I learnt at my in-laws’, though they do not add vegetables. It is eaten with a boiled dal topped with chopped raw onions and tomatoes and raw mustard oil. Using dehydrated mangoes is also common in Odia cuisine, resulting in really delicious tangy chutneys which are a great accompaniment to any pitha.
KAWDHAI PITHA (Serves 4)
(Measuring cup size: 250 ml)
Raw rice:1 cup
Flattened rice (poha)(optional): ¼ cup
Urad dal: ¼ cup
Water:1½ cups approximately
Salt: 1 tsp
1. Soak rice and urad dal separately in water for 6–8 hours.
2. Soak flattened rice in water for 5 minutes, if using.
3. Strain and grind dal until smooth.
4. Add strained flattened rice if using and grind further.
5. Add strained rice and continue to grind, adding water along the way.
6. Once the batter is smooth, leave it at room temperature overnight.
7. Add salt before using.
Batter: 400 gm
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Peas: 75 gm shelled
Curry leaves:1 sprig
Beans: 100 gm, chopped
Coconut: 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Carrots: 100 gm, chopped
Sugar:1–1 and half tsp
Cauliflower: 100 gm, chopped
Ghee: 2–3 tbsp
Onion: 1 large, sliced
Fruit salt: three-fourth tsp or baking powder: three-fourth tsp
Green chillies: 2, finely chopped
Salt: 1 tsp
1. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan. Add sugar and let it dissolve.
2. Add mustard seeds and let them crackle.
3. Add curry leaves.
4. Add sliced onions and green chillies with ½ tsp salt.
5. Cook until onions are translucent and pink.
6. Add all the vegetables and coconut pieces and stir fry.
7. Ensure that vegetables and coconut pieces are cooked through but crunchy.
8. Add the vegetable mixture to the batter and mix well.
9. Add fruit salt/baking powder, ½ tsp salt and aerate with a ladle.
10. Heat a thick-bottomed wok/kadai well greased with ghee.
11. Add the vegetable batter in it and pour a few drops of ghee along the sides.
12. Cover wok/kadai tightly with a lid and cook over a low flame for 20 minutes.
13. Remove from the flame. Gently loosen the pitha from the sides using a spatula.
14. Turn the wok/kadai over to transfer the pitha to a hot tawa to cook the other side.
15. Remove from tawa, cut into slices and serve.
Excerpted with permission from ‘Servings: Simple yet Exotic’ authored by Roopali Mohanti and published by Rupa & Co.