After a lot of brainstorming, I planned for something very much rustic and authentic. Simplified yet tricky. Not much complicated yet very precious flavours. Yes, the title says it all… MANDA PITHA is not any simple Odia dish, it is quite connected to the cultural roots of one of the oldest culture of the country, or probably the world. Literally I can’t call it a dish. In fact, for me, there are few dishes on my list which I don’t ever try or dare to call them a dish. I feel the dish is something we can create or we do give life to it by our skills, but Manda Pitha is one of those initial dishes which introduced me to the cultural or fundamental world of food. This is something I am eating since my very first bite. The moment I take the 1st bite of Manda Pitha on those “MANABASA GURUBAR“, I feel all my mom’s love and a lifetime of culinary experience in that one bite. Moreover, it is like the love of years in one bite.
Am I getting nostalgic !!!… Anyways I feel I have all the rights to be nostalgic with this dish.
A “PITHA” is an unbreakable part of Odia culture. I dare to describe or do a brief of “PITHA”, It is cooked in lots of ways. There are hundreds of type of Pithas we have from different corners of the state. As per my observation and experience, Pitha is something made with a starchy flour or a flour which has a binding nature. Sometimes Pitha is stuffed one, sometimes it is cooked in a broth. Sometimes its steamed, sometimes deep-fried even sometimes it’s shallow fried. One word “PITHA” compliments a really really vast zone of food culture. In fact, I will say, if we consider Odia food then 50% or more will come under “Pitha” category. This Pitha can be savoury or sweet too. So you can say, our Pithas the building blocks of our Odia food culture.
If I start writing about “PITHA”, I can write for hours and hours as its never-ending. But now in this post, let us focus on one of the oldest Pitha of Odia culture. As a health freak, I can say the process involved in cooking this Pitha is the best way to avoid extra calories in your food. Yes, you heard it right, this Pitha is made by steaming or poaching, which involves almost no oil. Before I make it longer let us get into the nutritional factors of the major ingredients of the dish.
RICE FLOUR-Earlier rice flour for this Pitha used to be made at home with a primitive instrument called “DHINKII”. Of course, I will someday give you details about this instrument. Rice flour is naturally gluten-free. Its pure carb or starch which is an excellent source of daily energy, when consumed in limited quantity. It has a filling and cooling effect on the stomach.
JAGGERY- It prevents constipation. It has a very cooling effect on the stomach. It has lots of minerals like zinc, selenium which prevents free-radicles resulting prohibition of early ageing. It has carbohydrates which an excellent source of energy. It is rich in iron. It also works on the improved nervous system. It helps in beauty treatments too.
COCONUT- Bening rich in manganese, it works well on bone health. It helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Being rich in iron it works on your red blood cells. Also being rich in selenium it protects the cells which helps in preventing ageing. It has essential fatty acids which work really well. Lots of beauty products have coconut milk in them as a core moisturiser.
For the outer shell-
- 2 cups of rice flour (preferred homemade)
- 4 cups of water (room temperature)
- 1tbsp desi ghee/ clarified butter
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbsp milk
For the stuffing-
- 1 ½ cup freshly grated coconut
- 3/4th cup jaggery
- 2 freshly crushed green cardamom
- 3-4 freshly crushed black pepper powder
- A tiny piece of freshly crushed ginger
- Pinch of salt
- dash of desi ghee/ clarified butter
- Hand full of roasted broken cashew and whole resins
For outer shell-
- In a non-stick kadhai, put the ghee followed by the water.
- Add the milk to the water along with the salt.
- With continuous stirring add the rice flour gradually and keep stirring on low to medium flame.
- After a few minutes of continuous stirring, you will see the dough start leaving the sides and coming together.
- Keep on stirring for 2 minutes for on low flame.
- Take out the dough to a Paraat / big flat plate with a higher rim.
- Knead it nicely while hot.
For the filling-
- Lightly roast the grated coconut and keep it aside.
- Take the jaggery in a kadhai on lower flame. Melt it.
- Put the grated coconut Cook it till the jaggery is properly incorporated in the coconut.
- Put the crushed ginger, black pepper powder and mix it well.
- Once the house is filled with the aroma of nicely caramelized coconut, put the crushed cardamom and salt.
- Cook it till you get the semi crumby texture. The moisture content must be there to the right extent so that the filling does not go dry.
- Put the filling to a bowl and let it cool.
Making the Pitha-
- Take the dough in your hand make a small bowl-like structure.
- In that cavity goes a little bit of filling. (don’t overfill it)
- Fold the sides and seal the top nicely. (without crack marks)
- Make a slightly oval type structure or you can make it like small spheres.
- Keep all the Pithas aside. And cover it with a wet muslin cloth so that it won’t get dry
- Take full kadhai water and boil it.
- Once it starts boiling nicely, put the Pitha one by one with a light hand into the boiling water.
- Lower the flame to medium and cook till the Pitha floats on top and nicely done.
- You can see the texture in the picture.