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The name itself conjures up thousands of memories and for anyone who’s ever been to Cuttack or hails from the city, needs no introduction to this legendary street food—known as “Dahi Bara Aloo Dum” or “Dahi Bara.” For the uninitiated, this street food is the combination of Dahi Vada topped with Aloo Dum and Guguni (yellow peas curry), served generously garnished with cut onions, coriander leaves and sev. The savory tartness of the Dahi Vada perfectly complements the spicy Aloo Dum and Guguni and all of it wonderfully comes together with the crunchiness of the onions and the sev. It’s truly a wonder how all three distinct dishes can meld together in this unique, indescribable way.

Despite its iconic status within the state, it’s a pity that outside Orissa hardly many people know about it. Every nook and corner of Cuttack beams with a Dahi Bara vendor these days and despite the growing fervor for “westernized” fast food, I can very gladly say that little has changed as far as its popularity goes. Quite aptly put, it’s the “Vada Pav” of Cuttack in the nature of which it has wormed its way into people’s hearts and stomachs. I have known people eating this street food for all three meals for several days together. But unlike the Pav Bhaji or the Vada Pav, it really hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. I am sure, absolutely sure, that all that is required is a little bit of promotion and this street fare can exceed many iconic Indian foods in the lovability quotient.

Having grown up in Cuttack, my love for this street delicacy represents festivity and all such happy times when as kids we would savor every bite of the street food we were occasionally allowed to eat. It conjures up cheerful childhood memories of springing towards the gate as soon as the vendor rang his cycle bell and drummed the container to attract attention. It was difficult to contain the excitement of holding the “thola” (the container made leaves) in our hands. Yes, sometimes managing the thola in our tiny hands did get difficult, but that never discouraged us from gulping it all down and not to forget the last desperate plea for some more dahi paani (“tike dahi debe bhaina”) or some crunchy sev.

Just like every other delicacy we have loved, my Ma has tried her hand many a time at making this dish and well, after a few failures, did get it right. Now, with my Ma around, I had the privilege and the luxury of learning how to make this iconic, street food. We had a total blast making this and, yes, a memorable time eating it too.

I am sure this is going to be made on many such occasions when I feel the need to go back to Cuttack. My own quick time-travel, you see.

Jagruti Vedamati writes from Los Angeles  and is currently juggling a hectic Ph.D. life with food blogging. You can find her recipes

Dahi Bara (Dahi Vada)

Savory and tangy fried lentil donuts soaked in a thin yogurt base forms the heart of this street food. Light and fluffy, it forms the perfect neutral base to complement the spicy additions.

(Makes ~12 medium sized vadas)
1 cup urad dal
¾ cup rice flour
1 tsp baking soda
Oil for frying
½ cup yogurt (dahi)
¼ cup water
Salt to taste
Black salt to taste
Cumin and red chilli powder (optional)
1 tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 whole dry red chillies

i) Soak the whole urad dal overnight in luke warm water (6-8 hrs).

ii) After the dal is perfectly soaked (it will feel light and puffed up), grind to a smooth batter. Keep it aside for ~4-5 hrs for fermentation in a dark, warm place.

iii) The batter rises up and the surface has many small bubbles. Now slowly mix in the rice flour and baking soda. Keep it aside overnight.

iv) For the dahi: In a small vessel, thin out the dahi with some water. Add salt to taste, black salt and cumin powder.

v) Heat up the oil. Wet your palms and make a donut shaped batter. Slowly slide the donut shaped batter into the oil. Fry till golden brown.

vi) In another bowl, add some salt to iced water and keep aside.

vii) Soak the fried vadas in the salted water till soft and fully soaked.

viii) After the vada becomes soft, gently squeeze out the water and place it in the dahi.

ix) For the garnish: Add oil to a pan, splutter some mustard seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies. Then, pour the tadka on the dahi vada.

Aloo Dum

Spiced potatoes in a thick tomato gravy provides the necessary spice for this dish. It can also be eaten by itself with poori or with rotis.

½ lb small or regular sized potatoes
2 tbsp oil
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ cup onion and ginger garlic paste
½ cup tomato puree
¼ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp garam masala powder
¼ tsp sugar
1 cup water
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro leaves to garnish

i) Boil whole potatoes. Peel and keep aside.

ii) In a separate pan over medium heat, lightly sauté the boiled potatoes with salt and turmeric powder. Take it out of the pan and keep aside.

iii) In the same pan, add the onion, ginger and garlic paste to oil. Add in salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.

iv) Then, add in tomato puree little at a time and sauté the masala till the oil separates.

v) Now add in curry powder, sugar, garam masala powder and the potatoes. Add water and bring it to a boil. When oil floats at the top, it is done.

vi) Sprinkle chopped coriander and keep aside.


This spiced yellow peas curry can be eaten just by itself or along with rotis or pooris.

¼ lb yellow peas
2 tbsp oil
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ cup onion and ginger garlic paste
½ cup tomato puree
¼ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp sambar powder
¼ tsp garam masala powder
¼ tsp sugar
2 cup water
Salt to taste

i) Soak the yellow peas overnight in lukewarm water.

ii) Boil the soaked peas in a pressure cooker with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder. Take it off the stove after a whistle from the pressure cooker or after 20 minutes of cooking.

iii) In a separate pan over medium heat, add onion, ginger and garlic paste to the heated oil. Mix in salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.

iv) Then add tomato puree a little at a time and sauté the masala till the oil separates.

v) Now add in sambhar powder, sugar, garam masala powder and the boiled yellow peas. Add water and bring it to a boil. When oil floats to the top, it is done.

Assembling the Dahi Bara Aloo Dum and Guguni

Ingredients for the garnish
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped mint (Optional)

In a bowl, place 2-3 dahi vadas and a little bit of dahi. Then scoop in some aloo dum and guguni. Then add in some more dahi and sprinkle some black salt and cumin red chilli powder. Garnish the dish with cut onions, coriander leaves and sev. Now dig into it and savor every bite!

Like they say, there’s nothing more effective than food and music to conjure up happy memories of time well spent. Have fun preparing this and sharing with your loved ones.

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