Do you know what litti is?” asked a friend from Bihar. When I expressed ignorance, he went on to explain the preparation, flavors and aroma of this signature dish from Bihar. That day quite a few other words got added to my food vocabulary—ghugni, dhuska, kofta, pittha, and of course, litti.
Positioned square in the notheast, Bihari cuisine is influenced by both the north and eastern states of India. One of the specialties of Bihari cuisine is the use of panch phoran, a combination of five ingredients, namely, mangraeel (nigella), saunf (fennel), methi (fenugreek),sarso (mustard), and ajwain(carom). Panch phoran is used as a seasoning and readily available in grocery stores.
Even if you are not from Bihar, you may have heard of sattu. Sattu is usually made with roasted gram flour. I make it with barley seeds that are soaked in water, dried, roasted and then pulverized. In summer people mix sattu with water, sugar, and lemon to form an invigorating drink. I’ve had it many times and, believe me, it enlivens from within.
Ask any Bihari about litti and he will rave endlessly about it. The relation between litti and sattu ka paratha (recipe below) is that of kith and kin. The ingredients and method of preparation for both are almost the same. The difference is that Sattu ka paratha is pan-fried while litti gets baked in a pre-heated oven at 375° F to make it crispy and crunchy. Littis are usually eaten with baigan ka bhurta (also called chokha).
Dhuska (do not lose sleep over the names of these dishes), is a fried dish of rice and Bengal gram. It is a piece de resistance from Jharkhand, and requires just 25-30 minutes of cooking time.
Now about Khaja, a dish that has traveled thousands of kilometres from the land of Bihar to other Indian states. It is a sugar-coated puffy dessert made with all purpose flour. Those who have wandered the streets of cities like Patna, Gaya, and Rajgir are acquainted with Khaja very well.
Preparing these dishes at home is, in my opinion, quite simple, if not mere duck soup. I hope that you will also become an admirer of the cuisine from this state just as I became.
Anuradha Malhotra is a freelancer who writes about her own culinary experiences; she has an avid interest in getting to know different cultures and writing about them.
Sattu ka Parathas
1½ cups of sattu
3 small sized scallions finely chopped
3-4 green chillies finely chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger finely chopped
½ tbsp ajwain seeds
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp mustard oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt (to taste)
2 cups wheat flour
2 tbsp cooking oil
In a big bowl combine all the stuffing ingredients to it. Sprinkle a quarter cup of water to moisten the mixture. Blend thoroughly with a ladle. Add more water only if you need to keep the dough consistent. Keep the stuffing aside.
Pour half a cup of water over the wheat flour in a large wide-mouthed container. Do it slowly and gradually. Knead with hands so that the flour is gathered and a loose mass is formed.
Continue kneading until the dough becomes stretchable and smooth enough to be rolled out. Leave the dough aside for 10-15 minutes and keep it covered with a moist cloth.
Take a small chunk of the dough; make a small ball out of it and start rolling it with a rolling pin over a plain surface. Place the sattu stuffing in the middle of this circle; enfold it and close from top. Now roll down again; stretch the dough so that a becomes a circle with a diameter of 7-8 inches. Cook paratha on a hot tawa.
2 cups rice
1 cup of chana dal (Bengal gram)
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
5 tsp cooking oil
4-5 green chillies chopped
2 medium sized onions minced
Keep both rice and chana dal soaked overnight. Soak them separately. Next day, grind them (separately) coarsely. Mix them and add some water to form a consistent pancake-like batter (free of lumps). Add salt, cumin seeds, chopped green chillies, and minced onions to the batter and blend well.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. With the help of a big spoon, pour some Dhuska batter into the heated oil. Fry until it becomes golden brown. Get a kick out of the dish!
2 cups yellow peas
1 medium sized onion peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped
1 tsp grated or finely chopped ginger
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 handful of cilantro
3-4 green chillies chopped
1 whole red chilli pods
3 medium-sized tomatoes chopped
1 tsp panch phoran
salt to taste
Roast panch phoran and red chillies in a pan. Also add cumin seeds. Now powder these in a spice blender or with the help of a rolling pin. Heat some oil in the same pan and add chopped pieces of ginger and garlic. Sauté for a bit. Add minced green chillies, and chopped onions and tomatoes. Fry until the oil in the pan starts leaving the sides and a nice paste is formed. Follow this by adding salt, coriander powder, turmeric and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
This is the time you add soaked peas and potato slices to the paste. Mix these with the fried spices. Add 2 cups of water and turn the the heat to high and bring the dish to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook. By this time, you are over with the main part. Add turmeric water and grated pieces of the coconut. Cook for another half an hour so that peas and potatoes become soft.
As the gravy thickens, turn off the heat and add roasted mixture of panch phoran and cumin to it. Mix well. Transfer the contents to a bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander. Pour lemon juice over ghugni just before serving.
Enjoy this lip-smacking dish with hot parathas or chapatis.