A Peek Into Odisha’s Culinary Culture Through Sarsatia Pitha
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‘Bomkai paata’, ‘Sambalpuri naach aar dhol’, ‘nishaan’ and ‘taasha’ - these are the first things that come to my mind when I think of Sambalpur. Situated in the western part of Odisha, this place is the epicentre of culture, commerce and a rich and diverse culinary heritage. While the city’s natural beauty and its people are sure to tug at your heartstrings in the first place, its decadent and lip-smacking food will leave you gobsmacked. The cuisine here mainly comprises home-grown ingredients and the delicacies are simple yet utterly decadent.

Most Sambalpuri savoury dishes are well-known for their unique flavour and texture. However, there is one Sambalpuri sweetmeat that is still a hidden secret to most people across India. Colloquially known as Sarsatia pitha, this Sambalpuri sweetmeat is made with a special technique and with a unique ingredient.

Although the history and origin of this delicacy are still unknown to many, legend has it that the sweetmeat was made in a lot of homes until a few decades ago. Well, if we go on to scrounge through the reasons for this rarity of the sweetmeal in the present times, then depleting greenery is one of the topmost. Confused, are you? Well, you would be shocked to know that unlike the other varieties of pithas, sarsatia is made from the resin of the twigs or roots of the ganjer trees.

The ganjer twigs and roots are usually collected from the Barapahad hill range. The ideal season to harvest the twigs and roots is between October to March. This is the time when the twigs discharge resin that is one of the main ingredients to make sarsatia pitha. The roots and twigs are cleaned thoroughly and soaked overnight. The next morning, rice flour, sugar and water are mixed with the soaked twigs and a smooth batter is made. The batter is then poured in thin strings into a kadai of hot oil and the net-like sweetmeat is deep-fried to perfection.

If you ask us whether making sarsatia is an easy task, the answer is negative. There are a lot of crucial procedures that go into the making of this sweetmeat. From nailing the right consistency of the batter to pouring the batter right using fingers, the process of making sarsatia has important points to take note of. To prevent the sweetmeat from breaking, it is folded like a napkin using a spatula when it is still in the oil.

Sarsatia also served as prasad to Maa Samaleswari and Ramchandi during Dussehra. So, if you get a chance to visit Sambalpur, don’t forget to grab a bite of this rare sweetmeat.