Bihari Cuisine: A Brief Guide Of The Rustic And Homely Fare
Image Credit: Image credit: Shutterstock| Litti chokha

The eastern part of the Indian subcontinent is where the state of Bihar is located. This landlocked area is well-known for its ancient customs and historical landmarks, such as Bodh Gaya, the place of Buddha's enlightenment, the antiquated Nalanda University, the lovely and lilting Bhojpuri language, and many other things. Bihari cuisine offers numerous unique dishes, but sadly they are not well known throughout the rest of the nation. This is partially due to the fact that the Bihari spread is rarely studied in detail because it is frequently incorporated into the greater North Indian culinary traditions. Additionally, some Bihari cuisines, like Litti Chokha, have attracted a lot of attention, outshining other similarly distinctive dishes from the state. 

However, Bihari cuisine is incredibly diverse and healthy. Due to its location on the Indo-Gangetic plain, Bihar is well suited for intensive agriculture. It is a significant rice grower in India. Here, rice of more than 60 different varieties is grown. Daal-bhaat (daal and rice) is the most consumed food in Bihar and is both the commercial and staple crop. Speaking about distinguishing characteristics, deep-frying, roasting (bhoonna), and steaming are frequently used in Bihari cooking. The preferred cooking oil is mustard oil, though vegetable oils are frequently employed. The usage of panch-phoran, or an amalgamation of five spices, including cumin seeds (zeera), fenugreek seeds (methi), nigella seeds (mangrael/kalonji), fennel (saunf), and carom seeds (ajwain), is one of the most characteristic culinary methods used by Biharis. Another typical practise is adding smoked red chilli to the cuisine to add flavour and scent. 

Image credit: Shutterstock

Bihar also boasts an impressive selection of evening snacks. In the nooks and crannies of the state, one can usually find groups of individuals sipping bhunja with tea in the evening while engaging in impassioned talks. Bhunjas are grains that have been dried, fried, and spiced. A variety of bhunjas are available, including chooda ka bhunja (fried beaten rice flakes with diced onions and green chilies), chana ka bhunja (a similar dish with Bengal gram), and jhaal murhi (puffed rice with onions, green chillies, peanuts and mustard oil seasoned with salt). 

The majority of Bihar's cuisine is vegetarian. This is partially due to the socio-religious heritage of Bihar and also because it is one of the states in India that produces the most vegetables. There is also a sizable non-vegetarian community in Bihar, nevertheless. The state's familiarity with non-vegetarian foods is presumably the result of the Muslim rulers of Bihar. The Afghan king Bakhtiyar Khalji was the first to establish his dominance over Bengal and Bihar by leading expeditions in the eastern region. The Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughals were able to establish themselves in this area because to this venture. 

The majority of the Muslims' culinary traditions were not vegetarian when they arrived. One of the most popular meat meals nowadays is called Bihari Kabab, which is made of boneless lamb that has been thinly sliced, marinated with masala and raw papaya pulp, and then roasted over coals while being brushed with ghee at regular intervals. Shami kabab, nargisi kofte, pulao gosht, and other delicacies are also available. Bihar's Champaran meat or Ahuna meat, a one-pot mutton curry, is renowned as a local delicacy. The meat is marinated in desi ghee, mustard oil, garlic, onions, ginger, and certain spices to make this dish. The meat's flavour is given a distinctive twist by the use of an entire garlic bulb. An earthen pot with the marinated meat inside is sealed at the mouth with kneaded flour. This mouthwatering treat typically requires 2 to 8 hours of cooking to achieve perfection. 

The Brahmins of Mithilanchal, located in northern-central Bihar and parts of Jharkhand and Nepal, do not adhere to the region's overall strict vegetarianism. Fish is the non-vegetarian food that Maithilis most frequently purchase. Fish is a common food among Biharis. Since Bihar is crossed by the Ganga and its tributaries, the Son, Gandak, Ghaghara, and Kosi rivers, fish are abundantly available in this area. Fish kinds include Rohu, Catla, Patiya, Mangur, and Tengda are frequently available. Bengal shares borders with Bihar as well, and it appears that the fish-loving neighbour has had a considerable influence on Bihar. In truth, the methods for preparing fish are largely the same in both of these areas. It is generally prepared with mustard paste. It is generally prepared with mustard paste. Fish dishes like Maach-bhaat and Machak-jhor are frequently consumed. Fried shrimp, or jhinga, is a favourite food of Biharis. 

Without mentioning Dal-Pitha and Litti Chokha, two of Bihari cuisine's most well-known dishes that consistently represent this region, a study of this cuisine would be incomplete. Rice flour is used to make the dough for Dal-Pitha, which is then rolled out and stuffed with either chana dal or jaggery (for the sweet Pitha) (for the savoury version). After that, it is steamed in a steaming vessel.