Pakhala: Know-What Makes This Ultimate Odia Food So Special
Image Credit: Instagram Image by @chopsandveggies

Odia cuisine is the state of Orissa that has dramatically developed over time with local culture and agriculture, contributing to some of India's best yet well-known dishes. Apparently, unlike many other Indian cuisines, Odia dishes are mostly less oily and spicy while nevertheless delivers our taste buds with appetizing and flavorful dishes every time. Rice and wheat are Orissa's staple, so you are sure to find most dishes with both rice and wheat. Pakhala is an Odia delicacy consisting of cooked rice, either lightly fermented or washed in water. The leftover moisture and the liquid part of this dish are known as ‘Torani’ in Odia. 

What’s the story and the rich history of this Odia delicacy?

To begin with the dish's name, the word ‘Pakhala’ is derived from the Pali word ‘Pakhalita’ and from a Sanskrit word ‘Prakshalana’ which means washed/ to wash. The origins of pakhala to Eastern India or the early time as to when it became a part of the daily diet of the people of Orissa remains unknown till date, although the initial trace goes back to the ancient times where it was included in the recipe of Lord Jagannath temple of Puri. In fact, to date, pakhala holds a cultural significance as it is served as ‘Prasad’ to devotees at Jagannath Temple. Back in time, Arjuna Das also mentioned the word, Pakhala in his poems or literary work.

In the modern era, Pakhala holds an extraordinary place in the hearts of many that every year people gather together to celebrate ‘Pakhala Dibasa’ on 20th March, as a day whole-heartedly dedicated to this Odia delicacy. This idea was to promote the cuisine because March marks the onset of summer, which is a great time to enjoy this traditional dish. 

What are some of the dishes to pair with pakhala? 

Of course, Pakhala pairs well with roasted vegetables such as potato and brinjal. But, traditionally, you would love to relish pakhala with badi chura or any other fried fish.

How is this dish traditionally prepared? 

Pakhala is a dish of slightly fermented rice prepared using rice that is first cooked by adding water mixed with a bit of some old or sour curd and then allowed to cool down. Next, it is flavoured by adding a tadka of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, green mango, chillies and ginger. Click here for the full recipe.