Panta Bhat: A Bangla Dish That Won MasterChef Australia Judges
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Light on the stomach, cooling and nutritious, panta bhat’s taste is as simple as the dish. When refrigerators were not prevalent, it made sense in most States where rice is a staple to soak the leftover piece in water overnight and eat it the next morning. This made sure that nothing was wasted. The rice, which is rice that has been allowed to ferment overnight, has a high starch content that keeps farmers and manual laborers satiated for a long time after they eat it for breakfast.

Panta bhat occupies a very delicately situated position in Bengali cuisine, straddling the line between laziness and the reluctance to throw anything out of the kitchen. Panta bhat is a simple rice dish prepared by first cooking the rice, rinsing it, and then soaking and fermenting it as per the comfort level of the eater. Some leave it for an hour and then consume it and some ferment it for as long as 24 hours before they feel the desired level of fermentation is achieved. Though soaking it overnight is considered ideal. Because it is usually enjoyed chilled, it is a favourable summer treat, and apart from being a typical everyday breakfast, it is also regularly prepared for special occasions such as Bengali New Year and Pahela Baishakh.

The quality of the rice is important, and panta bhat shouldn't ideally be made with rice that's too fine or aromatic (like long-grain Basmati). The Gobindobhog makes the finest option, thanks to its short grain and texture. 

This dish is also special because it is offered to gods during festivities. On the last day of Durga Puja, The Goddess is sent off to her home with a meal of Panta bhat and in neighbouring state of Orissa, Pakhala bhat (which is the equivalent of Panta Bhat) is offered to Lord Jagannath as part of bhog.

Panta Bhat makes for a wholesome, nutritious meal, full of good bacteria that are good for the gut. It is way more nutritious than normal rice. Rich in Iron, Potassium, Calcium, Vitamin C, and B, fermented rice is very nutritious.

Little bit of Trivia

A Masterchef contestant named Kishwar Chowdhury prepared Panta Bhat for the Grand Finale of Masterchef Australia . For the South Asian community as a whole as well as the individuals from Bangladesh and India, where rice is the major staple, it sparked a lot of emotions. Kishwar cooked panta bhat with Alu Bhorta and fried sardines.

Ingredients :

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 onions (finely sliced)
  • 1 lemon preferably gondhoraj
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil
  • Salt as required

Procedure to prepare panta bhat:

  • Take the cooked rice in a bowl and cover it with cold water. The water should be at least a cm above the rice. Cover it with a plate and leave it overnight
  • Finely slice onions and lemon wedges. Serve the panta bhat with sliced lemon wedges, sliced onions, mustard oil and salt
  • Don’t throw the water.  Crush everything together in the plate or a bowl with the water and eat it

The magic of panta bhat lies as much in the profound taste that comes from simple ingredients and basic cooking techniques (leftover rice soaked in water overnight), as it does with the delicious accompaniments it is served with.