Sukhua In Odia Cuisine: The Significance Of Dried Fish
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When it comes to Odia cuisine, you might be familiar with temple foods like Dalma and sweets like Chhena Poda and Pahala Rasagolla. But have you ever heard of Sukhua? Sukhua is a term used in Odia cuisine to refer to a traditional method of preserving fish. In this process, fish, typically small freshwater fish like mackerel or catla, are cleaned, marinated with spices, and then sun-dried to remove moisture. Once dried, the fish become preserved and can be stored for an extended period without spoiling. 

To be fair, dried fish varieties are used across India’s vast coastline and the culinary heritage of the states on this coastline. But while you may be more familiar with dried fish dishes from Goa and Kerala, even Andhra Pradesh, the ones from Odia cuisine barely get any attention. Let’s change all that by delving into what Sukhua is and what a huge cultural significance it hold in Odia cuisine. 

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Drying Fish: How Sukhua Is Prepared In Odisha 

The history of Sukhua in Odia cuisine is deeply rooted in the traditional methods of preserving fish in the coastal regions of Odisha, India. The practice of preserving fish through sun-drying, known as Sukhua or Sukhua Maacha in the local language, has a long history that dates back several generations. 

The preparation of sukhua involves carefully cleaning and gutting the fish, followed by rubbing them with a mixture of spices such as turmeric, red chili powder, and salt. The spiced fish are then laid out on a clean and dry surface under the sun for several days until they dry completely. The sun-drying process allows the fish to lose moisture, effectively preserving them without the need for refrigeration or modern preservation methods. Once dried, the fish become hard and can be stored for an extended period, sometimes even months, without spoiling. 

This traditional method of preserving fish has been practiced in the coastal regions of Odisha for generations, allowing people to enjoy fish throughout the year, especially during the monsoon season when fresh fish may not be readily available. Sukhua adds a unique and delightful touch to the rich culinary heritage of Odisha. It is commonly used in curries and stews to impart a distinct smoky flavor and to add texture to the dish. 

Over the years, the art of preparing Sukhua has been passed down through generations, preserving this age-old culinary practice in Odisha's cultural heritage. The popularity of Sukhua continues to thrive, as locals and tourists alike savor this traditional delicacy, celebrating the rich and diverse flavors of Odia cuisine. 

Types Of Sukhua: An Array Of Fishy Flavours 

Sukhua might be a delicacy that depends on the sundrying method, but there are so many varieties of fish and seafood that are used to create this dried fish variety that you sould be spoiled for choice. Sukhua can be made out of any variety of fish, but usually it is small fish and seafood varieties that are used to dry up using the Sukhua technique. Here are some such Sukhua varieties you should know about. 

Lote Macha Sukhua: A small and soft-boned fish, Bombay Duck is widely used to make Sukhua due to its delicate texture and unique flavor after smoking. 

Chingudi Sukhua: Prawns are another popular choice for making Sukhua. They are cleaned, marinated with spices, and then smoked, resulting in a delicious and aromatic dried prawn preparation. 

Bhakura or Bangada Sukhua: Mackerel is a firm-fleshed fish used for making Sukhua. Its strong flavor and dense texture make it ideal for the smoking and drying process. 

Ilishi Sukhua: Hilsa fish, also known as Ilishi, is a prized fish in Odia cuisine. Dried and smoked Hilsa makes for a delectable Sukhua preparation enjoyed by many. 

Bahuda Sukhua: Ribbon fish is commonly used for making Sukhua in Odisha. The fish is first cleaned, marinated, and then dried and smoked to create the final product. 

Rui Sukhua: Rohu, a popular freshwater fish, is also used for making Sukhua. It undergoes the smoking and drying process to transform into a flavorful and chewy delicacy. 

Odia Delicacies Prepared With Sukhua 

In Odia cuisine, Sukhua is a popular ingredient used to add flavor and texture to various dishes. It imparts a distinct smoky and savory taste, making it a sought-after delicacy in the region. Here are some of the amazing dishes made with Sukhua in Odia cuisine. 

Sukhua Jhola: Sukhua Jhola is a traditional Odia curry made with Sukhua cooked in a spicy and tangy gravy. The fish is first fried to give it a crispy texture before being simmered in a flavorful tomato-based curry with spices like cumin, turmeric, and red chili powder. 

Sukhua Bhaja: Sukhua Bhaja is a simple and quick dish where Sukhua is marinated with turmeric, salt, and red chili powder, and then shallow-fried until golden and crisp. It is a popular accompaniment to a typical Odia meal. 

Sukhua Badi Tarkari: In this dish, Sukhua is combined with badi or dried lentil dumplings and cooked in a tomato-based gravy with spices. It creates a hearty and flavorful dish that goes well with rice or roti. 

Sukhua Ghanta: Sukhua Ghanta is a traditional Odia curry made with Sukhua and a mix of vegetables like pumpkin, drumsticks, and potatoes. The curry is flavored with spices and coconut, creating a wholesome and delicious dish. 

Sukhua Besara: Sukhua Besara is a delectable Odia dish where Sukhua is cooked in a rich and flavorful mustard-based gravy known as besara. The besara paste is made by grinding mustard seeds, garlic, and spices. The marinated Sukhua is then simmered in this pungent and aromatic gravy, creating a delightful combination of flavors. 

Sukhua Chutney: Sukhua Chutney is a unique and tangy condiment made with Sukhua, tamarind, jaggery, and spices. The fish is first cooked and mashed, then mixed with tamarind pulp, jaggery, red chili powder, and other seasonings to create a savory and sweet chutney. It is served as a side dish or accompaniment to rice or other main meals.