The Ultimate Face-Off Between Odia And Bengali Food!
Image Credit: Odia cuisine | Image Credit: Slurrp

Bengal and Odisha are two states located in the eastern region of India, known for their rich cultural heritage and diverse cuisines. Both states have a long coastline and a strong fishing tradition, which has resulted in an abundance of seafood dishes. Let’s take a closer look at the food and fish dishes of Bengal and Odisha and see how they compare and contrast.

Bengal vs. Odisha

The battle between Odia and Bengali food is one of the oldest rivalries in Indian cuisine! These two styles of cooking have been around for centuries and have been passed down through generations of cooks. What makes both of these cuisines so special is their unique flavors and ingredients. While both styles of cooking share many similarities, they also have some key differences that set them apart.

The History of Bengali Cuisine

Muslims conquered Bengal around the mid-thirteenth century, bringing with them Persian and Arabic cuisine, including dishes such as biryani, korma, and bhuna, and this influence was reinforced during the rule of the British Raj, where Kolkata became the place of refuge for many prominent exiled Nawabs who brought with them hundreds of cooks and masalchis (spice mixers), and as their royal patronage and wealth diminished, they became interspersed into the local population. These cooks came with the knowledge of a very wide range of spices, the extensive use of ghee, and the practice of marinating meat with yoghurt and chili. 

The History of Odia Cuisine 

Odia cuisine is less oily and less spicy than other regional Indian cuisines, but it is just as flavorful. In this part of the world, rice is a must-have. Some dishes are cooked in mustard oil, while ghee is the preferred cooking medium in temples. Copper plates or sal leaf plates were commonly used to serve food in the past.

Odia chefs, especially those from the Puri area, were in high demand because of their ability to prepare meals in accordance with Hindu scriptures. The 19th century saw a large influx of Odia cooks into the Bengali workforce, bringing with them a wide variety of traditional Odia dishes.

The Jagannath Temple has had a significant impact on the cuisine of the Puri-Cuttack area. However, mustard paste and kalonji are used throughout the state more than any other spices. Closer to Andhra Pradesh, curry tree leaves and tamarind are more commonly used in cooking.

An Overview of Odia and Bengali Cuisines

West Bengal is famous for its fish dishes, especially the famous Bengali delicacy, Hilsa fish. Hilsa, also known as Ilish, is a type of fish that is found in the rivers of Bengal. It is a popular dish among Bengalis and is often cooked with mustard and green chilies, which gives it a unique, pungent flavor. Other popular fish dishes in Bengal include Rui Maach, a dish made with carp fish, and Chingri Malai Curry, a dish made with prawns.

Odisha, located in the northeastern region of India, is known for its simple and hearty food. The state is famous for its fish dishes, especially the famous Odia delicacy, MachhaJhola, a fish curry made with a variety of fish and usually cooked with a tomato-based gravy. The dish is usually served with steamed rice and is a popular dish among Odias. Another popular fish dish in Odisha is Dahi Macha, a dish made with curd and fish.

In terms of flavors, both Bengali and Odia cuisine have their unique characteristics. Bengali cuisine is known for its sweet and spicy flavors, while Odia cuisine is known for its simple and hearty flavors. Bengali cuisine is famous for its use of mustard and green chilies, which give it a unique, pungent flavor. On the other hand, Odia cuisine is famous for its use of curd and tomatoes, which give it a tangy and sour taste.

In terms of seafood, both Bengal and Odisha have a strong fishing tradition and are known for their delicious fish dishes. Hilsa and MachhaJhola are the most popular fish dishes in Bengal and Odisha, respectively. Both dishes are known for their delicious flavors and are often served with steamed rice.

Bengali fish vs. Odia fish

When it comes to fish dishes, both Bengal and Odisha have their own unique styles of preparation. In Bengal, some of the most popular fish dishes include the famous Hilsa Bhapa, a steamed fish dish made with mustard and coconut; the Katla Kalia, which is a rich, spicy gravy made of onions, tomatoes, and spices; and the Bhetki Paturi, a sea bass wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed.

In Odisha, there are several fish dishes that are popular, such as the MachhaAmbila, a sour fish curry made with tamarind and a variety of spices; the Machha Paturi, which is a steamed fish dish made with a blend of spices and wrapped in banana leaves; and the Desi MachhaJhola, a spicy, tangy fish curry.

The spices used in both states’ fish dishes are also quite different. In Bengal, the most commonly used spices are mustard, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder. In Odisha, the spices used are usually cumin, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, and asafoetida.

Another difference between the two states’ fish dishes is the way they are served. In Bengal, most of the fish dishes are served with steamed rice, while in Odisha they are usually served with chapatis or puris.

Both cuisines have been around for centuries and have been heavily influenced by their respective cultures and histories. Whether it's the sweet and spicy flavors of Bengali cuisine or the simple and hearty flavors of Odia cuisine, both states have something to offer for everyone.