Unravelling The Culinary Secrets Of Tribal Odisha
Image Credit: Source: Odisha Tribal/Instagram

If we traverse across the culinary landscape of Odisha, we are sure to find popular and rustic Odia dishes like Pakhala and Dalma. Popular for its authentic, rustic yet delicious culinary heritage, the state of Odisha has a lot to offer for everyone around. From the scrumptious Abhada of Puri Jagannath Temple to the comforting Pakhala, Odisha’s culinary gems are truly innumerable and incomparable. Most of these culinary gems possess the essence of tropical ingredients that is the advantage of the state’s location. But have you ever thought of the culinary practices and heritage of the other side of the state? The side with the tribal population that makes generous use of more rustic and supposedly 'inedible' ingredients? 

The tribal population mainly resides in the western parts of the state which is full of dense and picturesque forests, still devoid of heedless industrialization. This part includes districts like Keonjhar, Koraput, Jharsuguda and so on. The people residing in some of these parts still don’t have access to retail markets and modern technology. Hence, they largely have to depend on whatever the forest gives them for their survival.

The High-Energy Tribal Breakfast

Starting with breakfast, most tribal people relish on Raggi malt or porridge, regionally known as ‘Mandia Jau’. The dish is prepared with leftover cooked rice and ragi. Rice and Ragi are cooked for 10-15 minutes and the porridge is served with salt and green chillies. As Ragi is healthy, the dish provides the tribals with the energy to indulge in physical labour throughout the day. Rearing cattle and farm animals are common in the tribal community. Most of their diet consists of products derived from the reared livestock like cow’s/buffalo’s milk, country chicken meat and goat meat.

Regional Delicacies: Ant Chutney, Pithas Made of Black Gram, Pakoras Made of Dates And More

When it comes to vegetarian food, these tribals rely on wild tubers, roots and some basic forest produce. One of the most bizarre things that I noticed on my visit to Keonjhar is the 'Black Carpenter Ant Chutney' that these people relish daily. The ants are first dried and crushed with a mortar and a pestle and made into a taste by adding tomatoes, chillies, salt, coriander leaves, ginger and garlic. Dates and Mahua are the most-used ingredients for desserts. The communities mix Mahua fruits with black gram and rice batter and make Pithas (pancakes) out of them. Pakoras are made by mixing date pulp and rice flour and are relished on special occasions.

So, if you ever get a chance to visit Odisha, don’t forget to explore the picturesque landscapes and moreish culinary gems in the western parts of the state.