Odisha Sunday observed the 'Pakhala Dibas' marking the popularity of the state’s main staple food for ages even in the age of pizza, burgers and other fast food items.
March 20 is being observed as Pakhala Dibas to promote the cuisine in the modern era. The initiative was started in 2015 by Odias to celebrate their traditional food worldwide. Pakhala (rice water) is the Odia term for an Indian dish consisting of cooked rice that is lightly fermented in water.
The social media platforms were busy with a large number of people posting pictures of them observing the Pakhala Dibas. This particular Odia food is consumed by all from ultra-rich families to the working and labour classes.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who spent most of his youth in foreign countries before entering into politics in 1997, also claimed that Pakhala is his favourite dish.
Patnaik’s love for Pakhala came to the fore in 2018 when he invited national leaders like the then President Pranab Mukherjee, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, BJP veteran L K Advani and CPI(M) stalwart Sitaram Yechury to his residence and served 'Pakhala' in the lunch.
The chief minister had shared the picture on his Twitter handle showing the dignitaries taking Pakhala. "It is always a pleasure to relish Odia cuisine, especially my favourite pakhala, which I have a special liking for. Remember fondly the appreciation of guests from outside the state and country whenever we served them pakhala. Wishing you all a happy Pakhala Dibas," Patnaik said in the social media post.
Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan posted a picture of pakhala and wrote in the Twitter post: "Pakhala is a meal that is a hit on every dining table and is the one thing that every Odia family has in common. Greetings to all Odias and food lovers on #PakhalaDibasa. The humble, healthy & flavourful delicacy is a must-try, especially for those uninitiated to Odia cuisine."
Pakhala dish has its origin from Lord Jagannath Temple as the deities are offered different types of Pakhala. The deities are mostly offered 'Dahi Pakhala' (curd pakhala) after the 'Badasinghar Bhesa' ( flower attire) when the Lords go to sleep in the night.
To make the Pakhala more delicious, people eat it with side dishes such as fried potato (aloo bhaja), fried brinjal (baigana bhaja), fried and crushed badi (badi churaa), sauted greens (saga bhajaa), fish fry (maaccha bhaja) or fried pumpkin flowers (kakharu phula bhaja).
There are many varieties of Pakhala like Dahi Pakhala, Jeera Pakhala, Ghee Pakhala, Garama Pakhala, Basi Pakhala, Chupuda Pakhala. Subas Pakhala, Mali Phula Pakhala, Meetha Pakhala, Tava Pakhala and Pani Pakhala.
Apart from Odisha, the poor people of neighbouring West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattishgarh and others also frequently use Pakhala as the main diet during the day. This is cheap and healthy also, said Amit Patnaik, a nutrition expert.
While Pakhala was earlier confined to the four walls of the poor man’s house, now its popularity has reached five-star hotels where special Pakhala Thali has become a brand name. Noted sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has once again created a sand sculpture on Puri beach to mark the Pakhala Dibas.
Apart from helping to keep the body cool and maintaining hydration in the human body during scorching summer, Ayurveda says rice soaked in a water dish is very much beneficial for health. Every 100 gram of rice contains 3.4 milligrams of iron, however, the amount of iron increases up to 73.91 milligrams in the same amount of Pakhala. Pakhala also contains sodium, potassium and calcium. This food also helps improve sleep and strengthen the gut.
Traditionally Pakhala is prepared by keeping leftover rice in an earthen pot with some water and a small amount of curd or lemon added to it. The rice gets fermented after seven to eight hours and turns into pakhala. It is relished most during March, April, May, June and mid-July when the mercury soars. One bowl of Pakhala is sold at the price of Rs 100 in small hotels while its price was Rs 500 and above in star hotels.
With PTI inputs.