Nostalgia is the mother of ... well ... if not invention in my case ... trying my hand at making Arisa Pitha.
Pithas ( Oriya) / Pithes (Bengali ) are cooked sweet or savory items usually made from agrarian products like rice, lentils, coconut and jaggery or sugar. If it is a prasad for Jagannath, then it is always jaggery that is used.
Arisa pitha, a very traditional sweetmeat, is one of my favourite pithas. This was never made at home .... not even by the cook who was a local ... as it was easily available to buy. This is also a part of the Chappan Bhog (Chappan = 56, but the actual number of dishes made for Jagannath is 156 ) prasad at any Jagannath mandir .... those are fried in ghee and last very long.
Whenever I used to leave home after a vacation, Bapi would order at the temple a huge batch and get around more than a kilo of these .... each the size of a dinner plate .... hard and tough ... and very sweet. I just had to break off a piece and munch on it to supress the hunger pangs while waiting for our dinner dabba to arrive. :-)
Today is Rath Yatra. Lord Jagannath ... the lord of the universe ... steps out of the mandir to be amongst his devotees. So while watching the telecast and listening to the commentary in Oriya ... am transported back home. So decided to make the Arisa Pitha to celebrate while listening to Kalia's (Jagannath) escapades and bhajans and slokas on the telly.
Oh ... I do have a huge collection Bhikari Bala's janans ( bhajans ) ... but right now I will not miss the chance to listen to the anecdotes on Chokadola ( The one with wheel like eyes i.e. Jagannath ) in fluent Oriya on the telly. :-)
Like most of my recipes, I have learnt to make this myself ( with a few inputs from a Panda(priest) at the kitchen of the Jagannath mandir in Puri ). So I do not follow any measurements.
And found it very simple to make ... which has always made me wonder at the huge agitation at home whenever I wanted these to be made. Those that are easily available at the sweet shops are small, usually made of sugar and hence not as dark and have sesame seeds sprinkled. Nothing like the original ones that are made at the Jagannath temple.
Need : Rice flour ( easily available in packets off the shelf ), jaggery / gur, a little water, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of salt and white oil or ghee (clarified butter ) for deep frying ( I usually use oil and add around 2 tbsp ghee to it for the flavour).
How to : Heat a little water in a non stick kadhai / wok. Add enough jaggery / gur and a pinch of salt. Cover and let it boil till the gur is dissolved.
Remove cover . Add the black pepper powder and then add rice flour slowly. Keep stirring all the while so that there are no lumps.
Remove from flame and let it cool a while.
While still warm, take small balls from the dough and make flat patties with your hand. Use dry rice flour so that the dough does not stick to your hands.
Do not try to make perfect rounds .... you won't be able to. And there lies the beauty of these pithas ... slightly irregular, dark brown rounds.
Heat enough oil + ghee. Gently slide in one patty at a time and deep fry till dark brown on both sides.
Don't wait for them to puff up a la puris ... they won't.
When removing from oil you may feel they are still limp ... do not worry ... they will harden as they cool.
Done ! The whole thing takes not more than 40 minutes if you have the ingredients at home.
If fried in pure ghee, these can be offered as prasad. And will stay fresh for a very long time.
PS : I did not realise that my comment section was giving trouble to all you good souls out there until a couple of you informed me. Am sorry for that and have changed the settings. Hope you will be able to speak your mind here henceforth without any more hitch.