Named after the state of Bihar, the dishes of Bihari cuisine are consumed not just in Bihar but in Jharkhand and Eastern Uttar Pradesh too. It includes Bhojpuri, Maithili and Magahi cuisine. The characteristic feature of Bihari cuisine is the predominant use of mustard oil along with a tadka (tempering) of panchphoran literally the “five spices” including cumin seeds (jeera), fennel seeds (saunf), fenugreek seeds (methi), mustard seeds (sarson) and nigella seed (kalonji or mangrael). Bihari cuisine involves a lot of light frying (bhoonjna). Another feature is the use of smoked red chilli in mustard oil to bring flavor and aroma to the food.
The staple food of Bihar is wheat and rice. Rice is also mentioned in Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari as the staple diet of Bihar. A typical Bihari meal usually consists of dal, bhaat (rice), phulka (roti), tarkari (sabzi) and achar (pickles). Some of the famous Bihari delicacies include:
- Litti Chokha: It is a dough ball made up of wheat flour, stuffed with a mixture of sattu (chickpea flour) with spices and roasted over cow dung cakes, wood or coal and tossed with ghee. Litti is eaten with chokha which is a blend of eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes mixed with spices.
- Bihari Kebabs: Meat is cut into slices, mixed with a lot of spices and cooked over coal on skewers. Cooked kebabs are tossed with ghee.
- Sattu Parantha: Roasted chickpea flour is stuffed in parantha and then fried in ghee.
- Pittha: Small sized dumplings made of rice flour, stuffed with chana dal(Bengal gram) paste and steamed. It is served with coriander chutney.
- Ghugni: Black gram is soaked overnight and cooked with onions, garlic and garam masala. It is served with fried choora.
- Choora: Beaten rice which is either baked or fried. It is served with Ghugni, curd, jaggery and with a spicy preparation of peas and onions.
As far as sweet dishes are concerned, Bihari cuisine is known for balushahi, khaja, motichoor ke laddoo, parwal ki mithai, tilkut, faloodaetc.
Litti and Chokha:
Litti and Chokha is a popular delicacy of Bihar. It is also consumed in Jharkhand, parts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. Litti is a dough ball made up of wheat flour. It is stuffed with a mixture of sattu (chickpea flour) with spices, onions, ginger, garlic, lime juice, carom seeds and herbs. Sometimes, pickles are also mixed to add to the flavor. Traditionally, this dough ball was roasted over cow dung cakes, wood or coal and tossed with ghee. In recent times, however, people choose to fry it for the sake of convenience. Litti is eaten with chokha which is a blend of eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes mixed with spices. It is not cooked like a regular sabzi. The vegetables are first roasted, mashed and mixed with finely chopped onions and spices.
It’s believed that litti emerged in Magadha, which was an ancient kingdom in southern Bihar. It was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas or kingdoms which existed in ancient India from the 6th to the 4th century BCE. For a long time, litti and chokha was also associated with the peasants as it does not require expensive ingredients and the sattu in it especially has cooling properties which kept them active throughout the day.
It has been said that during the 1857 Revolt, this meal was preferred because it could be easily baked, with minimal ingredients, was filling in nature and could last up to three days. It’s said that Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai made it their travel meal. With the coming of the Mughals, this dish underwent some changes. Litti began to be served with shorba (meat’s gravy) and paya (curry made up of hoof of goat, sheep, cow with spices and herbs). In contemporary times, litti and chokha transcends class boundaries and is eaten by every strata of Bihari society.