If you are a foodie, this is undoubtedly the best time to be alive. Yes ,I am referring to the picnics and the new year parties that in some cases run long into February. Having said that , if you are in Assam for the time being, you don’t need a new year party to calm the storm in your tummy for in store for you is one of the biggest festivals of the state- Magh Bihu. Also known as Bhogali Bihu for the simple reason that this festival is all about ‘Bhog’ or food, every household of the state puts forward its best culinary treats for near and dear ones. So it’s high time, we took a look at some of the most loved Bihu snacks and soak our eyes in the gastronomic festivities.
The very first edible that comes to mind the instant one hears the word ‘Bihu’ is Pitha. Yes, the humble savoury has for long been the flag bearer of the Assamese culinary culture. Here in Assam, anytime is Pitha time but when it comes to Magh Bihu, the Pitha comes into its own and hogs the limelight like never before. The most loved and probably the oldest among the illustrious members of its kind is the Pitha made of rice flour with a filling of crushed and fried coconuts (narikol) and jaggery (gur). A special kind of glutinous rice called ‘Bora saul’ is used to form the white outer crust. The rice is sticky in nature which works perfectly as a binding agent for the crust. The crepe made of Bora Saul goes well with other fillings too and this property has made way for a whole different genre of Pithas. One of them is the jaggery and sesame (til) filled pitha. The sweetness of the jaggery and the subtle bitter taste of the sesame work wonders in your mouth and if you manage to make the perfect crepe ( which is easier said than done), that somehow adds a whole new oomph level to the snack.
Patishepta is another member of the Pitha family that looks, feels and tastes like heaven! Traditionally a Bengali sweet, it has quite a fan following in Assam too. This crepe can be best advertised as ‘Juicy inside, juicy outside’. With a soft outer covering made of refined flour and semolina and a filling which ranges from coconuts and jaggery to Kheer , this is truly not a sweet for those who look for sugar free eatables everywhere they go. The Patishepta is often bathed in condensed milk before serving and that makes it simply put, irresistible.
Related: Top Bihu Festival Recipes
Another dish or what can be called a meal that has tradition written all over it is the Jolpan. It is basically a sweetened mixture comprising of ground rice, flattened rice (chira), puffed rice (muri) and cooked glutinous rice mixed together with curd (doi) and sour cream. A generous serving of sugar and a ‘take as much as you like’ quantity of jaggery is added to it making it a healthy and sweet Bihu breakfast.
If you are thinking that’s too much sweetness for a day, then my pal, the party has just begun! Enter: Ghila Pitha . Ghila Pitha is what most of the country knows as the humble ‘Malpua’ . Sieved rice flour is mixed with grated Jaggery and warm water. The dough is then kneaded into small balls, flattened out and then fried and covered with sugar syrup which results in perfect brown balls filled with contentment (and sugar!)
A sweet that rules the list in almost all regions of the country is the Laddoo. In this part of the world during Bihu, a sweet laddoo is prepared with grated coconut, sugar and jaggery called the ‘Narikol Laru’. Its easy to make and extremely delicious to have, so much so that no one can eat just one!
Related: Top 7 Desserts of Assamese Cuisine