Healthy food from the Rice Bowl of India

Nishka Rathi samples the low calorie, finger licking delicious food from the streets of Chhattisgarh………………….

In central India lies the heavily forested state of Chattisgarh. Chattisgrhiya food is known for its predilection to rice. After all, when you are in the rice bowl of India where else would you look for nourishment? In fact, rice is used in powdered or coarse form – even the water used to boil rice is used in some of the dishes. Wheat, jowar and maize also constitute part of the Chhattisgarhi cuisine.

Chattisgarh also has a sizable tribal population and its recipes reflect a mix of tribal and non-tribal menus. The tribals believe in eating local, seasonal food and truly live earthy with food like tender bamboo shoots and the famous red-ant chutney. But for now, we will look at the more urban eats of Chattisgarh.

Chawal ka Pitha

If you are fond of Momos then add Chawal ka Namkeen Pitha to your list of yums. Pitha is made in Jharkhand, Bengal and Orissa. This is a tasty dish, which is steamed and requires very less oil. Chawal ka Namkeen Pitha is a versatile dish and can be a tasty snack or a full meal – as you choose to eat it.

Ingredients for Chawal ka Pitha
Rice flour – 1 cup
Potato – 1 (cut into small pieces)
Carrot – 1 (cut into small pieces)
Green peas – ½ cup
Oil – 2 to 3 tbsp
Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1/4 tsp
Ginger (grated)
Green chilly (finely chopped)
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp Coriander powder – ½ tsp Red chilly powder- to taste . Salt – to taste
Amchur (mango powder) – 1/4 tsp Garam Masala – 1/4 tsp Green Coriander – 1 tbsp (finely chopped)

Steps:
First, we will prepare a dough of the rice flour.
Heat 1 1/4 cup water in any utensil.
Lower the flame, add salt and 2 tsp oil in 1 cup boiling water.
Now add the rice flour and mix.
Take out the flour in a bowl and knead till it becomes soft. Cover the soft dough for 15-20 minutes allowing it to ferment.

Prepare the vegetables required to fill the Pitha
 Heat a pan, pour oil in it. Add Jeera. Once it starts spluttering, add turmeric powder, green chilly and ginger.
 Put in coriander powder and mix.
 Now add potatoes, carrots, peas, salt and red chilly powder.
 Cover the pan as you cook it on a low flame.
 Mix Garam masala, Amchur powder and green coriander.

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 Take out vegetables in a bowl to cool.
 By now, the rice dough has fermented.
 Apply some oil to hand and knead the dough some more. Now, divide dough into equal portions.

 Take one piece and expand it with both hands similar to a bowl. Place 1 spoon of filling and enfold it in the rice dough. You can pinch the 4 sides to create a design!
 Steam and cook for 12-14 minutes.
 Take out Pitha on a plate, serve with coriander chutney or tomato chutney. Spicier the better

Bafauri

Think of pakoras as calorie packers? Think again with this tasty variation from Chattisgarh. Daal Bafauri uses absolutely zero oil and is, hence, perfect for our weight conscious times. Plus, its delicious taste makes it a perfect tea-time snack. What’s more, it is a very simple to put together.

Ingredients (makes 9 pieces):

1 cup chana daal
1 medium-sized onion
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1 green chilly
A 1-inch piece of ginger
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon ajwain
2 teaspoons oil, or as needed to grease steaming vessel

Method:
 Soak chana daal for 3-4 hours, in just enough water to cover it. Then, place in a colander and drain out all the excess water.
 Chop the green chillies, coriander and onion finely. Peel the ginger and chop finely.

 Take the soaked and drained chana daal in a mixer jar. Add salt to taste, green chillies, ginger, turmeric powder, and red chilli powder.
 Pulse a couple of times, stopping to scrape down the mixture on the sides of the mixer till you get a coarse mixture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
 Now, add carom seeds, asafoetida, as well as chopped onion and coriander to the mixture in the bowl. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as required. Make medium-sized balls or oval shapes out of this mixture and keep aside.
 Grease a wide vessel with the oil, for steaming, and keep them ready. Arrange the balls/ovals that you shaped in the vessel in a single layer, leaving a little space between each two.
 Put about 1 cup water in a pressure cooker and place the cooker on high flame.
 Now, place a stand within the pressure cooker, and place the vessel containing the balls/ovals on top. Close pressure cooker and steam (without putting the whistle on) for 12-15 minutes or until the balls/ovals are well cooked. Serve hot with spicy green chutney.

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