Litti-chokha, the much-loved delicacy from Bihar, has a lowbrow reputation as a poor man’s food. This condescending label comes from the fact that it is the preferred intake of those who cannot afford two square meals a day, but is easy to cook, tastes good and is cheap too. But today the all-weather Bihari staple is not just made in homes and dished out at roadside stalls, and dhabas, but is also being served at fine-dining restaurants in the country. The credit for this delectable makeover goes to a handiwork of food enthusiasts and restaurateurs, who are determined to get litti-chokha its due.
A native of Bihar, Puja Sahu, who started PotBelly Rooftop Cafe in Delhi in 2011, says, “When I chose to serve cuisines from Bihar, I relied heavily on recipes that were a part of my family’s culinary tradition.”
The gamble paid off, and in six years, her eatery in Shahpur Jat has become a hot spot for those wanting to enjoy authentic Bihari food. Litti and chokha come in two platters—vegetarian and non-vegetarian. “The non-veg platter has mutton or chicken cooked in raw spices with roasted littis dipped in hot ghee. The vegetarian version has littis served with chokha made of roasted and mashed vegetables, chutneys, and chana dal,” says Sahu, who prefers charcoal over cow dung to roast the wheat balls.
But the platter has variations too. Gurgaon-based Magadh and Awadh’s serves both fried and roasted littis, chokha, ghughnee (a dry preparation of black gram) and tomato chutney for the vegetarian platter and fried mutton pieces in the non-veg platter. “Litti platters are the most sought-after item, followed by litti chaat (litti mixed with black gram gravy and spices) and baati-boti (charcoal baked flour balls without any filings served with deep fried mutton),” says its owner Nishi Singh, also from Bihar. A year and a half since its launch, the restaurant caters to people, who are on the lookout for Poorvanchali food.
Prawin Sappu and Subrata Das of Mr Litti in Patna serve litti with rogan josh and kadhai chicken in the non-veg platter and a variety of chokhas ranging from staple veggies to paneer, mushroom, sponge gourd, baby corn, pointed gourd. “Litti is our USP and we have a live kitchen,” says Sappu.
To each his own sums up the true essence of the litti revolution, making it a favourite among classes and masses alike.
Baati Chokha, Lucknow
The eatery serves three varieties of bati or balls of wheat doughs—plain, filled with spiced and salted powdered roasted gram, and paneer, accompanied by chokha and chutney.
Litti Chokha ‘Profiterolls’ is an European makeover of the food where litti has been replaced by airy choux pastry, stuffed with sattu and spices, and topped with a dollop of aloo-baingan-mascarpone chokha.