Odisha: Unbearable heat brings back ‘pakhala’ to households and hotels

Managing director of Dalma Comforts and Entertainment Co Pvt Ltd, Debasish Patnaik, said as compared to previous years, this time customers have started demanding ‘pakhala’ quite early.
While ‘pakhala’ has taken precedence over rice, restaurants and dhabas in the capital are offering a variety of accompaniments.
While ‘pakhala’ has taken precedence over rice, restaurants and dhabas in the capital are offering a variety of accompaniments.

BHUBANESWAR: With severe heatwave making lives miserable across the state, the quintessential ‘pakhala’ (cooked rice washed or lightly fermented in water) has made a comeback as the primary dish in households and hotels.

While ‘pakhala’ has taken precedence over rice, restaurants and dhabas in the capital are offering a variety of accompaniments to make the otherwise bland yet refreshing and nourishing dish, interesting. Vegetarians have options like badi chura, saga bhaja, aloo bharta while non-vegetarians can relish chuna machha, machha bhaja (fried fish), chingudi (mashed shrimp) and other dishes with ‘pakhala’.

Managing director of Dalma Comforts and Entertainment Co Pvt Ltd, Debasish Patnaik, said as compared to previous years, this time customers have started demanding ‘pakhala’ quite early. “Usually, the demand for the dish starts a few days ahead of Pakhala Divas, celebrated every year on March 20. This time, customers started demanding ‘pakhala’ as winter started subsiding February onwards,” he said.

The staff of a budget eatery right next to Utkal university said students are preferring ‘pakhala’ during the hot and sweltering summer days. “Amid increase in demand by students, we are offering them chunka dahi pakhala with assorted side dishes like saga, badi chura, alu bharta, badam chatni and kakharu phula bhaja,” said the staff of Utkal Hotel, situated outside the university’s main gate.

Students opting for non-vegetarian items with ‘pakhala’ are being offered maccha bhaja, chuna machha, chingudi and others.

The hotel’s staff said fish with ‘pakhala’ is the most preferred dish among students on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Odisha Hotel chairman Rajiv Swain said the taste buds of people has not changed much but due to the soaring mercury many customers are having ‘pakhala’ with vegetarian items during lunch. Some people are also ordering ‘pakhala’ and mutton kasa but vegetarian accompaniments are much in demand due to their affordability. Odisha Hotel is offering customers a piece of maccha besara poda, chingudi chhecha, one bhaja platter, badi chura, poda tomato chutney, amba chutney and lia papad with fermented ‘pakhala’.

“The sale of mutton and rice has reduced due to the scorching heat. The rise in demand of ‘pakhala’ has also been noticed at our other branches in New Delhi, Pune and Bengaluru,” said Swain. Dhabas, especially those famous for non-vegetarian items which do not have ‘pakhala’ in their menus, are not witnessing many footfalls.

Not just eateries, canteens of several offices too are offering ‘pakhala’ to their employees. ‘Pakhala’ can not only cool the senses but its water known as ‘torani’ is also known to boost immunity levels. It is not just a soul food but an integral part of Odisha’s cultural identity and culinary heritage.

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