Dal Pitha – A Traditional Steamed and Savory Dish from Bihar and Jharkhand
It is the end of the month, which means I am posting a recipe for my beloved challenge where we cook regional recipes with secret ingredients given to each other. I missed the challenge last month where in the cuisine was J & K. I was sad at the lost opportunity but had no choice since home shifting was happening at the same time and I don’t believe in committing and not doing full justice to anything in life. I saw some amazing shares from all my blogger friends in the group and was waiting with full gusto for the next State to be announced. There it was – Jharkhand!
Jharkhand immediately reminds you of the very talented Cricketer and our former skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Mahi as people fondly call him. We also have talented sportsperson like Deepika Kumari (Archery) and Premlata Agarwal, who in 2011, became the oldest Indian Woman to summit Mount Everest at the age of 45 also belonging from Jharkhand.
Jharkhand is located in the eastern part of India and shares its border with states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal. You may observe a lot of similarities in their culture, festivals and food – which is what we are here to discuss.
Jharkhand though accounts for more than 40% of the mineral resources of India, still suffers from poverty. A large part of the state lives in rural areas. The state, after Chhattisgarh, has vast variety of minerals like iron ore, coal, copper ore, mica, bauxite, graphite, limestone, uranium and apart from the mineral resources has vast forest resources as well. Tribals and adivasis still form a large part of the population.
If we look at the cuisine of Jharkhand, they love their rice! Many dishes are made using cooked rice and raw rice flour. Some of the famous dishes of Jharkhand also draw influences with adjoining state of Bihar with the likes of Litti Chokha and Dal Pitha. Dhuska is one of the famous dishes of Jharkhand, cooked with mashed rice and pulses served with a sabzi or mutton curry for non-vegetarians. They also make and serve a popular liquor called Mahu made with Mahua flowers local to the region.
This month for the Shhhhh Secretly Cooking group – Jharkhand Challenge, I was paired with Renu Agrawal Dongre who blogs at Cook With Renu. Do check our her blog for some fabulous recipes and sweets. She has recently collated some 24 Dessert Recipes in association with many food bloggers and each share is amazing. We were both equally enthusiastic about the cuisine and quickly discussed, shared our secret ingredients with each other. Guess we both read each others mind when we exchanged the ingredients and I was more than happy with Chana Dal and Turmeric powder as my secret ingredients. Using them, made the very famous Dal Pitha from the Jharkhand cuisine.
When I read about the ingredients and the preparation from the website, from where the recipe is sourced, thoughts moved back to one of the famous snack or even savory prasad option from the South Indian cuisine i.e. Uppu Kozhukattai which is translated as Steamed Savoury Modaks that are filled with a delicious and spicy mix of Urad dal, green chillies, etc and uses Rice flour as the covering. It is shaped as Gujiya or like a Karanji (Dessert from Maharashtrian Cuisine) and steamed. We usually make them for Ganesh Chaturthi at home along with the sweet filling ones (coconut and jaggery) called Ukadiche Modak
Dal Pitha is very similar to the Uppu Kozhukattai but the filling is made with Chana Dal or Split Chickpeas as they consume Chana Dal, Sattu and the likes as part of their protein intake, whereas South Indians are partial towards Urad Dal.
For steamed snacks lovers, such as myself, this is sheer heaven. Soft and moist exterior with a spiced crumbly soft interior, makes you totally fall in love with this breakfast or snack option. The ingredients are gluten free and vegan too which makes it easy for people with allergy issues to consume too. Needless to say, they are extremely filling and couple of pithas for breakfast can ensure you stay full, until lunch. Pair it with a delicious green coriander chutney and ensure it is spicy to tickle your taste buds.
I actually over ate this for various reasons – I love Steamed snacks a lot and especially rice based ones. In fact I can just nibble the cooked rice flour balls too on their own so you can imagine how hard it was for me to control myself until shooting the pictures and then keeping my camera aside and picking one from the plate right away, popping into my mouth.
I am sure you and your family will enjoy this lipsmacking gorgeousness just like we did.
Note – Details on Jharkhand are obtained from Wikipedia
Also the vessels that you see as part of the blog props are atleast 100 + years old and belong to my Mother In Law’s side of the family. The home shifting was a boon, discovered some props that I never knew existed at home.
Check out the recipe, step by step pics (which was difficult to click with rice flour and oil in my palms) and the recipe notes.
Recipe for Dal Pitha – A Traditional Steamed and Savory Dish from Bihar and Jharkhand
Soaking time – 3 hours + 15 mins of Basic Prep
Cook Time (including steaming) – 40 minutes
Makes 10 to 12 Pithas
Ingredients For the outer Rice covering
- 1 cup Raw Rice Flour
- 1 cup Water
- 1 tsp Oil
- Salt as per taste
Ingredients for the Dal / Lentil filling
- 1 cup Chana Dal (Split chickpeas) soaked for 3 hours
- Green chillies as per taste
- 1 inch Ginger roughly chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
- 2 tsps oil
- Salt as per taste
Method for the Dal Filling
- Ensure the dal is soaked for 3 hours. Drain the water and grind it coarsely (without water) in a mixer grinder jar.
- Roughly chop the green chillies and the ginger and grind it to a paste.
- Mix the chana dal and the green chillies + ginger paste along with salt and keep aside.
- Heat a kadhai / wok or non-stick pan, add oil, followed by cumin seeds or jeera and turmeric powder.
- Now add the dal, green chillies and ginger paste.
- Ensure the flame is low and keep stirring the mixture until it becomes slightly dry and non sticky.
- It should take roughly 10 minutes on low flame to achieve that consistency.
- Switch off the flame, allow the filling to cool and prepare for the rice flour covering.
Method for the Rice Flour Covering
- Heat 1 cup of water in a thick bottom kadhai or non-stick pan.
- Allow it to simmer, add salt and the 1 tsp oil.
- Now slowly add the rice flour and then work your spatula quickly to mix everything together.
- Ensure the heat is on low while adding the rice flour.
- Keep working the dough, you may see some lumps here and there so try and break them with the spatula and after 5 odd minutes of cooking the dough, switch off the flame.
- Cover the dough with a lid for 2 minutes and then start working on the same.
How to make and shape the Dal Pitha?
- Ensure oil is handy at all times to dip your fingers while rolling the rice balls, flattening them and then filling the mixture and pressing them in the corners.
- Remove the warm dough from the kadhai on to a plate or thali, add a tsp of oil on top of the dough and then knead it thoroughly.
- Ensure the dough is warm. Never let the rice flour dough to completely cool off, else it will lead to cracks in your pithas and it will fall apart while steaming.
- Take small portion of the dough, make round balls, flatten it in your palm (dip fingers with oil at all times), then take the dal mixture and place it on one corner. Ensure you load a good amount of stuffing and slowly cover the same (crescent moon shape) with the rice mixture and seal the edges tightly.
Repeat the process for the remaining rice dough and dal mixture.
How to steam the Dal Pithas?
- Heat water in a steamer and then place the pithas on the greased thalis. Steam them for 20 minutes. Allow it to cool and slowly remove them from the thalis and place it on the serving dish / bowl.
- Since I don’t have a dedicated steamer at home, I steam them in idli plates in a cooker.
- Heat water in a cooker (no whistle required).
- Meanwhile, grease the idli plates and place the pithas carefully. Don’t overcrowd them as it would lead to sticking and breaking post steaming.
- When water boils and you see steam from the cooker, place the idli plates on the stand and carefully place them inside the cooker.
- Shut the lid and allow it to steam on medium heat for 20 minutes.
- Allow them to completely cool before carefully lifting them and placing them on serving plates.
- Repeat the process of steaming with the rest of the dal pithas too.
- Serve hot with dhania chutney.
Recipe Notes –
- The original recipe had garlic but I have avoided the same.
- The chana Dal filling as per the recipe needs to be nicely ground and cooked a bit but I enjoy a slight bite in my food, hence retained few bits of the chana dal in the filling as you can see from the pics.
- Ensure you knead and work the dough when it is warm. As the rice flour dough cools, it tends to get hard, leading to breakage while filling and steaming.
- Please ensure you dip the fingertips in oil while rolling the dough balls, shaping them into gujiyas. Few tips of oil ensure the dough doesn’t dry and tear while shaping.
- If your gujiyas are waiting to be steamed, dab few drops of oil and pat it to ensure they don’t dry out while steaming.
- When the rice flour is poured into the hot boiling water, ensure your spatula is handy and immediately start working the dough on low heat. If for some reason, you feel that you are unable to handle the dough and it is sticky, add a tblsp of oil and then work the dough. Don’t worry if you see a big lump of dough, just patiently mix well and keep stirring continuously. Splash some water if you see some dry dough in some areas, mix well again and then follow the steps for kneading.