A state that holds the legacy of the magnificent Mauryan empire, houses historically celebrated Nalanda University, has a world-renowned artistic heritage and a deep influence of its neighbours, Bihar in all its glory, has been the centrepiece of a vibrant cultural diversity.
Among other aesthetically appealing possessions of the state, the richness of Bihari cuisine often gets overlooked by the much documented and discussed, Litti Chokha.
Bihar offers a plethora of sweet savouries with Belgrami, Khaja and Anarsa being just a few names in the mighty list of Bihari desserts. Some of them have a seasonal undertone to them. For instance, Thekua, delicious dry flat balls of wheat, jaggery and coconut flakes deep fried in ghee – is a dish that is central to the native’s annual festivals of Teej and Chhat. Bihar also shares some of its delicacies with its neighbours. Laung Lata, Raskadam, and Kala Jamun, among others are believed to have a pre-dominant Bengali presence.
Indigenous sweet preparations that are available all around the year, range from pocket friendly, gourmet style to easy to gulp down dry bites.
One such favourite is Silao’s Khaja that added another jewel in its crown with a Geographical Indication (GI) tag, granted last year. The move came in response to a Silao resident’s application, seeking to declare Khaja as a delicacy of Nalanda, Bihar. That put an end to all the speculations on the place of its origin. Khaja variants are popular all through Andra Pradesh and Odisha.
Khajas are crispy, layered deep-fried puffy pastry of flour with a tinge of cardamom soaked in thick sugary syrup. One cannot just munch on a single piece, they always leave people wanting for more! Khajas are similar to Turkish delicacy of Baklava.
Another scrumptious delight is Anarsa. This crispy-soft combination dish is a fried mouth-watering ball of milk solids (khoya), sugar or jaggery and cardamom on the inside with a crunchy rice flour and sesame seeds coating on the outside. Each bite melts into the mouth bursting out with explosive flavours.
Close to Anarsa in appearance are Lai which are ball shaped laddus that taste exquisite in any form. They come in three variants of – puffed rice laced with jaggery and cardamom, nutty sweet khoya mashed into amaranth seeds (cholai) and a simple sweet tasting tightly bonded cholai laddu. Lai is a speciality of Gaya, the city closest to Bodh Gaya which is one of the holiest shrines of the Buddhists. Rows and rows of Lai adorn almost all the sweet outlets in the city.
Balushahi would again be a dessert having crispy edges and tender stuffing. Although widely popular all over India, it is an indigenous creation of Bihar. They are a donut-shaped fried flour dish, dunked into a molten sugar mix and garnished with pistachio toppings.
Parwal ki mithai
When stuffing is mentioned, one cannot forget the eye soothing green hued gourd recipe that is often adorned with a silver work aka Parwal ki mithai. It is a brilliant spin to the otherwise not so popular veggie, especially among kids! A Parwal ki mithai is a dry fruit rich khoya dough, stuffed in a deseeded, peeled, boiled and sugar dunked pointed gourd. They are quite filling and leave a yummy aftertaste!
Most desserts in Bihar are dipped in sugar syrup, Mal Pua is no different. Instead of the dry mashed banana pan cakes of North India, Bihar makes them gooey. The batter here is prepared by blending together all-purpose flour, coconut, dry fruits and milk. Once fried till crunchy, they are thrown into a fragrant sugary mix and served hot. One cannot keep themselves from gorging on these especially during festivals.
Makhane ki kheer
Talking about slurpy and chewy delicacy, Makhane ki kheer has to be a notable mention. A staple food for those fasting, it is an utterly filling dessert very similar to a rice kheer.
Dairy love in Bihar goes a step further with Dahi Chuda. Just pour in a bowlful of yogurt over flattened flaky rice with some sugar thrown in as per taste and that would suffice an ideal Dahi Chuda. The dish is a breakfast favourite in Bihar. While most of India celebrates Makar Sankranti with Khichdi, Bihar does with it Dahi Chuda sprinkled with some Tilkut, a seasonal food. They are sweet crispy sesame bites, a regional variant of Morena’s Gajak.
When putting two separate dishes together, Sev Bundiya would serve as an immensely satiating example. Both the ingredients are made from Bengal gram (Besan) by frying them thoroughly. A sugar soaked bondi is mixed with sev before serving. They exude an incredible sweet and salty taste.