It was my college reunion in Bhubaneswar in September 2022 and naturally, I stayed back for one more day. So, a few phonecalls took place and I saw my friend and very famous food blogger from Odisha, Rohit Srivastava at my hotel, to pick me up. It’s a foodies day out and hunt for the best food in Cuttack.
Cuttack food- Dahibara Aloo Dum
We have a lot of pre-conceived notion about food. No, it’s not unusual and let’s accept- we do. So, when somebody told me about Dahibara Aloo dum as one of the most popular street food in Odisha, and definitely in Cuttack, I laughed my ass off. But however I laugh, it can’t change the fact. In fact, March 1st is celebrated as the Dahibara Aloo dum divas in Odisha, thanks to Rohit and his team.
Dahibara is an old dish and probably we get its first mention at Manasollasa- a 12th century book, done by Somesvara 3- ruler of Karnataka. For a layman, it’s a roundel with hole in the centre, made by soaking urad dal overnight. Now, in Cuttack, they are treated slightly differently. Baras are soaked in water first, and then in light yoghurt water to make them soft. They are then topped with a generous pouring of a spicy Aloo Dum and ghoogni. the sour taste of yoghurt soaked Dahibara is neutralised with the spicy curry and it tastes good.
In Cuttack, there is a place by the name Punia and this nameless shop is a crowd puller there. Many people in Cuttack call it as the epitome of the classic Dahibara Aloodum. the challenge is the timing. Supposedly, he starts operation by 7am and by 10am, his stock is over. ales quantity is huge, but still, you need to rush early.
A classic Dahibara Aloodum means, it’s a no nonsense dish. Varas are taken out of the light yoghurt water and given a light squeeze. They are then topped with a quite spicy Aloo dum and Ghoogni and that’s about it. No zazzy topping- no onion- nothing… the classic rustic stuff. and I quite liked the taste. I mean, the spice quotient of the Aloo dum got beautifully balanced and it’s good stuff.
Kuna Tuna Dahibara Aloo Dum
So, is the time for the new age Dahibara Aloodum in Cuttack. Kuna Tuna shop, as I was told by Rohit, is the champion in this genre. The basic remains the same, but the dish here is topped with multiple accompaniments and thus the change in taste. Somehow, this place seemed to be the crowd favourite, than Punia.
I personally liked the Dahibara Aloodum from Kuna tuna, over the Punia place. Maybe the addition of chopped onion, coriander and jhuri enhanced the taste, or my personal preference. Honestly, I don’t know about authenticity, but the taste was pretty good, I liked it… Now, it’s up to you, on what you like. But one thing is for sure, Dahibara Aloodum, the massively popular street food from Cuttack is definitely an interesting dish.
Well for this, I took the help of my friend and Odisha food champion Rohit Srivastava. As per him, Cuttack Biryani is quite similar to Kolkata Biryani- a large piece of meat, potato- all are almost the same. “Almost” is the keyword here. So, there is one interesting element here. As per Tuku Mian- the legendary biryani ustad from Cuttack, in Cuttack biryani, Gulnad is used and that’s what sets it different from the rest. And this time, Rohit actually took me to a place, where they serve Cuttack Biryani regularly on their menu. It’s called Deep Food Corner, at Buxi Bazaar cuttack and the dish is named as Dada’s Biryani- a strange name, I must say.
Well, the interior at Deep Food Corner is pretty decent. It has an AC, and that solves the maximum problem in Cuttack. Service is pretty decent and portion size is huge. I mean to say, 2 plates of Biryani can easily satisfy 3 hungry souls. Contrary to the large meat piece in the Kolkata biryani, Cuttack biryani has 5-6 small mutton pieces- all beautifully soft and aromatic. There is an overdose of an onion based gravy in the layering of Biryani, resulting in a little sweetness. Was there an aroma of gulkand? Not strongly, but some delightful aroma was there- I couldn’t figure out. Some watery raita was served as accompaniment and oh, I forgot to mention. The biryani has some chopped coriander.
Overall, it’s a welcome change from the regular Kolkata Biryani and a must try for a biryani lover. Cuttack Biryani at Deep Food Corner is definitely recommended.
On the way from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar came this place called Pahala. And we all know, this place is famous for being the contender for the GI tag for Rasogolla, with Bengal. the stretch is just like our shaktigarh (with multiple identical sweet shops, all shouting for the cars to stop) and Rohit, being the champion of this place, stopped at Maa Santoshi Food Stall. We understood the reason afterwards.
Pahala Rasogolla is a different product altogether from the rasogolla we get in Bengal. It’s not a spongy thing, and rather something with a hard exterior and soft inside. It’s cooked in the sugar syrup for quite some time and thus the result. The sweet quotient is pretty high and thus, the change in taste. Honestly, I am not impressed with Pahala Rasogolla, but that’s a personal thing. Rather, the Chhanapora is fantastic there, at this place and is definitely recommended.
In the early twentieth century, at a village named Dasapalla in Odisha, Chhenapoda was first invented by a gentleman named Sudarsan Sahoo. He kneaded the leftover chhena with sugar and flavouring and left on the earthen oven overnight (we don’t know intentionally, or by accident). But the result created history. And today, we even have a chhena Poda divas celebrated on 11th April as to remember the creator.
Chhena poda is India’s, or rather Odisha’s answer to the Cheese Cake- only under branded. Homemade Chhena is needed with sugar for quite some time and is baked, till the exterior is brown. It’s something, not for the faint hearted and is super tasty. And it can be kept fine, without refrigeration, for 5-6 days. Definitely definitely recommended. In fact,, while at Pahala, you can skip the Rasogolla, but not Chhena poda.
Mutton Curry at Odisha Hotel, Bhubaneswar
I know, this is not about Odisha food. But I can’t but mention the lovely mutton curry that I had at Bhubaneswar. Odisha hotel is a place, where they promote Odiya cuisine at a premium ambiance. Now don’t get frightened. The ground floor is a regular eating joint, where the first floor is with a premium interior, and priced slightly higher. They have multiple branches across India and is a must visit for someone, looking for authentic Odia cuisine.
We tried their huge Odia thali, along with mutton curry. The thali came in a huge brass plate and the variety is mindblowing. Instead of going into the intricate details, allow me to talk on the items that I personally liked. There was a dish where shrimps were stir fried with loads of Garlic. Now for someone who loves garlic (like me), the dish is heaven– but slightly difficult otherwise. I am not really a saag lover. But otherwise, the collection of vegetarian dishes was definitely impressive.
Mutton curry at Odisha Hotel is the showstopper. It’s a light runny curry with one big chunk of potato. Unlike us, the potato is coarsely peeled and that added to the taste. Mutton came from small goats and the owner proudly exclaimed… “we send raw meat to all our outlets across India from Bhubaneswar, daily”. Now that definitely ensures the uniformity of the meat quality. Some mutton fat was cooked with the gravy- making it super tasty. This dish, is definitely recommended, while in Odisha, or even Cuttack.
Overall, this is my experience in Cuttack and Pahala… Do let me know, what all I’ve missed in my short trip and I’ll try to experience them on the next visit. This blogpost will be updated with further place’s information.
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