The versatile panta bhat has many names, and brings back childhood memories

Long earlier than ‘Masterchef’, the common-or-garden fermented rice dish was cool in its personal proper

When I known as up a distant aunt the opposite day and talked about how a model of the panta bhat, or poita bhat, as we name it in Assam, has made it to the grand finale of an internationally acclaimed meals present, her instant response was shock. “Really?” she exclaimed, “Ordinary poita bhat?”

The Melbourne-born chef of Bangladeshi origin, Kishwar Chowdhury, might not have received the not too long ago concluded MasterChef Australia contest, however by wowing the judges along with her panta bhat, she has introduced into the limelight a humble dish that’s consumed in a number of elements of India and is known as by as many names. For Bengalis, it’s panta bhat, for Odiyas, pakhala bhat, for Malayalis, vella choru or pazham kanji, for Tamils, pazhaya soru. Chowdhury gave her personal twist to this dish, presenting it as Smoked Rice Water.

But in every of its variations, the essence of the dish stays the identical: leftover rice, fermented in a single day in water. Its versatility lies in the way in which it may possibly tackle a spread of accompaniments or stand by itself.

Ideal for summer season

My first introduction to this dish was on the age of 10 or 11 on a scorching and humid summer season day. As I waited for my mother and father to choose me up from faculty, my greatest buddy invited me for a fast snack at her residence, a stone’s throw away. “No harm,” I believed and adopted her. We took off our footwear on the door and as she ran in to name her mother, I observed her grandmother slurping what regarded like watery gruel from a bowl. There it was, poita bhat.

Curious, I requested my buddy if we may have a few of that. And I can always remember that style. With a splash of mustard oil and lime juice, it was the most effective summer season meals I’ve ever had. We gorged on the accompaniments too — aloo pitika (mashed potato) and bengena bhoja (eggplant fritters), that are widespread aspect dishes served with poita bhat in Assam — and slurped our approach to the tip.

The subsequent time I relished it as a lot was years later, once I was on an project in Odisha. A discipline employee invited me to an impromptu lunch and as we sat right down to feast on an array of dishes, he pulled out a bowl of what regarded like poita bhat. “Pakhala bhat,” he mentioned, “In the hot summer months, this is my staple meal.” Needless to say, he needed to forego a lot of his pakhala bhat as I slurped it up with inexperienced chillies, onion and lime.

Health meals

Light on the abdomen, cooling and nutritious, poita bhat’s origins are so simple as the dish. In most States the place rice is a staple, soaking the leftover portion in water in a single day and consuming it the subsequent morning made sense at a time when fridges weren’t widespread. This ensured there was no wastage. Left to ferment in a single day, the gruelly rice has a excessive starch content material, which sustained farmers and handbook labourers for an extended time period after they ate it for breakfast. As we all know at this time, its excessive Vitamin B12 and probiotic content material makes it good for well being. Poita bhat was additionally simple to organize, standing prepared even earlier than the kitchen hearth was began for the day’s meals.

“Vella choru was my usual breakfast during schooldays,” says Nandini, my buddy from Kerala, in our Whatsapp group. “I didn’t like eating dosa, idli or upma, but vella choru with curd I loved.” Sangya, my Odia buddy, who now lives in Delhi, says she nonetheless eats pakhala bhat each now and again. She shared an image of her Amsterdam-based buddy’s lunch the opposite day. On the desk was a plate of vibrant veggies and fritters, nestling near a bowl of pakhala bhat.


Poita bhat


1 cup of cooked rice soaked in

2 cups of water in a single day

½ cup buttermilk or ¼ cup curd

2 tbsp onion, chopped

2 inexperienced chillies, chopped

Salt to style


Let the cooked rice ferment in water in a single day.

Next morning, pour the rice gruel in a bowl and add the buttermilk or curd. Mix effectively.

Add the chopped onion, chopped chillies and salt.

A touch of mustard oil and a wedge of lemon, and your poita bhat is able to be served.


The author is a Jodhpur-based freelance journalist.

2021-07-30 16:37:47

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