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Traditional Food of Bihar with home-chef Chandana

Mar 16, 2018 | 6 Mins

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Chandana has a reason for including her maiden surname, Nandkeolyar, in her name post marriage—it was to highlight her Bihari roots, which she is proud to flaunt. She belongs to an aristocratic Bihari family, who are known to be connoisseurs of good food. The home chef signed up with Authenticook in the latter half of 2017 and has since served numerous Bihari meals at her heritage home in Colaba, Mumbai.

Like many Authenticook hosts, Chandana is proud of her heritage and wants to introduce as many people as she can to the flavours of Bihar. Bihari dishes aren’t as popular as other north Indian preparations, especially in the coastal and Deccan parts of India. You might find a handful of restaurants in the north serving the state’s most famous dish, litti chokha and a few varities of kebabs, but not many eateries really explore all of Bihar’s offerings. Fortunately, that’s changing thanks to the likes of Chandana and other chefs who make these items more accessible to the public.

Dehati Gosht (This is a village preparation of mouth-watering mutton marinated for 48 hours with fresh masala paste made on silauti (silbatta). This is then cooked on slow fire for over 2 hours to get the smoked charcoal taste)

It’s hard to categorize Bihari food into specific silos, she said. The region’s cuisine is as layered and diverse as its landscapes, history and communities. Each area and group has its own identity. For instance, Chandana said Gaya Kayasthas like her are known as “kebabis and sharabis.”

In general, Bihari food is a little spicier than the usual fare one might expect to find in north India. Mustard oil is a popular staple and used in almost every dish, much like in neighbouring West Bengal. However, the pungent flavour is stronger in the former as is the presence of masalas. According to Chandana, though the food might feel a little heavy it is actually very easy to digest.

There are certain Bihari items and ingredients that are familiar to people outside the state, litti chokha being one of them. The litti is a wheat dumpling stuffed with a mixture of sattu (roasted gram flour), spices and lemon juice and roasted in mustard oil. Its accompanied by chokha, a gravy of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and spices. The gravy can even be something meaty like mutton curry

Baingan Ki Kalaunji (Small pieces of brinjal cooked with tomatoes, tamarind (fennel) powder)

Makhana and sattu are among the better-known ingredients. Makhana or lotus seeds are a popular savoury snack that, when roasted, resembles popcorn and is enjoyed with a dash of masala. It’s even found in a few multiplexes now as a healthy snack substitute. In Bihar, the ingredient is used in many ways including in a sweet makhane ki kheer and a creamy makhana mushroom gravy.

Sattu, Chandana said, is the staple ingredient of Bihari food. Roasted gram flour is used in everything from cooling sherbets to stuffed parathas to laddoos. This ability to use an ingredient in different ways extends to veggies like parwal or pointed gourd. Chandana said that parwal bhujiyas and parwal ki mithai (sugar-soaked parwals stuffed with a khoya mixture) are very popular.

Meats feature heavily in Bihari food too. River fish are used to make cutlets and curries including one of tomatoes, peas and fish that Chandana’s mother used to make. Succulent muttons can be found in dehati ghosts, hundi mutton and mutton chura, which is eaten with crispy beaten rice. But perhaps the most famous Bihari meat preparation is the kebab. In fact, Chandana said that even folks in Pakistan talk about Bihari kebabs with reverence.

Gular Kebabs (Mince chicken kebab balls with a filling of finely chopped onions, green chillies, coriander and lemon juice) served with Ole (yam) chutney and TP chutney made with chillies, which is a secret family recipe.

It’s flavours like these that Chandana tries to bring to her meals; patal leaf plates and water served in kulhads add a touch of authenticity to the experience. Her meals are an extension of her own love of food and she promises each guest will go home satisfied because, she said, “Like all Biharis, hum zabardasti khilate hain.”

You can sign up for Chandana's Bihari pop ups at her home in Mumbai here.

Chandana is coming to Pune this March 25th to give the city a taste of her traditional Bihari food. Authenticook has partnered with a restaurant in Pune to showcase the lesser known and lesser available cuisines of India. This is an exclusive one day event with limited seating. Check out details and sign up on www.authenticook.com


Kamakshi Ayyar

I am a freelance journalist based in Mumbai, India and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Through a process of trial and error, my time at law school made me realise that journalism was probably a better fit for me.

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