7 Types of Pithas and Ladoos to Celebrate Magh Bihu

Magh Bihu is one of the most anticipated festivals in Assam celebrated in the month of January. This is a harvest festival marking a lot of feasting and festivities. Magh Bihu is therefore also called the Bhogali Bihu literally meaning “to enjoy”. Magh Bihu festivities in Assam normally lasts for at least a week marked with visits to near and dear ones.

Pitha Ladu Platter
Pitha Platter
Source: https://instagram.com/being_parash?igshid=1k7irgw7z45xc

Read my blog post on Magh Bihu for details on this harvest festival of Assam.

Magh Bihu is celebrated with a feast on the night of the Uruka day, the lighting of the Meji the next morning followed by an extensive meal which includes traditional jolpaan and a variety of pitha. There’s no end to the types of pitha one can prepare but there are a few basic pithas that are prepared during Magh Bihu. Let’s prepare this pitha platter for Magh Bihu by following these simple steps.

#1 Til Pitha

Til Pitha
Til Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/paris_cookbook?igshid=aa0laswt2t7o

The ingredients required are bora saul (sticky bora rice), gur (jaggery), and til (black sesame). The rice is soaked for about 2 hours, drained and left out to dry a little. Finely powdered rice flour is made by pounding the bora rice in a dheki (pic included) or khundona (pic included), strained, and kept aside covered with a lid. The filling is prepared by roasting the black sesame first and then grinding it to obtain a coarse powder. Then add jaggery and mix properly.

Dheki
Dheki
Source: https://instagram.com/hrittick_rajkhowa_?igshid=1sa2svnhoiv99

Next start by heating an iron tawa (preferable). Add a big spoonful of rice flour on the pan and spread it out in an oval or round shape. Put a little bit of the black sesame mixture in the centre of the pitha. Now slowly roll up the pitha from one side and allow it to steam on the tawa for a while. Flip the sides and let it turn crisp.

Pointers:

1. Don’t let the rice flour moisten, therefore cover properly with a lid.

2. Timing is everything in preparing crispy til pitha, so don’t be too slow nor too fast in rolling the sides.

#2 Narikol Pitha

Narikol Pitha
Narikol Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/dolee_talukdar?igshid=1o83obmjkwzr9

Narikol Pitha is prepared in the same manner as til pitha except for the fact that the filling here is that of coconut (narikol). For the filling grated coconut is roasted and a little sugar is added to obtain a sticky mixture.

#3 Ghila Pitha

Ghila Pitha made with sticky bora rice

Ghila pitha or tel pitha is made in quite a few different ways. Some make it with only sticky bora rice which makes them chewy, some prefer using normal rice flour while some mix both the variety of rice flour. You can choose according to the availability and your preference.

Rukoni
Rukoni

Wash and soak the rice for about 2 hours, drain the water and let it dry for another hour or so. Now pound the rice to obtain a coarse powder. Add a little water to the jaggery to dissolve it, and a pinch of baking soda. Add this to the rice flour and make a dough. For flavors you can add orange zest, grated coconut also according to your preference or even black sesame which are all optional. Now make small balls out of the dough and flatten them. In a deep pan add mustard oil and allow to heat, now add the flattened rice balls and deep fry in high flame. Flip both sides to cook evenly.

#4 Narikol Ladoo

Narikol Ladoo
Source: https://instagram.com/flavors.hometown?igshid=13qqa768r1009

Start by grating a coconut in a mixer. Traditionally we used to grate it in an iron rukoni which literally looked a bird (pic included). Add sugar (about one-third of the quantity of grated coconut) and cardamom powder for flavour. Mix it well and fry the mixture on medium flame while stirring continuously. After about 15 mins check the mixture to see if it binds properly, then put off the flame and start making the laddoo immediately. If the mixture cools down then it will turn hard and binding won’t be possible.

#5 Til Ladoo

Til Ladu
Til Ladoo
Source: https://instagram.com/thefamishedbachelor?igshid=1jjmwsbhm1xr

Start by dry roasting the washed and dried black sesame on a pan for about 5-6 mins while stirring continuously and then keep it aside. Add almost equal amount of jaggery on the pan, add half cup of water and allow it to dissolve while cooking in low flame. After about 6 mins check the mixture by dropping a few drops in water. If it does not dissolve then your jaggery mixture is ready. Turn off the gas, pour the roasted black sesame and mix properly and immediately start making the ladus.

#6 Hutuli Pitha

Hutuli Pitha
Hutuli Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/gitashree_homecook?igshid=x7dgwt6gda41

Wash and dry the black sesame first. Then dry roast the sesame on a pan with cardamom until they splutter and leave an aroma. Grind the sesame to obtain a coarse powder, add jaggery and mix properly. Keep this mixture aside. This is the same mixture like the one we use for til pitha.

Khundona
Khundona

Mix equal quantities of joha rice flour and sticky bora rice flour, add a pinch of baking powder and mix. On a pan add jaggery and little water and allow it to dissolve. Strain the water and add it to the rice mixture slowly to knead a dough. Make small balls from the dough , flatten it and add a little of the jaggery sesame mixture prepared earlier and wrap it up in the form of a hutuli (a musical instrument of Assam which is like the shape of the crescent moon). Prepare all the balls in the similar manner. Now heat mustard oil in a pan and deep fry the pithas on medium flame by flipping sides and cooking evenly.

#7 Tekeli/Ketli Pitha

Tekeli Pitha
Tekeli Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/foo_dprints?igshid=8mn1vznjis2f

Start by mixing little quantities of water to the rice flour to moisten the mixture. You can use milk also in place of water. Mix this properly without allowing it to stick. Strain the mixture in a saloni or strainer with bigger holes. Now take a little amount of this rice mix and put it on the inside lid of a kettle, add little jaggery and grated coconut and again pour a little of the rice mixture. Now cover the mixture and the lid with a clean thin cotton cloth. In a kettle bring about two-third water to boil, now put the lid with the pitha on the inside and steam for 5-6 mins. Take the lid out, remove the cloth and take the steamed pitha out of the lid.

Ketli or Tekeli Pitha making process
Ketli or Tekeli Pitha making process
Source: https://instagram.com/shouvik_dhar?igshid=5l431tk9d09e

These are the most basic varieties of pitha you can make for Magh Bihu. However the list goes on if you want to create more. As you can see there are also a few basic ingredients which are sticky and normal rice flour/ powder, jaggery, black sesame and coconut. You can create a variety with these ingredients by either steaming or frying. Try preparing these at home and happy eating!

pork with mustard greens

Top 10 Most Popular Ethnic Assamese Dish

Assam is an ethnically diverse state, multi-cultural and multi-lingual due to which the food culture here is also diverse.

Assamese cuisine has so much to offer that you need to spend quite a few days to satisfy your gastronomic appetite, if you have one. But trust me when I say that there’s literally no end to this food marathon.

However, there are a few signature ethnic delicacies which you should never miss while in Assam.

Assamese Cooking Style

Assamese cuisine is characterised by less oil, no added spices, cooking over fire and to a great extent fermentation. The only spices used are ginger and garlic, and some local wild herbs. So basically Assamese food is a straight out of home kitchen kind of experience, with a zest of raw smoky flavours.

Prepare yourself for a mouthwatering read about the top 10 Assamese delicacies.

Top 10 Assam’s favourite dishes

Haah Mankho Kumura

Duck with ash gourd
Duck with ash gourd
Source

Haah mankho kumura or duck with ash gourd is a quintessentially Assamese delicacy you should never miss.

The meat tastes best when cooked over firewood as it gives a smoky flavour to the tender juicy meat. The ash gourd melts making the gravy extra rich.

Duck meat tastes best around December- January because it becomes more fatty during this time.

Gahori Bah Gaj

Gahori bah gaj or pork with bamboo shoot will give you the typical ethnic feeling. This is a purely boil dish with loads of flavour.

Like every other ethnic Assamese dish this too sounds simple but the taste is definitely something to pay for.

Aamlori-Tup aru Koni

Aamlori-tup aru koni or larvae of weaver ant fried with eggs is an exotic Assamese delicacy consumed during Bohaag Bihu by many ethnic communities.

This is usually consumed on Goru bihu day along with poita bhaat (leftover rice kept overnight in water) and 101 xaak (101 types of vegetables cooked like a hot pot).

Kukura Mankho Til diya

Country chicken with black sesame seeds
Country chicken with black sesame seeds
Source

Kukura mankho til diya or country chicken cooked with black sesame seeds is another very rich dish in terms of flavour.

Essentially ethnic, this is not a very common dish but prepared by few tribal and ethnic groups in Assam.

Khar

Khar is actually a kind of alkali/potash obtained from bhimkol, which is a variety of banana.

The banana peel is stored over months, then burnt in fire and water is then added to this burnt mixture. After leaving it for a while the mixture is strained and what we get is called khar.

This is added in small quantity with either black gram or mustard greens or raw papaya which gives you a very unique taste that will linger on your tongue for a long time.

So the potash is called khaar and taking into account what it has been added to we call it accordingly. Like amita khar if added to raw papaya, lai xaak khar if added to mustard greens, etc.

Gahori Lai Xaak

Pork with mustard greens on the platter with pork dry fry and fish fry
Pork with mustard greens on the platter with pork dry fry and fish fry

Gahori laixaak or pork with mustard greens is a hot favourite here in Assam.

This is a lot easier to cook because the meat is pre-boiled, so it all comes down to proper seasoning and adding the greens at the right time.

Pork is fattening and so little to no oil is used in this dish.

Ou-Tenga Borali Mas

Ou tenga borali mas or fish cooked in tangy elephant apple is a very refreshing dish.

The highlight of the dish is, undoubtedly, the elephant apple with its sour element, not too sour but sweet too.

Mati Dal aru Kath Aloo

Mati dal aru kath aloo or yam cooked with black gram is a compulsory dish consumed during Bhogali Bihu and/or Na-khua mainly because it’s seasonal.

The dish might sound simple to you but trust me you cannot resist it once you taste it!

Leta Polu bhoja

Silkworm pupae fry
Silkworm pupae fry
Source

Leta polu bhoja or silkworm pupae fry is also a very popular dish consumed widely during Bohaag Bihu.

This is more of a snack and tastes best with xajpani.

The silkworm is first boiled and then the cocoon is removed. The pupae is then fried with onions, green chillies and garlic.

Kosu Bilaahi

Kosu bilaahi or taro (colocasia stems) with tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes or kon bilaahi, is my personal favourite.

The calcium oxalate present in taro plants is uncomfortably itchy for which you need to boil it first. Tomatoes are used to balance this itchiness. This is a mushy dish, perfectly balanced in flavours.

Conclusion

The best accompaniment with any kind of Assamese food is our very own xajpani which gives you that extra zing.

Honestly, Assamese cuisine has so much to offer that it’s impossible to cover everything in a single article. Moreover you have to taste it to believe it!

Learn more about Xajpani

As I have previously mentioned, the best time to visit Assam, especially for a food lover, is around Bohaag Bihu and Bhogali Bihu because of the availability of a variety of food items.

These two are officially the festivals of feasting and merriment and therefore have much to offer including pithas and doi-jolpaan.

So come and experience Assam’s amazing food served with unbound love!

Magh Bihu – Harvest Festival of Assam

Buffalo fight on the occasion of Magh Bihu
Source: asianage.com

Magh Bihu is known as the harvest festival of Assam. It is celebrated in the month of Magha marking the end of the harvest season in Assam. It falls around mid- January and is a time of abundance which we celebrate with lot of festivities and feasting. Hence this Bihu is also called Bhogali Bihu derived from the word Bhog meaning eating and enjoying.

My reminiscence of Bhogali Bihu goes back to the days when we spent the Bihu eve beside the fire till midnight guarding our kitchen garden which my father nurtured with great care. My father used to grow vegetables in the little piece of land he had which mainly included potato and black gram ( mati mah ). Apart from these he also planted cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, bottle gourd, baby tomato, parsley, etc. in very small quantities. So it was naturally our duty to protect it from the local youngsters during the Uruka night which is the Bihu eve.

For those who might be wondering why we need to guard our kitchen garden on Bihu eve. Well, in Assam it’s like a tradition during Uruka night of Bhogali Bihu to steal from the neighbourhood gardens and farms. The more logical explanation of this tradition is that in villages the cowherd used to spend the entire Uruka night guarding the harvest in the granary and also the Meji built for the early morning of the Bihu. January in Assam is cold and to keep themselves warm the cowherd used to steal wood and bamboo from their neighbour’s field to light a fire. They also stole vegetables to satisfy their hunger throughout the night. This is more like a fun tradition and was an open secret for both parties involved. There were no fights later on for the theft done.

A simple bhelaghor. Source: reddit.com

These festivities and traditions were not restricted to the villages only but also celebrated with much enthusiasm in the towns and cities of Assam as well. I grew up in the small town of Dibrugarh and just like the cowherd guarding their granary in the villages, we guarded our small kitchen gardens.

Bhogali Bihu starts on the Uruka night when a community feast is organised in villages and towns alike to celebrate the end of the harvest season. People get together and contribute to arrange for the grand feast, the highlight being the new harvest of rice and of course our very own Xajpani in some cases, the impotance of which I have described in detail if you follow the link given. Men, women and children all help with preparation for the feast. We sing, dance and enjoy to our heart’s content rejoicing at the good harvest we are bestowed with God’s grace. Bhogali means feasting and merriment and we live up to its name.

A Bhelaghor is a makeshift hut made with the haystack of the harvest fields for the Uruka. It is here that the cowherd spend their night and eat their feast. In the earlier days this hut was made in as simple a way as possible. But with time the artistic minds of people have taken the art of making bhelaghor to the next level.

Modern day Bhelaghor
Source: hindustantimes.com

A Meji is a massive bonfire made of wood, bamboo and haystack for the morning of the main Bihu day. We get up early in the morning, take our bath and offer our prayers by lighting this Meji. We also offer pitha or rice cakes, betel nut to the sacred fire in thanksgivings. Some also offer Mah-karai, a special mixture of roasted rice and black gram to the fire which is considered auspicious too. This mixture is later also eaten by the people along with other delicacies like a variety of pitha, jolpaan etc. The makeshift bhelaghor is also burnt down along with the meji.

Our society Meji in Guwahati

The Bhogali festivities continue for a few days with family and friends visiting each other. A variety of pitha or rice cakes are made by the ladies to treat their guests. A traditional way to treat guests is to serve xurum, xando or sira Jolpaan with curd and gud ( jaggery). Pithas included til pitha, tel pitha, steamed pitha, til ladu, coconut ladu etc. served with xajpani. Sometimes the ladies get together as a community and prepare them on the Uruka night.

Assamese jolpaan and pitha served during Bihu. Source: nenow.in

Buffalo fight is another important aspect of the Magh Bihu festival. Such fights are still organised in some parts of the State and people in large numbers gather to witness these iconic fights. However, with the risk involved there has been a gradual decrease in such fights. This one time I was travelling to my hometown for Magh Bihu I happened to witness a buffalo fight somewhere in Nagaon, Assam. The dust in the air, the massive crowd hinted at the majesticity of the event.

Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is considered the second most important festival in Assam after the Rongali Bihu or Bohaag Bihu. In a state where agriculture is the main source of livelihood, where a majority of the population rely on farming the Bhogali Bihu holds a very special place in our hearts. The sweat and tears of the farmers bear fruit and this calls for nothing but celebration.