Narikol pitha – an assamese sweet delicacy

Like in my earlier post on the ghila pitha ( http://indraniskitchenflavours.blogspot.in/2013/02/ghila-

pitha-riceflour-and-jaggery.html), my post today delineates about another type of a pitha or a sweet delicacy from Assamese cuisine..a perennial cousin of the ghila pitha should i say since there surrounds a thin line of difference with finer nuances that impel this delicacy to adopt a different name called as the narikol pitha..absolutely sweet and delicious to your taste buds it wont fail your palate..not distinctly unique nor indigenous , it is on familiar grounds of delicacies from different state cuisines that boasts of delicacies made with riceflour and coconut especially the south Indian homemade sweets..Narikol for the unknown connotes to coconut in Assamese
But here, deep rooted to culture it is very much a delicacy that has its claims of paternity by the state of Assam

As with the culture, Assam is basically an agricultural state with rice being the main staple..hence the harvesting season holds enough importance for a great produce for the season..therefore, most of the sweets are a by product of rice flour mixed with other ingredients..pithas signify just that. They are sweet delicacies that are generally prepared at home during the festival of Bihu..Bihu for the uninitiated is the biggest festival of Assam signifying the culture and livelihood of Assam.Three types of Bihu across the year disseminates and explains information about the Assamese culture and life..Magh bihu or Bhogali Bihu, Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu and Kati Bihu defines explicitly about the culture and traditions portraying an Assamese lifestyle.

Traditionally various types of pithas which signifies assamese delicacy were made during these festivals as a way of celebrations, be it for a good harvest or bringing in the new year ..pithas are generally prepared with rice flour , coconut and jaggery or sugar while some  specific delicious pithas are made with black sesame seeds..jaggery was commonly used as a substitute for sugar as it possess its binding quality and of course flavour. Ghila pitha, till pitha, narikol pitha, narikol laru, tilor laru, tekelir mukhot diya pitha rules the list of pithas that are relished during the festivals.. earlier these were considered countrified sweet morsels, often arriving from your native granny’ s house or people who bring them from their villages to gift their friends;relations or seniors at work during bihu.They were not made on a regular basis in modern homes for its difficulty levels of preparations(that’s my belief) and time constraint and also the non existence of the ‘dheki’ that’s instrumental in grinding the rice to a fine powder  .the dheki was and is supposedly a grinding tool made of wood that is like a machine which had to be used manually using both your legs and hands to grind the rice flour to a coarse texture and included immense physical labour.Yet in modern times  with the advent of mixer grinders ,their appearance on regular days or non Bihu period has become a possibility .In fact their existence has only been strengthened now with ready made pithas being available  in the super markets..as all Assamese people across the world celebrate Bihus and love their pithas, so the availability is now incessantly important and hence even if our mothers do not maybe  make them often at home, yet you will be exposed to a variety of readily available packed pithas and larus for you to carry back home and indulge.

The narikol(coconut) pitha is prepared exactly like the ghila pitha except that it is made with an addition of grounded coconut which which builds in a certain texture and imparts  a strong sweet influence over the pitha.Like the ghila pitha, even in this process, the exact quantities of ingredients need to be stritly adhered to otherwise you will not get the perfect pithas.With the right amount of ingredients, it tends to be a simple process of preparation by mixing all ingredients together. The bugbear(for many including me) is the frying process..most often it doesn’t end up with the perfect crispness or fails to stay as a whole and breaks away..this is a result of the   mix of ingredients that hasn’t gone right..the confluence of the proportion of the ingredients needs to be correct to arrive at that perfect round grainless and spotless pitha with a fine crumb and an outer edge. This is the most tricky part which is hard to master and not everybody can champion this..but this is my mother’s best pitha of all including the ghila pitha which she makes with great elan and perfection. They say its all in your hands when it comes to cooking..they are more perfect then anything else with a deep professional touch that scores very high on taste ,flavour and texture

Ingredients
Riceflour- 2 cups
grinded coconut- 1 cup
Sugar or grated jaggery -1 cup(i used jaggery for its flavor)
Oil- As required for deep frying
Cradamon powder- a pinch

Method

  • Mix the grinded coconut and sugar/jaggery whatever you desire and keep aside for sometime.I used jaggery for an an enhanced flavor
  • Now mix the riceflour to the mixture of coconut and blend well with no lumps.Add a pinch of elaichi(cardamon) powder
  • Now make small balls out of this mixture and flatten them slightly to give shape.
  • Deep fry them on both sides on low-medium flame. The resultant texture should be a hard and crisp outer covering with moist and soft filling inside..
Absolutely crispy on the outer edge while moist and soft inside these are definitely one of those pithas which has an universal taste .simple yet perfectly deep fried they are one of the best homemade Indian sweet savories from this country is my guarantee. The deep fried texture of the crumb gives a crispiness on the first bite while it bends down to a sweet , tender and soft inside..the outer edge  blends very well with the softness of the pitha inside.. the mix of the rice flour and coconut works in luscious tandem to almost create magic while my inclusion of jaggery ,replacing sugar brings in that hint of flavor that truly enhances,accentuates  and lifts the taste.This apart from avoiding health hazzards due to white sugar as well while jaggery manifests your iron content as well.the rice flour and coconut conjures up to arrive at finesse that needs to be tasted to believe in its sweetness that will surely soak you in captivity.

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