05 Feb Ghila Pitha -An Assamese festive Sweet
Am writing this post even as I am relishing a delicious bite of my mom”s most amazing homemade “Ghila Pithas” .This is more of a cultural festive sweet then anything else and has base ingredients which need to be strictly adhered to for the perfect taste and texture. No modifications or creativity to be experimented here.
My mom”s just come back from her visit back home and has got a whole lot of specialties and specific ingredients for making these “pithas” .These little delights have been my favorite festive sweets from my culture ever since i tasted them first as a toddler .They will remain at the top of my favorites ever.And more so ,the desire for them and the appeal is intensified whenever I get a chance to relish them because its not available anywhere else in the world expect my native state,but sadly enough I hardly get a chance to visit my hometown now. Although the ingredients are easily available, yet the exact quality of rice and jaggery cannot be matched anywhere..Its got a very distinct flavor of the specific rice and the quality of jaggery available in the state of Assam and that’s why the taste..
Additionally my mom puts in fresh orange rind which adds a distinct, discerning and orange flavor to the Pitha.
This sweet called the “ghila pitha”, is a savory made during the festivals like Magh Bihu and Bohag Bihu in Assam and relished with friends and families. On visiting people”s home , you would get to eat almost the same savouries in all households during festivals and until the appeal shines off.Yet, it remains my favorite..Made from rice flour and jaggery( for most sweets, the base ingredient is powdered rice ), this same sweet (using the same ingredients)is also made, I guess in a different form with a different name in the southern most part of India.
But the most authentic ones are the type made in villages by our forefathers where the rice is powdered and pounded not in a mixer but in a homemade wooden mill called “Dheki” made locally ..It was supposed to be the grinding apparatus then.It is worth seeing this procedure and when the rice is coarsely grinded it develops a distinct earthy smell .However this tradition of grinding the rice with the wooden beam is slowly waning way from our collective memories with the advent of a newer lifestyle and advanced technologies
So, in modern times today, with the advent of mixer grinders this process has become very fast and also a regular at homes unlike olden days when the entire procedure of grinding the rice was so taxing and laborious that these savories were made only during festivals. Which is why they are still most commonly referred to as the festive sweets.
Do try them out with the local rice and jaggery that you would get in super markets (do not use the available rice flour, since the rice is supposed to be coarsely grinded and should not be too smooth like powder).Also for the authentic texture and taste, the “new rice” is best suitable.
Enjoy these with your cup of tea/coffee as sweet savories/snacks or just like that as desserts .
Of a familiar taste , these soft crispy delights will surely satiate your taste buds.
- Rice Flour- 2 cups ( ideally new rice)
- jaggery- 1.5 cups or as per the desired level of sweetness required
- Oil for Frying
- Orange rind(grated) 2 tsp
- baking soda/powder- a pinch
- Sticky rice(optional)- 1 tbsp(helps in the binding process and gives a certain crispiness to the outer edge of the Pithas)
- Soak the rice in water for two hours.
- Strain and keep it aside for two additional hours.
- Gind the rice in a mixer.It should not too smooth like the riceflour that you get to buy in the local supermarkets, which has the texture of almost like talcum powder!!..It should be slightly coarse but in a powdery form .Some of the granules should remain rough enough to bind the sweets while making round shapes.
- Add a pinch of soda and little water to the jaggery and keep stirring till the jaggery dissolves completely.
- Now add the jaggery mixture to the flour and form a wet dough like .
- Add orange rind.This gives that extra orange flavor to the sweet which is so fresh and flavorful.The dough should not be very hard , it has to be a little wet and loose but strong enough to form small balls.You can taste a little by your finger and check for the right sweetness and consistency.
- Brush your palms with oil,since the dough will be sticky, and form small oval or round shaped balls.
- Flatten them a bit in the center and deep fry in oil till crisp.
- Fry on both sides initially on high flame and then on low flame .The texture should be slightly crispy from the outer side while its soft inside.
- Remove and cool on tissue paper to remove excess oil