Jeera Pakhala is a simple yet delicious rice based dish with the flavors of shahjeera and curry leaves. The curry leaves enhances and adds a unique taste to the rice. Pakhala is popular Odia dish from the state of Orissa.
The term Pakhal is derived from Pali word Pakhalita as well as Sanskrit word Prakshaalana which means washed/ to wash and it is made by cooling the rice by adding water and keeping the cooked rice in water and curd.
Pakhala is an Odia term for an Indian food consisting of cooked rice washed or little fermented in water. The liquid part is known as Torani. It is popular in Orissa, Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh. The Bengali name for this dish is Panta Bhat. It is recommended that eating this dish would prevent sun strokes or heat stroke in summer days. This dish is also popularly served in most of the local restaurants in Cuttack. A traditional Oriya dish, it is also prepared with rice, curd, cucumber, cumin seeds, fried onions and mint leaves. It is popularly served with roasted vegetables as potato, brinjal, Badi & saga bhaja or fried fish.
Pakhala is also known as Panta bhat in Bengali and is lightly fermented rice based dish consumed in North Eastern states of India. Panta means ‘soaked in water’ and bhat means ‘boiled rice’. This dish is traditionally prepared with leftover rice soaked in water to prevent spoiling and is generally served with salt, onion and chili. This dish is especially made in rural areas and served as a breakfast. In Assam, this popular dish is known as Poitabhat. Dudh Panta (milk with stale water soaked rice) is another popular dish which is served as a part of the marital ritual. Among the Hindu Bengalis, this dish is consumed during the Ranna Puja (Bengali cooking festival) and in Bangladesh; it is part of the Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year festival) festivities. On that day it is consumed as breakfast by urban people.
Pakhala is said to have first included in the daily diet of Eastern India, but it was included in the recipe of Lord Jagannath Temple of Puri. The Jagannath Temple was built in the tenth Century AD, so "Pakhala" was in existence at that time. Pakhala is widely eaten in most eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent (including Nepal, Bangladesh and some parts of Myanmar) among common people. Later went on to become popular at the Five Star Hotels of Bhubaneswar which included it in their menu and commercialized it to attract the guests, who love to taste Oriental cuisine.
To prepare this popular Odia dish, Jeera Pakhala, firstly boil the rice (like we prepare regularly the normal rice at home). Drain all the water from the rice completely and keep aside. Add little oil in the frying pan or kadai. When the oil is hot, add red peppers and kala jeera and allow it to release its aromas. Add the cooked rice to it and add water sufficiently. Put in the curry leaves. Allow boiling for sometime and the Jeera Pakhala is ready to be served.
Traditionally the preparation of a basic pakhala also known as watered rice is a simple process where the rice is first cooked and allowed to cool naturally. Moderately cold water is added to the rice and this is left covered for about 6 to 7 hours. By this the cooked rice grains begin to break into smaller fragments in water and resulting liquid has a starchy or cloudy appearance. Along with this a wide variety of condiments and salt can be added just before eating. This dish is considered as a main dish and is served alongside with boiled and mashed potatoes or eggplants etc. Salted and dried fish is also a popular side dish but often Indian pickles and raw onions are accompanied with this rice dish. Chopped coriander leaves, garlic, and mint leaves are generally used for flavoring and garnishing.
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Rice has been the staple diet in most parts of Asia. It is also said that a meal without rice is not complete. There are a variety of rice based dishes made according to the region and area. There are different varieties of Pakhala (watered rice) depending on the condiment added namely Jeera Pakhala (Cumin seeds are lightly roasted and added to the watered rice along with fried curry leaves), Dahi Pakhala (made by adding curd with pakhala. Addition of yoghurt gives the dish an appetizing sour taste), Basi pakhala (Basi in Odia means Stale - This is made by fermenting rice by adding water which is generally kept overnight and eaten in the next day). You also have the Salad based pakhala (This dish has finely chopped raw vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, spring onions, ginger, green chilies and raw mangoes added to watered rice) and Milk bases pakhala (This variety has milk added to the water-soaked rice).
Apart from the above varieties, there are other types of watered rice dishes such as hot watered rice and fermented watered rice. Fermented watered rice is also the precursor of the rice-based alcoholic beverage, Chauli. Pakhala is highly nutritious and healthy to eat. It also helps in preventing the spoiling of rice. The Phytic acid, present in rice undergoes hydrolysis to make minerals such as, zinc and iron available to body. Studies have also revealed the increased levels of riboflavin and vitamin B in watered rice. Additionally, the water present in the dish keeps the body hydrated, particularly in summers.