Published:  12:00 AM, 04 January 2017

The season of Pitha

The season of Pitha

Pitha is a Bengali word that refers to an indigenous food and food tradition of Bangladesh and spreading some parts of India specially Bangla speaking region of India. For pitha there is no similar word in English. To explain others in English we interpret pitha as a rice cake or pie. But it's not like the traditional cake or pie what is common in the western world and in their food culture. Pitha is a part of life and culture of the Bengali and Bangladeshi people. But it is not part of our daily menu. Most pithas are seasonal, especially prepared in the winter season because of some ingredients which are available only in winter season. Pithas are primarily made from of rice or wheat flour, molasses or sugar, coconut and oil. Meat and vegetables are also used in preparing some pithas such as the pooli pitha, shabji (vegetable) pitha, for stuffed vegetable pithas, ingredients such as cauliflower, cabbage radish, or potato are usually fried, baked, or steamed, and then mashed, cooled, and formed into small balls to stuff into the pithas. Jhal (spicy) patishapta and mangsha (meat) patishapta. Sometimes fruits are also used: mostly Jackfruit, Palmyra, Coconut and Banana.

 These pithas are named after the name of the fruit they are made from. A special category of pitha is prepared by using tree leaves as covers and is named pata (leaves) pitha. Some pithas are named according to their size. A big size pitha is called Hati pitha, while one of the small types of pitha is named khejur (date) pitha. Sweet pithas typically include sugar, jaggery, date juice, or palm syrup and can be filled with grated coconut, cashews, pistachios, sweetened vegetables, or fruits. Sweet pithas are also often flavored using cardamom or camphor. Depending on the type of pitha being prepared, pithas can be fried in oil or ghee, slow-roasted over a fire, steamed, or baked and rolled over a hot plate. They are often eaten at small meals such as breakfast or as a snack with tea, although there are many sweet varieties that are reserved for desserts or holidays. Pithas of the winter season are the most delicious - a special combination with the climate of winter cold. Besides, some pithas are strongly associated with harvest festivals such as Nabanna and Poush Parban. Some pithas are also made throughout the year. Most pithas are sweet and few are spicy in taste.  Many kinds of pithas are made in Bangladesh. These are not part of the daily menu. They are served on special occasion such as receiving bridegrooms or brides, entertaining guests, and arranging special get together of family members, relatives or friends. Sometimes children or senior members of the family especially ask for pithas and accordingly, mothers or grandmothers make them. Pithas are of many different types. In some cases, neighboring families jointly make pithas and use the occasion for chatting and having lunch or dinner together.

Pithas are popular all over the country and each area has its unique type of pithas. Sometimes the same pitha has different names in different areas. Some pithas are nationally known and familiar to all. These are Chitoi, Patishapta, Bhapa, Andosha, Kulshi, Kata pitha, Chit-pitha, Labanga pitha, Gokul pitha, Chutki pitha, Muthi pitha, Jamdani pitha, Hadi pitha, Chapdi pitha, Nakshi pitha, Pata pitha, Tejpata pitha, Jhuri pitha, Bibikhana pitha,Teler pitha (oil pitha), Pakan pi?ha, Puli pi?ha, Beni pi?ha, Dudher pi?ha (milk pitha), Bhija pi?ha (wet pitha), Chôndro puli, Muger puli, Dudh puli, Mug pakon, Til Pitha.  When a family receives a new bridegroom, it prepares some special pithas in his honour. Such pithas have intricate designs, and are colorful and attractive. One such pitha is named Bibiana, which means bride's skill. Another pitha of this group is the Jamai bhulana, a pitha that supposedly seduces the mind of the bridegroom. Phita is part of life and culture of the Bengali people. Nowadays, however, cakes, pastry and other food items sold commercially are gradually replacing traditional homemade pithas, especially in urban areas. But pithas still continue to attract many, even in urban areas. Many specialized shops sell costly pithas and small vendors in street corners also make their living by selling cheap pithas.

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