Summer menu in Odisha is incomplete without the humble pakhala. The temperatures in the capital let most Odia households to happily resort to the cool pakhala as their staple diet. What’s interesting is that this traditional rice dish is now also making its way into the kitchens of top hotels and restaurants across the city. Even non-Odia families are getting inclined towards the ubiquitous pakhala, speaking volumes about its popularity.
A quintessential part of Odia cuisine which can be enjoyed by both vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians thanks to the number of side dishes it is accompanied with, pakhala today has been included in the menu cards of leading hotels like Swosti Premium & Mayfair, to name a few.
Says Sriraj Patnaik, Assistant Manager, F & B Department, Mayfair Hotels, “We have an Odia restaurant named ‘Kanika’ where we serve pakhala and the cost of the vegetarian platter is Rs. 525 while the non-veg platter is Rs. 625 plus taxes. Interestingly, 90 percent of customers are non-Odias who come here to relish the pakhala we serve.”
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Bikash Kumar Pradhan, F&B Manager, Swosti Grand has no different opinion.”The maximum demand for pakhala comes from our non-Odia customers, who visit our multi-cuisine restaurant in large numbers to relish this traditional dish, both for lunch and dinner. The veg and non-veg platters cost Rs. 550 and Rs. 600 plus taxes respectively,” he informs.
Hotels apart, leading restaurants including Dalma, Pakhala – A complete Odia Restaurant & Ram Chandi are a few popular destinations where you can enjoy pakhala with a variety of interesting side dishes in a cosy ambience. In most of these places, the veg platter comprises dishes like badichuda, saaga and bhaaja while the non-veg platter mostly includes fried fish dishes such as hilsa and prawns.
Chef Niranjan Nayak of Dalma says, “One of the reasons why people today are ready to come to restaurants for enjoying pakhala is because of the interesting variations to this dish and also the variety of side dishes available. Like our customers love the curd and mint leaves topping we give to our pakhala for a unique taste.”
Whatever be the reason, pakhala for sure tops the summer food charts in Odisha and continues to enjoy the reputation of being the coolest dish to beat the heat.