Pithas are cake-like delicacies made from rice-flour and other ingredients such as dates or sugar-cane molasses. They can also be savoury but the sweeter ones are more popular. The quintessential rural Bengal image that dominates most of our text books is the scene of a cold-winter morning, children huddling around their mother while she prepares pithas in a mud-stove.
Pitha festivals and utshobs take place throughout winter, at Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka University premises and are also organised by many localities such as in Baridhara by the Baridhara Society and so on.
The two most popular pithas in and around the city are ‘bhapa’ and ‘chitoi’. The first is a steamed-rice-flour-disc sweetened with jaggery and desiccated coconut and chitoi is a runny mixture made with rice-flour and salt and then cooked on iron cooking-pots to be eaten with mustard paste or chilli chutney.
There are many other varieties of course such as patishapta (crepes with thick sweetened milk), rosher pitha (chitoi pitha soaked in aromatic and flavoured milk with coconut flakes), and many others such as pakan, andosha, kulshi pitha, pata pitha, jhuri pitha and muthi pitha.
Pithas are uniquely Bengali and they have punctuated our food culture for many years, commonly though they were cooked to celebrate harvests such as during Nabanno or during Poush Songkranti. But the foodies that Dhakaiites are, pithas have now become a winter staple. And they are available in almost all street corner, outside schools and university campuses. They are also packed and sold in handy packages in most of the superstores such as Agora, Meena Bazaar and Nandan.
The prices of the packaged pithas start from Tk. 150 onwards. Alongside these there are also stores where you can now go and sit to enjoy your winter munchies such as the Bailey Pitha Ghar. They have three branches with their original starting in Bailey Road giving it the namesake.
Starting from Tk. 25-30 a piece, this is quite a bargain and you can go home having satisfying your sweet tooth without making it too hard on the wallet.
This is the perfect time to go on some guilt-free, sweet soul-searching for Bangladeshi culture and tradition on Dhaka streets and eat the perfect pithas downing them with cups of the traditional cha!
Contact: Pitha Ghar, 10/1, New Bailey Road, Dhaka. #832 2082.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed