What’s cooking this Sankranti?

(11 January 2020)
Uttarayan in Gujarat, Lohri and Maghi in Punjab, and Pana Sankranti in Odisha are essentially celebrations for the same reason, but each is a different kaleidoscope of rituals, traditions and food. When it comes to food, ingredients like sesame seeds aka til, jaggery, rice, groundnuts, harvest vegetables and sugarcane are quintessential. Here is a look at some regional delicacies prepared on this special day.

Sesame post-solstice

A highly significant festival that marks the passing of the winter solstice, Maghi in Punjab is celebrated with great fervour. The day before is celebrated with a bonfire as Lohri, and it is customary to consume the produce from the new harvest during this day. Apart from sarson da saag and gur ki roti, til ki barfi (sesame seed cake) is a signature preparation in this region. It is a crunchy delight made from the goodness of roasted sesame which is ground, jaggery, pure ghee and a hint of cardamom.

Makar Shankranti is incomplete without til-gud. It is a tradition that dates over 100 years and every household makes sweets with these two ingredients. Til and gud also have medicinal properties, so it is believed to keep the body warm and increase immunity,” says chef Rudra, The Reservoire, Bengaluru.

Undhiyu for Uttarayan

Cultural vibrance, kite flying, peanut chikkis and undhiyu — arguably Gujarat’s most famous dish — dominate Makar Sankranti in the State. Undhiyu literally means ‘upside down’, and is an assortment of freshly grown vegetables like surti papdi (hyacinth beans), kand (purple yam), sweet potatoes, raw bananas, tuvar (pigeon peas), brinjal and potatoes. “The dish, which has several variations, enjoys a cult status in Gujarat,” says Hetal Shah, a homemaker from Surat.The elaborate dish also involves the preparation of methi muthiyas (steamed or deep-fried fenugreek leaf dumplings) cooked along with the vegetables in a medley of aromatic, heat-generating spices like ginger, garlic, coconut and green chillies. “Undhiyu is originally a regional speciality of Surat. The dish is a seasonal one, comprising of vegetables that are available on the South Gujarat coastline. Since Makar Sankranti is an ode to the harvest season, undhiyu is traditionally made using all the crops harvested around this time,” says chef Govind of Masala Mandi, Bengaluru.

Feast from the far East

Along with holy dips and special prayers, makara chaula made from freshly harvested rice is a speciality of Odisha during Sankranti. “This is a traditional recipe made using fragrant ground rice that is fresh from the first harvest. It is added along with milk, cottage cheese, sugarcane, jaggery, ginger, pepper and cut fruits. A small pinch of cinnamon is our secret ingredient,” says chef Rajani Kanta Raj of The Belgadia Palace located in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha.

For an authentic taste, it is garnished with fruits and rose petals soaked overnight in honey for a fragrant aroma and flavour, adds Arunima Das, a homemaker from Puri.


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