IndusFresh Details

By TPCI | January 28, 2020

An inexpensive vegetarian dish with a unique flavor, litti chokha is Bihar’s pride. A complete meal in itself, the humble litti chokha embodies the rusticity of the rural hinterland from which it germinates. Today, however, this meal is becoming ubiquitous not just in the country’s central belt (neighbouring states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh), but is also mustering a loyal fan base in the other parts of the country, especially northern regions like Delhi.

While this dish looks quite simple, it has a mélange of spices & texture – each of which accentuate its taste and add a layer of complexity to it. Litti chokha entails serving roasted dough balls (litti) with a grilled eggplant dish (chokha). Traditionally cooked on cow dung cakes or coal, litti is made of whole wheat flour loaded with sattu or roasted chickpea flour, mixed with herbs & spices. Some people also add freshly chopped onions, ginger, garlic, coriander leaves, salt, lime juice and nigella seeds to lift the flavours of this filling. This stuffing is said to have cooling properties and is a fabulous source of energy. A generous helping of ghee (or clarified butter) is added to enhance the taste of these littis. While chokha is usually made with grilled brinjal (an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, manganese, folate & phytonutriens like nasunin and chlorogenic acid that are great antioxidants), some people also serve it with boiled potatoes that are mashed. Some people also serve litti chokha with yoghurt.

This delectable recipe is widely acknowledged as an inexpensive proletarian dish having a tryst with the country’s history that is as rich as the burst of flavours that make it. It is believed that Litti was first invented during the times of the kingdom of Magadh, one of the 16 Mahajanapadas of ancient India. Under Mughal influence, another rendition of this delicacy gained currency. Soon, litti chokha began to be paired with shorbas and payas.

This staple of the royal court of Magadh, rose to the pinnacle of its popularity during the times of the First War of Independence, 1857, conquering the hearts of Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai. Given the fact that this recipe entailed minimal use of water and utensils, it became a favourite of the armies, for they didn’t have to traverse a long journey to fetch water (and hence get caught by the enemies) to cook it. The fact that litti chokha could last until 2/3 days after being cooked also made it a preferred choice for the army. The Britishers savoured litti chokha with piping hot curries.

Thus, this enticing dish is not just a melting point of spices and flavours, but also an exciting interaction of cultures and histories of the country’s culture.