Food & Drink, History & Heritage

Litti-Chokha


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Today, there was a discussion on street foods with my schoolmates on WhatsApp. We were remembering our good old days and found that we are all still in love of the street foods. I am a street foodie. I love street foods.

When the discussion was over, I was remembering another street food, which is very much popular in Bihar and Jharkhand — Litti-Chokha! I first tasted litti-chokha when I was posted in Ranchi in 1997. I love it ever since. I eat it nowadays when I visit Ranchi. There are many street stalls serving this dish. The one near the High Court in Doranda is famous and quite popular.

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Litti alongwith chokha is a complete meal. Litti is a dough ball made up of whole wheat flour and stuffed with Sattu mixed with herbs and spices and then baked over coal or cow dung cakes or wood and sometimes it is also tossed with lots of ghee. The street stalls also serve litti fried/soaked in ghee — clarified butter, but I prefer the dry baked ones. Litti is served with chokha — mashed potato or char-grilled eggplant done with chilies, onion, tomato, cumin powder, coriander, and turmeric powder.

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Sattu is a very popular flour in the Indian states of UP and Bihar. There is no English name for Sattu, but for the convenience sake, you may call it Roasted chickpea or Gram powder. Traditionally, Chickpeas or Chana daal (Bengal gram) is roasted in hot sand and then grind to powder. The reason for using the sand is that the individual bits get roasted evenly.

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THE HISTORY

Legend says that The Magadh kingdom gave birth to this culinary wonder called ‘litti’. Known to be a Bihari specialty today, litti was a staple food in the court of Magadh and outside as well.

Litti rose to prominence when it played an important role in the War of Independence of 1857. Its simplicity was said to be the real reason that many including the likes of Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai made it their travel meal. Litti needed very less water and could be baked without any utensils, which meant lesser chance of being caught. But what really worked with litti was these could stay for as long as two to three days.

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Of course, litti underwent changes as new rulers came in. With the Mughal Empire, litti was served with shorbas and payas; with Britishers, curry came in and so forth. But it was the classic combination of litti-chokha, which was a mash of potato or char-grilled eggplant, onions and tomatoes, and chutney that survived. It is said that it was one of the favourites of Rani Laxmi Bai.

Today litti chokha is not only a favourite dish for people in Bihar and Jharkhand, but it has gained an international reputation. This delicious dish has found numerous fans in foreign countries as well.

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