A￼ Forest Feast : Part 2 : Entrée
Entrée : PITTHAS
( Dumpling Appetisers )
More specifically :
DAAL PITTHA and TAAL PITTHA
STEAMED RICE DUMPLINGS
Savoury Split Gram Filling
Sweet Sugar Palm Fruit – Kernel Filling
The hors de ouvrès are steaming away in a dark cavernous kitchen area
Lit by two large wood fire ovens topped with ample steaming cauldrons
In which are cooking soft , moist , rice-flour dumplings, with two kinds of fillings
One , a spicy , savoury wet- ground split -gram filling
And the other , a filling made of bitter-sweet sugar-palm fruit , milk , coconut , jaggery , and cardamom
Seeing how ravenous the marchers are
after their long march since the last watch of the previous night
the hors d’ œuvre are handed out at once : the all – time favourite steamed snacks
Or appetisers , called Pitthas , or Rice Flour dumplings
Two sweet, two savoury soft balls of deliciousness each
Still warm and moist from the wood – fired steamer
Served in Sal- leaf Donas or conical cups
With room for relishes as well
The savoury Daal Pitthas are filled with soaked , wet – ground kernels
of split Bengal Gram
Ghee-fried with roasted cumminseed , finely chopped ginger ,
green chillies ,salt and turmeric ,
Placed in a pocket made out of the fine flexible paste of moistened salted rice flour ,
Wrapped in tender banana leaves
and steamed in a capacious old metal steamer
Still simmering away on a woodfire
Blackened with years of absorbing thick , dark , and fragrant woodsmoke .
The Savoury Dal Pitthas come with a relish of fresh green coriander leaf and groundnut chutney .
The sweet Taal Pitthas , melting in the mouth with a gooey centre ,
of bitter- sweet sugar -palm fruit-kernel paste
mixed with dark treacly jaggery dissolved in milk
enriched with dessicated coconut and creamy-white coconut shavings ,
are redolent of delicate green cardamom pods,
bursting with flavourful clumps of shiny , chewy , waxy , black cardamom seeds.
The Taal Pitthas are served with a smear of jaggery and coconut relish .￼
The Pitthas taste like Manna from Heaven , and the marchers are very hungry
but nobody asks for more : it would be impolite
The guests content themselves with long draughts of cold mountain spring water
From the playful little stream rilling past the Sal Tree Grove
Scented and infused with the fragrance and goodness
Of healing herbs and leafy ferns growing along it’s banks
Enriched and fortified with micronutrients
From the trace- minerals in the rich highland rocks
and rare earths through which it passes,
This is not water : it is the elixir of life and youth and vigour .
No wonder it tastes like nectar to the hungry and weary marchers ,
Their appetites whetted even more with such exquisite starters.
What’s next ? ask their hopeful glances
Directed at the lithe young serving lads and graceful young serving girls
Busily rushing up and down from the cooking area
The hosts merely smile , for they know well
That there are many treats still in store.
The marchers have no other go
But to possess their souls in patience .