Come new year, and I wallow in honey-sweet nostalgia.
I yearn for that perfume of new rice.
The ritual of taking a handful of ivory grains in your hand, closing your eyes, bringing your hand slowly to your nose and taking a deep breath.
The smell redolent of the earth and the water leaves you mesmerised.
(So what if the dust in the rice leaves you with paroxysms of sneezing ?)
And then you lazily open your eyes and look at the expression on the farmers face.
That million watt smile on your face has conveyed the approval already.
He blushes in pride.
I hanker after the scent of notun gur.
The customary swirl to the kolshi of notun gur. A drop of ambrosia on our open palm.
You lick it clean and stretch your palm for another drop of nectar.
And then another.
While the taste buds are left enchanted.
I miss Grandmas notun gurer payesh.
Especially the first payesh of the season that she, despite the frailty of age and blurring vision, insisted on cooking.
A sublime symphony of fragrant new rice and notun gur. Stewed in milk that had patiently waited on the fatigued fire for hours.
To be offered to the Gods.
I long for Doodhpuli.
The sticky sweet jaggery coconut mixture, just right.
Cocooned in pillowy rice flour cases.
Stewed languorously in milk.
A drizzle of nolen gur.
Food heaven !!!
And on some days, Maa prepares variants of the doodhpuli to tease our palates even further. A sublime Sujir Doodhpuli. Or a heavenly Chirer Doodhpuli, the fragrance of the humble ubiquitous chire, the clear standout hero.
I crave for Deepika’s moms Pithas. That she would unfailingly pack for us when Deepika would return to the hostel post Magh Bihu.
And we would leap on to the boxes, like famished lions on unsuspecting prey.
What’s this ? I ask taking a bite off a Pitha that tastes unlike anything I have ever savoured.
Sutuli Pitha, do you like it ?
Oh, it’s sheer love, I respond. The taste buds continue to sing in delight as a potpourri of flavour undertones play out.
And what’s that stuffing ?
Take a guess.
I try, nothing springs to mind.
Black sesame and jaggery, Deepika finally comes to my rescue.
My first brush with Sutuli Pitha.
An affair that continues unabated to the day.
Sutuli Pitha. A delectable jaggery and black sesame stuffing. Cocooned in sticky rice parcels. Fried to a gorgeous golden. Served with a generous drizzle of notun gur.
This is sheer love !!!
Sutuli Pitha, from Assam
- 1.5 cup bora rice or sticky roce
- 1/2 cup black sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup khejur patali or date palm jaggery
- oil for frying
- Take 2 tbsp of jaggery in a small mixing bowl, carefully pour 1/2 a cup of warm water, give it a stir till the jaggery dissolves.
- Soak the rice for 3-4 odd hours. Drain from water, dry. Blitz the rice to a powder, pass through a fine sieve. What we need here is fine rice flour (a coarse powder doesn’t do the magic !!)
- Take the rice flour in a bowl . Add the dissolved jaggery, a little at a time, knead till the dough is soft and smooth. Cover, keep aside for 15 mins or so.
- Lightly roast the black sesame seeds, grind coarsely. Add the remaining jaggery to the black sesame powder, give it a hearty mix.
- Take a dough ball on your palm , press it gently with your thumb to form an oval cup. Place a small portion of the til-jaggery mixture in the middle.
- Gently bring the edges to cover the stuffing and shape as shown in the picture . Repeat for the remaining dough.
- Heat oil in a Kadhai, deep fry till golden . Serve warm with nolen gur.