Located on the eastern coast of India, Puri is one of the main pilgrimage centre for Hindus.
Just a few kilometres before you enter the temple town of Puri, there is a small village, Chandanpur, famous for its breakfast of Chura Kadamb with Dalma.
We stopped at Hotel Padmalaya this very meal. Chura (flattened rice) is soaked in water, kneaded like dough and mixed with rabri and chhena. I have grown up eating chura with dahi. This was the first time I tried chura with chhena and rabri. Truly, a heavenly combination. Chura kadamb is served with dalma – lentils cooked with lots of vegetable. It was one of the best breakfasts we had in Odisha!
Next we stopped at Battamangla hotel for Singhara and Dalma with a cup of chai. The chai was quite different from any of the other places in Odisha. It was topped with a thick layer of rabri. We also visited the kitchen and oversaw the preparation of dalma and singhara. Singhara is equivalent to samosa in Delhi but the filling is quite different here. The Singhara here had cubical size potatoes tempered with panch phoran stuffed in it. Honestly, we liked it a little better than delhi style samosas. Dalma is something which can be relished with anything. In Bhubaneswar we had it with poori, in Chandanpur with chura kadamb and in Puri with singhara.
Finally after making our entry into the temple town, we straightaway headed to Jagannath temple. Camera/mobile phones are not allowed inside the temple complex. After paying our obeisance at the main temple, we took a Rs 5 ticket for a tour of temple kitchen. One cannot enter the main cooking area but can see the cooking from the wall windows. The food is cooked on a wood fire. There are around 700 cooks employed by the temple to prepare the meals. There are separate group of people to cut the vegetables. Once the prasad is cooked, it is sold at Anand Bazar, a separate space in the temple complex. We tried some of the dishes and loved them! The experience here overpowers the taste of the food.
At the western gate of the temple, Shankar sweets is the most popular sweet shop. We tried some of the traditional dishes here. The main prasad at Puri is Khaja. It comprises of a layered fried white flour dough soaked in sugar syrup, and is super yummy!
The oldest shop in the area is Nrusingha Sweets. Established in 1945, the shop is in Khajapati or Khaja Lane, Balishahi. There are many shops named after Nrusingha sweets.
In the evening, we went to Puri beach near swargdwar to try out some sea food. There are lines of stalls selling rolls, fried sea fish, crab, lobster, pomfret etc. They first wrap the fish in turmeric and salt, and half fry it. Hereafter the fish is finally wrapped in gunpowder and deep fried. The result is an excelled salty crispy fried fish. We tried the fried pomfret with chilly sauce.
Close to the beach, jhalmudi – a mix snack made with puffed rice is commonly available.
On the way back to the temple in the evening from swargdwar, we spotted a shop by the name Bula sweets. He was making fresh sev and boondi. It reminded us of our childhood days. We used to eat sev boondi and dahi. Sev is savoury fried chickpea flour noodles. It goes well with sweet and syrupy boondi, made again with chickpea flour, and dipped in sugar syrup. We also tried gaja – a close cousin of khaja- the only difference being it is not layered, but is just cubical shaped refined flour dough, deep fried and dunked in sugar syrup. It was moist and flaky inside but crunchy on the outside.
Outside the main entrance of Jagannath temple, there is a food cart that sells matar ka paani in the evening. It is the broth of chickpeas seasoned with spices. The chickpeas are boiled on a wooden fire which adds a smoky flavour to the broth. It reminded us of lotanji chole kulche shop in Old Delhi. On a plate, the cart owner first crushes the black and green chillies, adds some broth of the chickpeas and sprinkles it with spices. Finally, it is served in steel bowls. It was a bit spicy but indeed flavourful!
After having matar ka paani we tried papuri or malai poori at one of the sweet shops in khaja street. Simply put, it is the thick cream of buffalo milk sprinkled with sugar. Buffalo milk is used because of its high fat content. Once the milk is boiled, it is laid to rest so that the cream is formed on the top. Once cooled, the milk is boiled again, and the process is repeated till a thick layer of cream is formed. Finally, with the help of twigs the cream is picked and put on a dried leaf plate- sprinkled with sugar and cut into pieces.
Our last stop in Puri was Chungwah restaurant- the only restaurant in Puri run by a Chinese family. The restaurant was packed by the time we reached there. We were so full with all the street food that we just ordered chungwah special soup- a mix of prawns and chicken soup and cantonese style noodles served with half fried eggs.
On the way back to Bhubaneswar, we stopped briefly at Konark, the sun temple, finally making our journey to the last stop – Nimapada, the birthplace of Chhena Jhilli. The name of the shop we visited here is Patitapaban sweets stall, started by Artabandhu Sahoo. Chhena jhilli is deep fried cottage cheese soaked in sugar syrup with a hint of cardamom in it.
The perfect sweet note to end our journey in Puri!