Both Ranchi and Hazaribagh were a part of Bihar before it was split into the two different states and Hazaribagh became a part of the newly formed state of Jharkhand.
One of us is a Bihari that has had the luck of spending a large part of the summer holidays of her life living and traveling through both states. All that travelling meant a lot of eating and exploring the fantastic foods on offer in both Bihar and Jharkhand.
For ease and because in our memory, we can’t separate the two, we’re listing the best of both states here and bringing you a list of what we love and think you must try of Bihar & Jharkhand’s food culture:
Makhana: These little white pearls are a very versatile fruit. You can use them to make dessert, a sabji, chutneys and the list goes on. We love them in kheer with their smooth texture and they make a fantastic movie time snack. Roast them in a little oil or ghee, sprinkle some salt and pepper and the little crispy puffs are ready to eat.
Sattu: There’s no way that you wouldn’t have heard of Sattu if you have Bihari friends. This magic ingredient can be used in either savoury or sweet dishes. You can use it to stuff parathas, make Sattu ki Kachori, the famous Litti Chokha, Sattu ke Laddoo and even a sweet and sour drink. Sattu ke Laddoo are made by roasting sattu till it turns brown and pouring the roasted sattu into a bowl, adding some ghee, a pinch of salt and some sugar. Combine everything and roll into laddoos. It’s that simple.
Rugada: The local mushroom Rugada is found only during the monsoon season in Bihar. They sprout from the earth with the first shower. They are tiny and white and have a lovely black marrow inside. Rugada ka Sabji is a lovely dish of complex textures and flavours hard to find anywhere else. So when you’re in Bihar, be sure to try it for the crunch of the top the rugada, the earthy taste of the black core and a sweet savouriness from the onions.
Khajoor: I still remember my grandma kneading the dough for khajoor in a huge brass vessel before Teej or Diwali and the lovely dough would be cast in moulds with intricate patterns. This lightly sweetened flaky biscuit is sweetened with dried dates and that’s how it gets its name. You’ll find these all year round at mithai shops at every corner.
Nimki: Diamond shaped, crisp, light and crunchy with a mild hint of kalonji (onion seed), it’s what you are welcomed with in a Bihari household. A lovely snack to go with tea or when you’re feeling a little 4 pm peckishness. Bring these back with you as you’ll want them on hand to snack on.
Lal Mirchi ka Achaar: Made with gorgeous, bright red chilis, picked fresh in the winter months and pickled to last for many months after. This pickle is an intense experience, not for the mild-hearted and delicate-tongued. Fresh red chilis are slit and filled with a mix of their own seeds, mustard & fennel seeds and spices and left to soak up the sun before being pickled in mustard oil. A delicious combination with the khajoor and can liven up any meal.
Ghugni: A dish made of black chana, red chana or even white or green peas. These are cooked gently to softness and enveloped in a masala
Dal Puri: No Diwali meal is complete without Dal Puri in a Bihari home. Lentils which have been soaked, sauteed, spiced and coarsely ground are stuffed in a tiny puris and deep fried. Dal puri and kheer make a fantastic combination.
Tilkut: A winter specialty , jaggery and crushed sesame seeds are roasted together in an earthen pot before being beaten into compressed, burgeoning discs of deliciousness. Tilkut is a close cousin of Gajak and Brittle, although this version is slightly softer and more crumbly. There is a beautiful, mildly bitter crunch of the crushed sesame mingled with the caramel sweetness of jaggery.
Atom Bomb: Sounds ominious but it’s not a nuclear weapon. This Atom Bomb is a speciality of Barhaiya (a small town in Bihar). This is a gigantic Pantua (ok Gulab Jamun for the non Biharis) stuffed with unsweetened mawa and is a must try.
Bihari Mutton: We’re not going to say anything except that you have to try it to believe it. This recipe makes a delicious, fragrant, fantastic mutton. Try it!
Pittha: Aloo ki Sabzi and Pittha is one of the best meals we’ve ever had. The dish is wholesome, healthy and delicious. Pittha is a kind of dumpling made of coarsely ground rice flour, stuffed with mildly spiced lentils and steamed. To eat them, pour some ghee over them when they’re hot, spoon some Aloo ki Sabzi over them and dive in.
Parwal ki Mithai: The most common reaction to this is uggh! But this mithai is usually the first to sell out in mithai shops. The succulent slightly sweetened parwal with a delicious mawa in the center is a perfect, unexpected combination that will surprise you.
Aloo Ishtew: A quintessential Bihari dish of baby potatoes cooked in onions and mustard. It’s so delicious that you need to try this even before you visit Bihar so here’s a recipe.
Kathal ke Pattice: Long before meat substitutes such as Soya nuggets were favourites of vegetarians, Biharis were using raw Jackfruit to create delicious vegetarian Shammi Kebabs and using them in Pulaos as aThese are a Holi specialty in Bihar but delicious anytime you can find raw Jackfruit to make these. Try them!