Odia cuisine has many original dishes that are not found elsewhere. Besara is one of them. Not to say that it is completely unique as Bengali cuisine also has some dishes which are quite similar to besara.
What separates besara from regular ghanta curry is the use of mustard paste and mustard oil in the preparation. Sometimes, only mustard oil is enough to qualify a dish as besara. Here we are going to talk of vegetable besara. You an use any seasonal vegetable you have, in fact the ingredient list is almost the same as ghanta curry.
- 2 Tbsp Indian mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 dried red chile
- Any seasonal vegetable you like, cut to small cubes
- 1 Indian bay leaf
- 1/2 cup grated coconut
- 2-3 Tbsp jaggery/sugar
- 1/2 tsp Panch phoron (Odis dry spice mix)
- 1 tsp mustard oil
- Ghee for frying
- salt to taste
- First let’s make the mustard paste. Soak the mustard seeds in water for 15 minutes. Then grind all the spices listed together with enough water to form a paste of pourable consistency. I find that mortar and pestle gives better texture to the paste compared to a spice grinder.
- Heat ghee in a deep pan on high flame and bloom the pancha phoron.
- Once the seeds start to sputter, add your vegetables to the pan and enough water to cover them. You do not want to sear the vegetables.
- Add the mustard paste, the gated coconut and the jaggery/sugar. You want a slightly sweet taste for the dish that is not overpowering. Season the vegetable with salt as needed.
- Reduce heat to medium and cook till the vegetables are almost done. Be sure to stir from time to time to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the mustard oil slowly when the vegetables are almost done.
- Adjust for salt and serve hot with puris.
Besara is one of the Chappan Bhog of Lord Jagannath and can be found the year around in Puri. Its distinctive taste to mild heat always reminds me of temple food as it is served in many temple sponsored open kitchens.
There is a non vegetarian version also available if you crave seafood. The fish is added separately after being cooked. However the distinctiveness of the dish is from the fact that the fish is actually ground to a paste before adding to the dish.
I hope you are well and safe during this quarantine and implore you to keep following social distancing procedures as COVID-19 is dangerous to us all. Just keep yourself busy and keep being the awesome people you are.