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Maithil cuisine, also known as Mithila cuisine, is a part of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. It is the traditional cooking style of Maithils residing in the Mithila region of India and Nepal.
Maithil cuisine comprises a broad repertoire of rice, wheat, fish and meat dishes and the use of various spices, herbs and natural edibles. The cuisine is categorized by types of food for various events, from banquets, to weddings and parties, festival foods, and travel foods.
The service style of the cuisine has little similarity with that of the French table d'hôte; all preparations are served together on a platter and consumed at once. The staple food is bhat (boiled rice), dal, roti, tarkari and achar, prepared from rice, lentils, wheat flour, vegetables, and pickles. The traditional cooking medium is mustard oil. Panchforan is a common blend of five spices: jeer, ajwain, mangrail, sounf and methi, and is akin to the panchforan of Bengal.
While Hindus do not eat beef, they will drink cow and buffalo milk. An old saying shows the importance of milk products in Maithil cuisine: “Aadi ghee aur ant dahi, oyi bhojan k bhojan kahi” (A meal is the meal that starts with ghee and ends with yogurt).
Vegetarian food like saagak jhor (leafy vegetables with very thin gravy), as well as vegetables such as bitter gourd, ladyfinger, are eaten. Due to the large amount of root vegetables grown such as potato, yam, and khamarua, they are used in a number of preparations such as sanna (mashed vegetables, particularly root vegetables), bhajia (fried vegetables in mustard oil with salt, turmeric powder and green chillies or chilli powder), and tarua (marinated or coated deep-fried vegetables). Daail-jhimni consists of fried ribbed gourd cooked with lentil and cereals. Thadia saagak teeman is a simple meal with red spinach and lentils eaten with chapati or rice. Similar to a puree, teeman is made through the process of ghontod, manual churning. It can also be made with paneer or in a non-vegetarian style with shrimp added.
Machh-bhat is a fish curry and steamed rice. Machhak jhor is a traditional fish curry used in many events with the exception of some religious festivals.
Dried mango strips are widely used to give tartness in various gravies. Some sauces and gravies include:
They would often start their day with a cup of steaming hot chai served with chura and ghugni ( black grams sautèed with onions, green chillies and other spices).
Poori – aloo dum, a potato dish, is a breakfast item common to have along with a sweet dish, jilebi (also known as jalewi, roundels of deep-fried fermented flour batter dipped in sugar syrup). Apart from that there are several other items that are common for breakfast including chini wala roti, pua, pachhua pu (flour pancake), and suzi ke halwa (semolina porridge), mith makhaan, makhan ke bhooja (salted makhan).
Some snacks include:
Sweet foods are also popular. Varieties of kheer are a common dessert, including makhank kheer which is prepared with lotus seeds, milk and dried nuts). Malpua is popular and has a traditional Mithila preparation that differs from that of north India. Both are prepared from a flour batter; in north India after deep frying they are dipped in sugar syrup, while in Mithila the batter itself is sweetened and it is a dry preparation which can be stored for two to three days. There are also sweet preserves made out of fruit pulps such as ammath (layered mango pulp sun-dried and cut into small chunks), kumhar ke murabba, papita ke murabba, and dhatrikak murabba. Laddoo, khaja, chandrakala, rasgulla, and other desserts are common. Sakrauri ( boondi in condensed milk topped with nuts ) would be another dessert maithils love to have after an hefty meal. An introduction to Mithila cuisine would remain incomplete without a reference to paan (betel leaves). A sweet betel leaf is flavoured with ingredients such as sweet fennel, cardamom, clove, rose petals, and sugar crystal and eaten as a dessert.
Some traditional Maithil dishes are:
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