|Course||Saja Pakhaḷa (fresh rice), Basi Pakhala (stale rice), Jira Pakhala (cumin rice), Dahi Pakhala (curd rice)|
|Place of origin||Indian subcontinent|
|Region or state||Odisha|
|Associated national cuisine||Odia cuisine|
|Serving temperature||Hot and cold|
|Main ingredients||Cooked rice|
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Pakhaḷa (Odia: ପଖାଳ Pakhāḷa, Odia pronunciation: [pɔkʰaɭɔ]) is an Odia cuisine, consisting of cooked rice washed or lightly fermented in water. The liquid part of the dish is known as Toraṇi (Odia: ତୋରାଣି ṭorāṇi). It is popular in the state of Odisha and its similar variants in the eastern regions like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, and the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura.
It is a preparation that is consumed during summer, although many people eat it throughout the year, especially for lunch. It is popular among the public as it provides a refreshing food source during the hot climate and replenishes the nutrients in the body. A traditional Odia dish, it is prepared with rice, curd, cucumber, cumin seeds, fried onions and mint leaves. It is popularly served with dry roasted vegetables—such as potato, brinjal, badi and saga bhaja or fried fish.
The term "pakhala" is derived from Pali word "pakhāḷitā" (Odia: ପଖାଳିତା) as well as Sanskrit word "Prakshāḷaṇa" (Sanskrit: प्रक्षाळन) which means "washed/to wash."
It is unknown when pakhaḷa was first included in the daily diet of Eastern India, but it was included in the recipe of Lord Jagannath Temple of Puri circa 10th cen. Pakhaḷa is eaten in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent (including Nepal and some parts of Myanmar). The word pakhaḷa was used in the Odia poems of Arjuna Das in his literary work Kaḷpalata (1520-1530 AD).
The different types of Pakhala classified as per preparation:
The dish is typically prepared with rice that is cooked and allowed to cool. Cook normal rice, then cool it. Pour water in a bowl and add rice to it. In a pan, heat a pinch of oil, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, dry red chili and fry well. Add this chhunka or tadka into the pakhala bowl with sour curd. One can add mint leaves and raw salt to enhance the taste. To add more zing, one may opt for fish fry or sukhua poda (dry fish fried), saga bhaja, badi chura (a regional food item made up of batter of urad or black gram by drying under sunshine as small nuts and then fried to serve) and much more. Cumin seeds are fried, ground into a fine powder and added to curd with coriander leaves and salt.It is sometimes served with a fish fry and spinach.
Pakhaḷa is slightly fermented rice. The rice is cooked, water is added with little bit of old pakhal (something similar to making curd using milk and old curd). Pakhaḷa tastes best when served after 8 to 12 hours after preparation; in this case, no old pakhal is required to be added to the rice as fermentation usually happens after 6 hours of keeping rice in water. The Pakhala by itself tastes a bit sour, but also paste of green chilli, green Mango and ginger is added to give the Pakhala a little bit hot and sweet flavour.
Generally burnt potato or aloo poda (boiled is also used) and other fried vegetables or fried fish is served with pakhaḷa. Various side dishes include dahi baigana, kakharu phula bhaja (fried pumpkin flowers), mashed potatoes (alu bharata), fried fish (macha bhaja), fried prawns (chingudi bhaja), sukhua (dried fish) and saga bhaja (fired leafy vegetables).
To promote the cuisine in modern era, Pakhala Dibas was declared on 20 March 2011 by popular initiative to be celebrated by Odias worldwide. Thus 20 March is celebrated every year as Pakhala Dibas (Pakhala Day) by Odias across the regions where people eat and promote the cuisine.