Pithas are a variety of food similar to pancakes, dumplings or fritters, originating from the Indian subcontinent, common in Bangladesh and India. Pitha can be sweet or savoury, and usually made from a dough or batter, which is then steamed, fried or griddled. Very few varieties are oven-baked or boiled, and most are unleavened and cooked on a stovetop (or equivalent). Some versions may have a filling, garnish, or sauce. Few may be set or shaped after cooking. They are typically eaten as a snack with chai, or as treats during special occasions (similar to mithai).
Pithas are primarily made from a batter of rice flour or wheat flour, which is shaped and optionally filled with sweet or savory ingredients. When filled, the pitha's pouch is called a khol (literally "container") and the fillings are called pur.
For stuffed vegetable pithas, ingredients such as cauliflower, cabbage, radish, or potato are usually fried, baked, or steamed, and then mashed, cooled, and formed into small balls to stuff into the pithas.
In Odisha, pitha are a group of festive preparations, usually prepared on ritual days as part of an Osa or Brata. Pithas are part of the Mahaprasada and are prepared every day by the Mahasuaras in the Rosasala of the Jagannatha Temple, Puri. They have been prepared in the same method for several millennia in the temple kitchen. Several pithas owe their origin to the state. Some common pithas are:
Poda Pitha (ପୋଡ଼ପିଠା) : Semi-burnt rice-based Pitha with coconut that is sweet to taste, offered to Jagannatha in Ratha Jatra.
Kakara Pitha (କାକରା ପିଠା) : Prepared during most festivals, it consists of deep-fried Suji stuffed with rich coconut stuffing.
Arisa Pitha (ଆରିସା ପିଠା) : Rice-based Pitha topped with sesame seeds, ritually prepared in the month of Margasira during Manabasa Gurubara (Lakhmi Puja). Merchants Tapassu and Bhallika from Odisha offered this to the Buddha himself as a token of respect from their land. This leads to the fact that this ancient pitha was prepared in Odisha from at least 2000 years ago.
In Assam, pitha is a special class of rice preparation generally made only on special occasions like Bihu. Assamese pithas are often made from bora saul, a special kind of glutinous rice, or xaali saul, or sun-dried rice. Some pithas commonly found in Assam include the following:
ঘিলা পিঠা Ghila pitha (lit. "knee pitha"): a fried pitha made from bora saul and jaggery. Salt can also be used instead of jaggery for a savory variant.
চুঙা পিঠা Sunga pitha: a special pitha made with both xaali saul and bora saul, which are mixed with water and jaggery and churned thoroughly before being placed in a young bamboo tube corked with banana leaf and roasted in fire. The resulting tube-shaped cake is then cut into pieces and served with hot milk.
উহোৱা পিঠা Uhuwa pitha: Rice flour of Xaali Saul and Bora Saul is mixed with jaggery or salt and water and churned thoroughly. The paste is rolled into small balls and flattened and then boiled in water. It is served with tea and also can be eaten with milk.
কেটলি পিঠা Ketli pitha: The method of preparation, as well as the substance, is as same as tekeli pitha, but a kettle is used here instead of the earthenware. That is the reason it is called Ketli pitha (Ketli in Assamese means kettle). Here the kettle-cork is kept upside down on the kettle and the substance is put on it. It usually takes less time to be baked than tekeli pitha takes.
তিল পিঠা Til pitha: This is made with sesame and rice. The rice flour is spread in a circle on a pan, basically made of cast iron and heated. The roasted sesame seeds are placed in the circle along with sugar or jaggery and rolled. These are cylindrical shaped, more like a cigar.
তেল পিঠা Tel pitha this is a pitha which is fried in oil.
নাৰিকল দিয়া পিঠা বা নাৰিকলৰ পিঠা Narikol diya pitha
মাছ পিঠা Mach Pitha is fish shape samosa stuffed with fish mince
মুগের পুলি Muger puli
বিস্কুট পিঠা Biscuit pitha is a deep fried cookies. Generally in different shape and colors.
দুধ পুলি Dudh puli
Nakshi Pitha (lit. “The Pitha of artistic patterns”) is a piece of special dough sculpted into art via a bamboo stick or a small metal plate moulded into a v shape, this Pitha is a beautiful piece of art originating from the rural part of Bangladesh.
পাটিসাপটা পিঠা Paṭi shapta or Patibola পাটিবলা (thin crepes stuffed with jaggery and coconut or kheer)
তালের বিবি খান পিঠা Taler Bibi khan Pitha is a type of Bibi khan Pitha and a type of Taler pitha.
তালের ভাপা পিঠা Taler Vapa Pitha (lit. “steamed palm Pitha”) is a type of Taler Pitha and Bhapa piṭha.
গোলাপ পিঠা Golap Pitha is a rose shaped deep fried crispy pitha
মুগ পাকন Mug pakon is a Pitha that has artistic symbols moulded on top and bottom of it and it’s soft since it‘s soaked with shira ( sugar water with cardamom mixed with it).
গোকুল পিঠা Gokul Pitha Is a special dough fried and then soaked with a special type of shira.
Chui Pitha or Chutki Pitha (Traditional Old Dhaka Pitha)
চিতই পিঠা/আস্কে পিঠা Aske Pitha/ Chitoi Pitha is a pancake like dish made with batter, to make a Chitoi Pitha you need to have a special Chitoi Pitha pan where the batter is generally dropped for he mould to form. Chitoi Pitha Is generally eaten with kacha morich bhorta and other spicy bhortas.
পাতা পিঠা Pata pitha (lit. “leaf Pitha”) is a type of leaf shaped Nokshi pitha.
শামুক পিঠা Shamuk pitha is a snail shaped Nokshi Pitha
মেরা পিঠা/দইল্যা পিঠা Mera pitha/doila Pitha are steamed dumpling made with rice flour, ginger and spice such turmeric, Jaggery
জামাই পিঠা/চিপস পিঠা Jamai pitha/Chips pitha (lit. “husband Pitha”) is a batter which is moulded into a shape of a flour, sundried and fried. Taste like papad or chips. Often different in colors. This Pitha originated in Bangladesh.
ফুলঝুড়ি পিঠা /ফুলকুচি পিঠা Fuljhuri pitha or Fulkuchi pitha is a rosette like fried dough. Always made with rice flour.
There are thousands of different pithas in every region of Bengal, these are just a few examples.
In Bhojpuri Region
There is a tradition of preparing Pitha on the occasion of Godhan in Bhojpuri region. It is prepared with soaked and then ground rice and pulses.