There is hardly any person who has come to mega city Dhaka from a rural area but does not have a sweet memory of eating pitha, steamed or fried cake, made by mother in the clay oven in the winter morning or evening with the new date juice!
Therefore, apart from sweetness of the taste of winter pitha, the seasonal food has a close connection with people’s nostalgia.
Long before the bone-chilling cold has spread its paw, winter pitha has become available in all the corners and alleys of the city, thanks to the seasonal pitha makers.
Although these cakes do not have mother’s touch, there is the care of urban business in them.
Reminiscing the good old days, people are happily indulging in eating pitha made on oil stove or clay oven on the sides of busy roads at different neighbourhoods.
“Since I left my village home and came to the city for earning bread and butter, tasting homemade pitha has become difficult. But there are alternative options as I can take pitha from roadside shops. But the price of pitha has increased significantly this year,” Mojammel Hossain, a private company employee, said while eating pitha from a roadside shop in Kuril.
The roadside pitha shops or carts offer variety of pitha, ranging from the ever popular bhapa pitha to the slightly lesser known puli pitha. The prices start from Tk10 but there are many carts which sell pithas for around Tk 25 to Tk30.
The discussion of roadside winter pitha will remain incomplete if the name of chitoi pitha is not mentioned though it is one of the pithas that are not winter exclusive.
Yet chitoi pitha is probably the most common and popular roadside pitha during the winter season. The fluffy and decently large pitha and a wide range of bhorta, including morich bhorta, cheap shutki bhorta, chingri shutki bhorta, dal bhorta, dhonia bhorta and the shorisha bhorta make it a perfect evening snack.
Another comparatively common roadside pitha is teller pitha or doba pitha. With moderate sweet, soft texture of this fried pitha is greasy and so is its flavour.
Chapti pitha has also got popularity in the recent years. Amalgamation of rice powder and coriander leaves gives it a different taste.
Asked about the increased price of pitha this year, Kuril’s roadside pitha maker Aklima Khatun said, “We are completely helpless. Price of kerosene oil has increased Tk 40 per litre. Besides, other ingredients, including rice powder, have also become expensive.”
There are posh pitha shops in different areas of the capital where pithas are slightly expensive but these have an impressive selection of pithas.
Malpua, puli and patishapta are available there along with the aforementioned pitha.
An alternative to teler pitha is the malpua pitha. It is also fried in ghee. It is technically similar to teller pitha but it has a number of extra flavourings like fennel seeds, pepper corns and even bananas.
Puli pithas have a large variety of fillings, including coconut, jaggery and sometimes even chicken, shutki or vegetable. When served hot, puli pitha seems unparalleled in taste.
Patishapta is probably the testiest among the winter pitha. The rolled-shaped pitha is made of rice flour, stuffed with kheer, coconut, date palm jaggery mixture flavoured with ghee and cardamom. Every bite of this delicate and soft pitha gives the foodies a celestial experience.
Shafqat Bin Shahriar, a pitha lover who along with his family members came to Pithaghor, a posh pitha shop at Bailey Road, said, “It is difficult to arrange all necessary ingredients for making pitha due to busy schedule of our family members. Pitha shops have reduced our troubles as we can taste a great variety of winter pitha here.”
Be it roadside pitha shops or posh ones, the seasonal business of pitha making is helping Bengalis remain connected with the tradition. And of course, it gives the low-income pitha makers a good opportunity to earn some money.