Pahala, a hamlet on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar is world-famous for its Rasagollas. There was a time this place was a home to more cows than humans and the milk production was in glut. At the same time the village was blessed with the skill of curdling milk and making 'Chenna'. Chenna is another name of Ricotta Cheese.
Showing great business acumen, they started using the chenna to create the famous rasagolla, the village is not famous for.
In Pahala, more than a hundred shops, lined on both sides of the national highway, do brisk business selling rasagollas. In fact, for many a traveller, it's a break point while travelling between the Twin Cities. The sight itself is a dream for those with a sweet tooth.
The rasagollas here are quite different from the white spongy ones found elsewhere. They are a gorgeous share of brown and take a longer time to prepare, compared to the white one. The moment you pop one in your mouth, it will slowly melt in your mouth.
The sweet culture of eating rasagolla is believed to be as old as the Jagannath Temple. People follow this 600-year-old tradition of rasagolla being offered to gods and goddesses in many mutts and temples in Odisha.
Pandit Suryanarayan Dash’s Sahitya Akademi award-winning ‘Odia Sahitya ra Itihasa‘, which mentions ‘Dandi Ramayan‘and its pointers to Odia food including rasagolla.
When the famous Ratha Yatra festival in Puri gets over and three deities return back to the temple from their Aunt’s house (Gundicha Temple), Lord Jagannath tries to entice his wife Devi Laxmi by offering rasagollas, for having left her behind in the temple.
So what to try in Pahala?
Yes! Rasagolla for sure, but in two different variation. The hot and cold to be exact. Soon after the Rasagollas are made on giant earthen chulha (cookstove), they are very soft and remain immersed in light hot syrup. And the taste of a hot Rasagolla is completely different than a cold one. And the best time to experience a hot rasagolla is in the evening.
Apart from rasagolla “Chhenapoda” is another thing to try here. It's the only Indian-cheese cake, where mixture of cheese, sugar and semolina is baked in wooden chulha by sealing the mixture with dry sal tree dry leaves as cover. The mixture is baked till the outer part is almost burnt thus caramelizing the sugar in it and bringing a distinct delicious flavor to mouth. You can see a nice color on top due to the sugar caramel. It's totally inviting.
These days they are making in different sizes too as per the demand. You can get a hint of smoky flavor while having that. There are confectionery shops in Bhubaneswar who make in electric oven, but the ones prepared in a clay-oven bring that extra smokiness which enhances the taste.
Korakhai It’s a traditional Odia sweet dish, which is believed to be the favourite prasad (offering) of Lord Lingaraja. It is also offered as prasad in other temples too. One can find the sweet abundantly in the old town. It’s basically caramalised "Lia". It acts as a refreshing snack and it’s not too sweet which makes it very palatable.