It is no secret that food is important in India. It is such an integral part of life in India that the country’s cuisine has blended with its culture, traditions and ethos. Look at India state-by-state and you will see distinct flavours, aromas and tastes as you move across this vast expanse of land. Look a little deeper and you will discover differences in cooking styles and techniques as you move between urban and rural locations – even household to household.
The cuisine of Bihar is no different. It is predominantly vegetarian (Bihari society being influenced by Hindu and Buddhist values), but meat is eaten (chicken and mutton are the most common) and fish is also enjoyed (in part due to the fact that the Ganges, Sone and Gandak rivers flow through the state).
But it’s not just in the Indian state of Bihar that the cuisine is enjoyed. Bihari people originated in Bihar, but can be found in locations across the globe. As well as being eaten in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra (amongst others), Bihari cuisine is also enjoyed in Nepal, Pakistan, Mauritius, Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago.
Traditionally, Biharis have been considered a down-trodden part of India’s society. They have long been seen as illiterate, corrupt law-breakers who carry out the menial jobs that others don’t want to do. This prejudice is slowly dissipating, but it is this cultural status of Biharis within the country is just one element of what has defined the cuisine.It has also been shaped by its history, geography and economic status.
One consistent element of Bihari cuisine is the use of mustard oil and panchporan (a five-spice blend of cumin seed, mustard seed, aniseed, fenugreek and black cumin seed).
Wherever you are living in the world, a traditional way to spend Saturday lunchtime is eating khichdi with friends and family. Often hailed as India’s favourite comfort food, khichdi is a dish made from rice and lentils. It is also believed to be the inspiration for the Anglo-Indian creation of kedgeree. It is a staple of Bihari cuisine and a dish that has become a much-loved part of family life.
For a lighter culinary alternative, there is litti – a popular snack which consists of balls of wheat, sattu and spices which are filled with ghee. As well as being eaten as food on the go, in western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh litti is also served as an accompaniment to a larger meal. Litti feature alongside murgh korma (a mild chicken curry) and chokha (a mixture of roasted and pureed aubergine, tomato and potato) to create a well-rounded meal.
Sweets are also an important part of Bihari cuisine and in direct contrast to the syrupy sweets of Bengal, Bihari sweets tend to be dry.
If this has inspired you to sample some of India’s wonderful cuisine then you should treat yourself to a trip to one of London’s popular brasseries. Whether you live in the capital or are planning a weekend away, it is hard to beat the authentic taste of India. Our brasseries offer delicious meals, street food and sweets at a price that won’t bust the budget.