Bhubaneswar: In an age where multinational fast food chains are trampling over desi food outlets with their marketing campaigns, Arnapurna Dash has stood the ground with her gastronomic pancakes.
The 47-year-old chef de cuisine of Mausi Aarisa Dokan has been engaged in this business for the last 19 years. It was in 1998, after having suffered from turbulent economic times, Arnapurna along with her husband Anil Kumar Dash headed for Bhubaneswar from Rajkanika in Kendrapara, with a hope for a better future. Little did she know that the venture which she soon was about to start at Unit-IV in the city for the couple’s two square meals would make them earn around Rs 50,000 per month.
Orissa POST interacted with the quadragenarian entrepreneur who has become a fine example of women empowerment with her delectable pancakes.
“It was a tea stall, not even a proper shop. Later, with an aim to diversify our business, I suggested my husband with the idea of selling pancakes,” a gleeful Arnapurna said.
Narrating her daring journey, she added that their pancakes venture (Arnapurna and her husband) started receiving positive response from the customers within a few weeks. “In a week or two, we had some regular customers even. That was quite an achievement, wasn’t that?” Arnapurna said.
But it was not exactly the run-of-the-mill pithas’, as they are colloquially known, recipe which catapulted Arnapurna into fame rather it were the Saptapuri pithas which set the cash register running. The said pitha is a very famous delicacy which is offered to the Trinity— Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra and Maa Subhadra on the occasion of Chitalagi Amavasya.
Arnapurna has employed two women namely Sukanti Samal and Swarnalata Sahoo at her outlet. “I feel kind of happy and proud too that during all these years, directly or indirectly, I’ve been able to provide employment opportunities to around 400 women,” Arnapurna added. On an average, Arnapurna pays a monthly allowance of Rs 10,000 to her employees.
The craze for Arnapurna’s pithas is so huge that the officials of Srimandir have placed the order themselves, in bulks. Moreover, it’s the devotees who go gaga over it and order the pithas on the pious occasion of Saptapuri Amavasya.
Apart from Saptapuri pithas, Arnapurna also makes Aarisa, Kakara, Budhachakuli, Saru Chakuli, Haldipatra pitha and Karanji.
She added, “In our Odia culture, after marriage, when a girl leaves for her in-laws’ house, her family gifts her with Bhara, a ceremonial goodbye- gift. I do get orders for Bhara pitha too,” a chuckling Arnapurna said. She comfortably mints around Rs 50,000 from the Bhara orders only.
During Raja festival, her shop witnesses serpentine queues from 6 AM itself. “By 10’o clock all my pancakes are sold off,” she added.
For Arnapurna, she wants this pitha delicacy to survive “the toughest times.” “Big corporations with their fancy advertisements are indubitably affecting our businesses. I do fear whether the traditional food cuisines can survive their aggressive marketing campaign,” she added. She hoped that she could teach this age-old cuisine to the present generation “so that they could have employment opportunities.”
Buyer Ramesh Padhi, a resident of Unit-IV, said, “Arnapurna mausi has become synonymous with mouth-watering pithas. I am a regular here and I must say that she is our final destination for Pitha.”
“I hope that pitha make a comeback to the Odia kitchens with aplomb,” she concluded.
Rice: 1 Kilogram
Jaggery: 2 Kilogram
White sesame seeds: 100 grams
You need to soak one kilogram of rice in a big bowl for four hours before draining the water. Then dry and grind rice to make powder.
Prepare a syrup with two kilograms of jaggery in a big pot and keep stirring it and ensure the syrup does not get burnt.
When the gruel assumes chocolate-colour add the rice flour along with white sesame seeds and mix well. Make sure you do not keep the rice flour for the next day.
The powder has to be mixed immediately in the jaggery syrup, otherwise, the whole recipe will be wasted.
Let the syrup get cool and then make dough out of it.
Flatten the dough balls and fry them in hot oil.
Chenna: 400 grams
Coconut (grated): 400 grams,
Jaggery: 500 grams,
Ghee and Maida
Mix maida with hot ghee, water and knead well.
Make a stuffing of Chenna with jaggery and add cardamom powder.
Now, make puris and add the stuffing and roll out another puri.
Repeat up to seven layers and deep fry in hot ghee.
Chaitali Shome, OP