Call it ‘panta bhaat’, ‘poita bhaat’ or ‘pakhala bhaat’ — as this dish breaks the Internet after its debut on ‘MasterChef Australia’ season 13 finale, we look at the many ways to enjoy this simple meal enhanced by exotic side dishes
Kishwar Chowdhury from Bangladesh wowed the judges of the recently-wrapped MasterChef Australia season 13 with her panta bhaat, a simple, poor man’s dish popular in the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. Chowdhury also presented this dish the traditional way, with side dishes of a home-style aloo mash and sardines fry.
Naturally, netizens in the region went wild with appreciation for Chowdhury’s home-pride move.
Panta bhaat, also known as poita bhaat or pakhala bhaat, is nothing but leftover rice that has been fermented overnight. What makes this dish a favourite is the wide range of side dishes that can accompany it, varying according to the season.
In Odisha, a favourite side dish with the pakhala bhaat is a batter-fried pumpkin flower, apart from potato mash and fish fry. In Bengali homes, panta bhaat is always accompanied by fried fish or potatoes. In Assam, the favourite accompaniment with poita bhaat is the aloo pitika (potato mash), roasted brinjal mash, roasted jackfruit seed mash and fried fish. Stir-fried tender pumpkin creepers are another popular accompaniment.
Those who love that extra tang in their bowl of fermented rice add a dash of lemon to it. Panta bhaat lovers will also agree that the best flavour from the bowl of fermented rice comes only after the mushy rice and water have been mixed well by hand before eating. A dash of mustard oil, salt, green chillies and finely-chopped onions can heighten the flavour.
The best panta bhaat has rice that is starchy and non-fragrant. So, basmati rice is a strict no-no.