Makar Sankranti is observed across India and is known by different regional names, such as Bihu, Pongal, Poush Sankranti, Lohri and so on. On this day, people celebrate their harvest with different social festivities. And for every special occasion, there’s a huge variety of traditional food prepared as well.
Anindya S Basu, a food and travel writer and photographer, says, "Makar Sankranti is commonly known as Poush parbon in our culture. It is the season of harvest and we celebrate it by making different kinds of pithe, puli, with rice and other seasonal produce. On Sankranti, we always have khichuri and other vegetarian delicacies for lunch. However, the preparations for pithe and puli begin a few days in advance. Every year, we make patishapta with coconut filling as well as kheer filling, ranga alur rosh puli, dudh puli, chaler payesh, nonta pithe, gokul pithe and shoru chakli. All of the above has rice flour in some form as well as notun gur or khejurer gur . Every home has their own pithe-puli specialities, which makes it a unique festival. This year, I also whipped up some nonta pithe. While coconut is good for the skin, gur is also a healthy alternative for sugar used in most of the Sankranti dishes.”
Here’s a look at some of the yummy and healthy regional dishes...
Patishapta and pithe puli: The Bengalis celebrate Makar Sankranti with varieties of traditional patishaptas and pithe pulis. The most popular form of pithe is patishapta, which is prepared with grated coconut sauteed in nolen gur, or kheer stuffing wrapped in layers of rice and flour dough. It is also consumed in states of Odisha and Assam too. However, doodh puli is much lower in calories and will not show on your waistline.
Til chikkis and panjeeri laddoos: These sweet dishes are an essential part of the Makar Sankranti celebrations in the northern states of our country. The primary two ingredients of these sweet items are sesame seeds and jaggery. Sesame seeds or til are a good source of energy. Til chikis and panjeeri laddoos are common across the country too and are served with coconut and jaggery in south India. Another very popular north Indian dish prepared during Makar Sankranti is khichdi-papad. Different types of khichdi concoctions, like baghari khichdi, moong dal khichdi, maghi khichdi and others are prepared on Makar Sankranti. In most Punjabi households, gur ki rewdi is eaten to celebrate the festival of Lohri.
Dahi chivda: A speciality food item of Bihar, this low-cal dish is made using chivda or flattened rice mixed with dahi. To give a sweet taste to the dish, gur or jiggery is used instead of sugar. For a healthy twist, drop in a few cut fruits and some milk.
Sakkarai pongal: This dish is a must-have in the southern state of Tamil Nadu during Pongal. It’s made with rice, moong dal, jaggery and cashew nuts cooked in ghee. Sakkarai pongal is not only tasty but also a wholesome dish.
Churma, halwa and kheer: In Rajasthan, sweet Rajasthani churma is made with roasted wheat, sugar and an ensemble of dry fruits, which is very good for health.
Puran poli: This is a traditional Maharashtrian dish that is enjoyed by many on Makar Sankranti. It is a classic flatbread stuffed with finely chopped jaggery, cooked and mashed chana dal mixed with sesame and roasted gram flour. It’s usually served with melted ghee poured over it.
'I make a traditional sweet, borinda, on Makar Sankranti'
Food is extremely an important part of the Makar Sankranti festival. I being a Sindhi, make a traditional sweet named borinda, which is a type of a sesame laddoo but has a soft texture. The laddoo's softness is achieved by using alum powder. We add a few drops of rose water to enhance its flavour. Fresh sesame milk is a very healthy option if made at home and can be consumed all through the year.
— Gitanjali Gubraxani, food writer from Mumbai
‘I’ll will be preparing roh di kheer made of sugarcane juice’
Various sweet treats and savoury dishes are prepared and relished during Makar Sankranti. I will be preparing roh di kheer made of sugarcane juice and also spiced jaggery kulfi, which is a quirky twist to the already popular kulfi that we all relish.
— Chef and culinary expert Reetu Uday Kugaji