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Chhenapoda Dibasa: Celebrating Sudarsan Sahu’s Sweet Legacy in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Today Odisha is observing Chhenapoda Diwas, a celebration dedicated to honouring the delectable delight that is Chhenapoda. This iconic sweet has not only tantalized taste buds but has also etched its place in the heart of Odisha’s culinary heritage.

Originating from the quaint town of Nayagarh, Chhenapoda holds a significant spot in the culinary map of Odisha. It is a combination of cottage cheese (chhena), sugar, and semolina, baked patiently in traditional Indian Chullah until it attains a mesmerizing golden hue.

On this day, April 11, we pay homage to Sudarsan Sahu, the visionary behind this culinary masterpiece, as it coincides with his birth anniversary. Sudarsan Sahu’s journey to creating Chhenapoda was one of experimentation and innovation. He migrated to Nayagarh in 1947 and set up a hotel in Daspalla.

Sudarsan Sahu’s son, Suman Sahu, reminisces about his father’s humble beginnings and the serendipitous creation of Chhenapoda. “In those days, resources were scarce. My father’s ingenuity led him to transform leftover cheese into a delicacy that would captivate generations,” Suman shares.

“One day a good amount of chhena was left, he didn’t want to waste them so he added rice flour and sugar in it and left them to bake overnight in chhula. The next day he gave his experiment for the taste to his father (my grandfather). He liked it but it was a bit hard. So my father made some changes and instead of rice flour he added semolina which resulted in a soft and tasty chhenapoda,” he shares.

The process was simple yet profound, born out of necessity and a passion for flavor. Through trial and error, Sudarsan perfected his recipe, giving birth to the beloved Chhenapoda.

Over the years, Chhenapoda has transcended from a local delicacy to a symbol of Odisha’s culinary identity. Its fame spread far and wide, with luminaries like Jawaharlal Nehru and Biju Patnaik among its admirers. However, with success came imitations, and the quality of Chhenapoda in the market began to decline.

Suman Sahu laments the deviation from the authentic recipe crafted by his father. “The essence of Chhenapoda lies in its simplicity and quality ingredients. Sadly, many have strayed from this path, compromising on taste and tradition,” he reflects. Despite his family’s legacy, the Sahu family ceased production, disillusioned by the dilution of their father’s creation.

As we celebrate Chhenapoda Diwas, Suman Sahu calls upon aficionados and connoisseurs alike to preserve the integrity of this culinary treasure. “Chhenapoda isn’t just a dessert; it’s a legacy that deserves to be honored and cherished,” he asserts. With a resurgence of appreciation for authenticity, Suman hopes to reignite the passion for genuine Chhenapoda, ensuring its place in Odisha’s culinary pantheon for generations to come.

On this auspicious occasion, let us indulge in the sweet nostalgia of Chhenapoda, savoring not just its flavors but also the rich history and heritage it embodies.

The dessert is still waiting to get the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

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