'Bizu' is not only the biggest traditional festival bidding farewell to the year (Chaitra Sankranti) and ushering the Bengali New Year, but also a festival of feast, which carries much significance to the Chakma community.
Food and culture are interwoven and the festival becomes incomplete without having pazon, a dish that includes every edible part of various plants grown in the hills and around 20-50 other types of green or dried seasonal vegetables. The process involved in preparing, serving, and sharing certain food carry an important social and cultural value. One of the greatest things about consuming pazon in Chaitra Sankranti is the traditional belief that it will boost the immune system to deal with health troubles in the coming new year. It is said that using a variety of ingredients not only makes the taste better, but also works as a 'power food' that has many health benefits.
Making and eating pazon, and visiting at least seven houses to taste seven different pazon is considered part of the 'true-bizu-celebration' that solidifies social bonds. The feast of the 'three-day' long Bizu festival is celebrated with pazon, different types of traditional sweets, pide or pitha, seasonal hilly fruits, and brewed fermented rice liquor.
To cook pazon the quantity, usage and accuracy of measurement of raw ingredients are not mandatory.
Different types of seasonal vegetables
Dry fish (churi shutki/ghoinya/lakkha/shol macher shutki)
Green chilli paste
Red chilli powder
Heat a cooking pan with oil on medium heat. Add onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli paste and fry for a while. Add dry fish pieces, turmeric, red chilli, cumin powder, salt and fry for a few minutes.
Add the first batch of hard vegetables such as potatoes, yams, carrots, beans, seeds, raw jackfruit, etc. and add the required amount of water, cook for a few minutes. Then add a second batch of vegetables such as eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. Add water if needed. Keep on flame until everything gets well-cooked. Adjust the amount of gravy and salt.
2 cups glutinous rice flour
1 cup shredded coconut or coconut chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2-4 tbsp lukewarm water
Oil, for frying
In a mixing bowl, add rice flour, coconut chunks, salt, sugar and little water at a time to make a soft dough. Take little portions, make balls and then press one palm over the other to make the ball flat like a round cookie. Heat a frying pan with oil on medium heat and fry them until golden brown. The skin of these fried cakes should be crispy, with a soft chewy texture inside.
3 cups of rice flour (chinigura/kalijira)
1 cup chunks of coconut
Sesame seeds (optional)
1 tsp salt
Food colour (optional)
In a mixing bowl, place rice flour with a little amount (around 1-2 teaspoon) of water, salt, and make a few portions by pressing both palms. Nothing to worry if the portions are easily breakable. On a steamer, place banana leaf/parchment paper and put all portions. Steam for 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the steamer, allow to cool down slightly and place into a mixing bowl and start kneading all portions together. Add coconut chunks and lukewarm water (little by little) to make a medium soft dough.
To make colourful dough —
Divide the dough and put drops of food colour and knead well to mix colour properly. Make balls by taking a little amount of dough and put required amounts of jaggery and sesame seeds inside each ball and make diamond shapes using both palms. Steam them for another 20-30 minutes.
Food and Photo: Chiangmi Talukder Lena