East Indian Cuisine & Ethnic Food Facts and History

East Indian Cuisine resembles nothing of what the international community calls ‘Indian’ food. It is a unique cuisine that draws strength from the water resources around it and the spices that grow in the region. East India consists the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal.

East Indian Cuisine Facts & History



• There is a lot of Chinese and Mongolian influence on the food because of their proximity to that region.
• Fresh ingredients are key to the cuisine. The philosophy is to appreciate the natural flavors and hence the preparation time is usually short.
• Bengali cuisine use the five spice mix that uses nigella, cumin, fennel, funugreek, and mustard. Rice and fish are the predominant foods eaten here.
• The cuisine of Jharkhand and Bihar is more connected to the mainland with the use of a lot of garam masala and similar spices
• The Odiya cusine is subtle to taste and lightly spiced. Seafood is big in the state and amazingly a very small percentage of people of the state are vegetarians.

East Indian Cuisine Menu


West Bengal

Made from all-purpose flour and deep fried. It is generally eaten with an accompanying curry or plain sugar.

Cholar Dal
This is a stew of Bengal gram lentils with spices and is rich in proteins

Kochuri & Aalur Torkari

Kochuri can be called a stuffed lucchi with a filling of peas, potatoes, or lentils. Aalur Torkari is a spicy curry of potatoes that is served along with it.

Bihar and Jharkhand

Dried yellow peas, white peas, or black gram is cooked in gravy and is served with boiled rice.

Pittha (Sweet or Savory)
This is basically stuffed dough and the filling can be spiced black gram or with sugar, jiggery and date juice.

Flattened rice is called choora and it can be used to make savory breakfast or a sweet one with yogurt and fruits.

Makuni Roti/ Satuwa Parauntha
Roasted gram, onions, amchur, kalonji, ajwain, and some more spices are mixed to make a mixture, which is then stuffed in a whole wheat dough. It is then flattened and shallow fried to make this hearty breakfast item.


Flattened rice cooked with mustard seeds and spices

Flattened bread, which can also be sometimes filled with potatoes, or onions or any other local vegetable.

Chudaa Dahi
Flattened rice mixed with yogurt and sugar, or may be some fruits


West Bengal

Tangra Macher Jhol
A Bengali staple, this one contains catfish doused in a spicy curry and served with boiled rice.

This is a nutritious Bengali preparation with bitter gourd, brinjals, drumsticks, sweet potatoes and bori. It uses a lot of dry spices and milk to result in a thick gravy.

Aloo Potol Posto
Pointed gourd is cooked in coconut milk and poppy seed paste to make a spicy and sweet delicious gravy.

Ilish Macher Jhol
Hilsa fish is prepared in the pungent mustard oil with chilies and spices giving this curry its signature taste.

Dal Fulkopi
This is a spicy dish made from cauliflower and yogurt and is laced with spices.

Mochar Ghonto
Caramalized sugar is coated over a mix of banana flour, potatoes and coconut to prepare this delicacy.

Bihar and Jharkhand

Kadhi Bari
Yougurt and gram flour are cooked and pakoras are added to the gravy

This can refer to any savory preparation of green leafy vegetables

It is made from fire-roasted brinjal which is then mixed with tomatoes and spices

Jhinga Biryaani
Jhinga or prawns are cooked with spices and mixed with aromatic rice, which is then cooked with the dum technique

Bihari Kebab
Meat chunks are marinated in papaya, poppy seeds, nutmeg, mace and loads of other spices and then slow cooked over coals with mustard oil.


This is typically made from brinjal, but any number of vegetables can be used to make this mixed vegetable curry

Crab Kalia
This is a crab curry that uses a lot of warm spices and lots of potatoes

Bhendi Bhaja
It is a simple okra dish made with fried onions.

Machha Ghanta
This recipe uses the fish head that is cooked with potatoes and spices

This preparation uses any number of seasonal vegetables that are suspended in a sweet and sour soup


West Bengal

Begun Bhaja
Brinjals are dusted with a little flour, then shallow fried and sprinkled with a little salt or chat masala.

Mangsher Singara
This is a Bengali samosa that comes with a filling of minced meat, peas, lemon and chat masala.

This can be found everywhere in Bengal and is made with puffed rice, spices and raw mustard oil.

Puffed dough filled with chickpeas, sweet chutney and spicy tangy water.

Bihar and Jharkhand

It is a savory pancake made from boiled rice, chanaa dal, peas, and other spices. It is usually eaten with a spicy chutney or ghugni.

This is a deep fried stuffed dough with a spicy filling.

Vegetables, pumpkin leaves and many other things can be dipped in a spiced gram flour batter and deep fried to make this Bihari favorite.

Thin strings of gram flour that are deep fried and are usually served with tea.


Sugar and wheat dough is mixed to make this state favorite.

Another sweetened dough recipe that uses a lot of clarified butter.

Puffed rice is tossed with chilies, salt, lemon, and other spices to make this snack.


Lunch and dinner menus do not differ much


West Bengal

The spongy texture of Rosgollas help them in soaking in all the light syrup they are dipped in.

This hugely popular dessert of West Bengal is made from cottage cheese, sugar, and milk. It can be eaten plain or topped with pistachios, saffron or almonds. It is low on sugar content and melts in the mouth.

Kolar Bora
Made from coconut, bananas, all-purpose flour and sugar, these are crunchy and sweet fritters.

Mishti Doi
This sweetened yogurt preparation is a staple in Bengal eaten across the state and a complete essential in any festival spread.

Bihar and Jharkhand

Dough filled with pistachios, jiggery, date juice, or any other local favorite.

Fine wheat flour is mixed with sugar to make a flaky pastry that may be filled with dried fruits

Til Barfi
Sesame seeds are mixed with thickened milk (or khoya) and sugar.

Thickened milk is mixed with saffron, sugar and cardamom to make this sweet delight

It is like a thin pancake that is drizzled with syrup and topped with dry fruits

Wheat flour mixed with sugar or jiggery and ghee is used to make this cookie-like dessert


Chhena Podo
This means burnt cheese in Odiya and is made by baking fresh cottage cheese with nuts and sugar.

This one is made from thickened milk and sugar. It is a very rich dessert.

A sponge made of chhena absorbs all the saffron-flavored sweet milk that it is suspended in.


West Bengal

Made from starch, this is a popular alcoholic beverage of the region.

This is a drink prepared from rice mixed with as many as 25 herbs. It is a refreshing summer drink.

Bihar and Jharkhand

Sattu Ka Sharbet
Gram flour is sweetened and water is added to make this refreshing drink

This is generally flavored with salt, spices or spices

Aam Jhora
Cumin powder, sugar and salt are added to the mango pulp and diluted with water to make this seasonal beverage

Bel Ka Sharbet
Bel is a fruit indigenous to the region and it is cold pressed to make a healthy juice.


Mandia Pej
Water used to cook rice is mixed with ragi powder to make this traditional beverage

Holiday Menus

Fish and rice is big in the holiday menus for the Eastern states of India. All the desserts listed are usually prepared during the festive season.

Most Popular Dishes

West Bengal – Maccher Jhol, Roghgulla, Sondesh, Lucchi
Bihar and Jharkhand – Litti Chokha, Khaja, Khurma, Malpua, Balushahi
Odisha – Khaja, Pitha. Sea food curries

Most Used Ingredients

West Bengal– Rice, Mustard Oil And Seeds, Chilies, Fish, And Turmeric
Bihar and Jharkhand – Yogurt, Ghee, Butter, Sesame, Poppy Seeds, Gram Flour, Rice, Fish, Mutton
Odisha – Coconut, Rice, Milk, Mustard oil, Fish and other seafood

Traveling Foodie – What to eat when you travel to East India

East India offers a huge array of dishes for its visitors to sample. Even the dishes listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. So, sample all you can from street food to fine dining, especially the sea food and the sweet dishes.


Are you from East India? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on East Indian ethnic food.

Pratima Saha