When talking about the area of food-meets-faith, people might think of what’s known as bhog, or food specifically offered to Gods – but that’s a narrow outlook and quite frankly unfair to both cuisine and religion. There’s more to the picture: how faith can inform the food of a community and, surprisingly enough, how food can in turn influence faith.

We’re going to cook this like they do in the [Jagannath] temple – a one-pot dish – as best as we can at home. The main difference in the temple method is that ghee is only added at the end, due to its ability to break traditional clay pots.


  • 1 cup black lentils
  • 1 cup pumpkin, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 cup taro, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 cup green banana, sliced into 1 cm pieces
  • ½ cup freshly grated coconut
  • 2 tbsp ghee (plus extra to fry)
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp jaggery
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste


For Subji

  1. Blend the mustard seeds into a paste with 1-2 tbsp of water as necessary.
  2. In a second pan, heat the 2 tbsp of ghee over medium flame.
  3. Add the coriander powder, cumin, fenugreek, nigella, black pepper and fennel seeds. Toast lightly.
  4. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 3-4 minutes, till the water begins to let out.
  5. Add the mustard paste, turmeric, salt, jaggery and ginger paste.
  6. Add 1 cup water. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover the pan and let it simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, 15-20 minutes. The water should be mainly gone, with just a little dry gravy.
  7. Top with the fried badi and some more ghee (optional) to embrace the temple taste, and the grated coconut.
  8. Mix and let it cook for 2-3 minutes more before serving hot with rice.

For Dal Badi

  1. Soak the lentils overnight.
  2. Drain the water from lentils and transfer them to a blender. Keep adding 2-4 tablespoons of water as necessary to get a wet paste-like consistency.
  3. Heat ghee in a pan over medium flame. Drop little globules, 2-3 cm in size, into the pan.
  4. Fry for 3-4 minutes, until they are brown. Then remove and set aside on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Excerpted with permission from Bhagwaan Ke Pakwaan: Food of the Gods, Varud Gupta & Devang Singh, Penguin Ebury.

Varud Gupta

Varud Gupta

Varud Gupta was bred for the business world until an existential crisis sent him travelling through the culinary cultures of the world. It was while doing odd jobs as a cheesemonger and asador that his journey as a writer began. His first book, ‘Bhagwaan ke Pakwaan’, which won two Gourmand cookbook awards, was a travel narrative through the faiths and foods of India. His graphic novel ‘Chhotu’, a coming-of-age story during Partition, represents the culmination of the first chapter on this existential path.

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Devang Singh

Devang Singh

Devang Singh majored in history and worked as a Dell marketing manager before returning to school at the Light and Life Academy to study photography to capture everything from the finest food to rampaging lone tuskers. He now runs StudioFry, a production house in Delhi, where he is a director and EP of projects for global brands like Budweiser, Zomato and Nissan.

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