Panta, the fermented rice is a basic food of poor people, but panta with dried fish shutki or ilish is a traditional platter and popular celebration food of Bengal during Pohela Baishakh festival. A similar dish consumed in the Indian state of Orissa and Chattisgarh is known as Pakhal Bhat. In Assam, where it is sometimes called Poitabhat, offering Dudh Panta (milk with stale water-soaked rice) is a part of the marital ritual. Among Hindu Bengalis, it is consumed during the Ranna-Puja (Bengali cooking festival). In Orissa and Assam you will find hotels where you can get an elaborate meal dish of Panta or Pokhal during summer seasons. Pokhal often differs from panta bhat in that seasonings and yoghurt are sometimes added prior to the fermentation process.
The Halkhata has necessarily been a part of Poyla Baishakh festival , the Bengali new year . Most of the traders in the city are now busy with cleaning jobs at their shops and business centers in holidays as a part of the preparations for the festival. Poyla Baishakh, a festival when traders open new books of account for their customers who buy goods on credit. Traders are also finalizing their ledgers and books of account. On the account of clearing the old stocks of the last year every shops offers some special discounts to attract the customers on the month of Chaitra of Bengali calender, which is called Chaitra Sales in Bengal and from the month of Baishakh businessmen tries to collect new stocks in advance to store enough for the next big festivals like Eid, Durga puja, and Christmas.
The Halkhata is a business customs with some traditional puja rituals when traders will open a new account books that are traditionally wrapped around with red cloth. Traders collect their dues for the past year and open a new account during this festival. Traders traditionally receive their customers as well as guests with sweets in the essence of renewing contacts, settling accounts with creditors, getting pending payments, and encouraging new business relationships by distributing own printed calendar, and serving special sweets so sweet-traders also reportedly surge in sales on that day.
Our affair with New Year celebration is only engorging food from dawn to dusk, traditional to vibrational, all are related to Indian food only on this particular day. This year on Pohela Baishakh we have planned to start our Breakfast with jober chhatu, in Lunch panta and roasted prawn, Evening Snacks with fish kabab and rainbow mocktail, and finish the festival with the Dinner of prawn polau along with creamy lentil sauce, stuffed parwal and steamed bekti accompanying with mango raita.
We changed our daytime meal on holidays to Panta, the fermented rice. It has never been indentified as a cheap food for the poor people or lower income groups meal or only a poila baishak custom to us. We always trusted the meal on the summer day as a comfort food, a body cooler and stomach healer from our childhood. For our love with panta I intentionally make extra rice the day before our holidays and soak it for half day with cold water. The panta with roasted red chili, salt, sour and sliced onion always made us crazy if we have poppy seeds fritters, red lentil fritters and baked chingri. The sour options always were different like sour yogurt, jujube pickle, tamarind pickle, chargrilled mango and tomato and of course the gandharaj lebu and leaf.
To make Panta, for one person take one cup boiled rice add one cup drinking water to it and crushed lemon leaf. Store carefully covered in a cool dry place, but not more than 12 hours. During eating mash the soaked rice slightly in that water, add lemon juice or tamarind juice or mango pickle of your choice, onion slices, green chili, roasted red chili, salt to taste and enjoy .
The microbiology of the soaked boiled rice is according to a study (Henry et al.), [ This references has been taken from https://demo.internet-in-a-box.org/iiab/zim/wikipedia_en_all_nopic_01_2012/A/Panta%20bhat.html ] panta bhat is often contaminated, with almost 90% of the samples containing fecal coliforms with a median count of 3.9 log cfu/ml. Numbers of faecal coliforms increased 10-fold when there was a delay of more than 4 hours between preparation and consumption; 90% of the samples were eaten more than 12 hours after preparation. The contamination was more in the rainy season. According to another study (ILSI 1998), fermentation improves the bioavailability of minerals such as iron and zinc as a result of phytic acid hydrolysis, and increases the content of riboflavin and vitamin B. Panta bhat contains a small amount of alcohol as a result of fermentation. When the conditions of preparing panta bhat — keeping rice soaked overnight in water — were simulated in the laboratory, the rice was found to be inoculated with veratridine, a steroid-derived alkaloid.