Bhapa pitha


  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1½ cups of dried or fresh coconut (unsweetened)
  • ½ cup water and more for steaming
  • Pinch of salt (about a tsp)
  • Jaggery (southasian unrefined cane sugar), or palm sugar or date molasses and substitutes, coarsely broken into small pieces
  • ½ cup milk, if using dried coconut (optional)


  • Bhapa pan or steamer
  • Muslin fabric or cheesecloth for straining
  • A mold to create the shape of the pitha, a small bowl can be used for this

Steps to prepare the pitha dough:

1. Sift flour, add the salt, and add the  ½ cup coconut.

2. Slowly add small amounts of water at a time to the flour mixture to dampen the flour. The flour mixture should neither be like a dough nor like a batter but just wet (mastering the consistency is quite difficult, but is key for ensuring a delicious pitha, so please look up an example on YouTube to see the methodology). 

3. If using dried coconut, add the milk and dampen the coconut. Set aside.

4. Soak the muslin or cheesecloth pieces in a separate bowl with water and set aside.

5. Shift the damp flour again through a strainer. You will likely have to sieve the wet flour through the strainer with the help of your palm.

6. Begin to boil water in the steamer in order to produce vapor that appears through the holes.

Steps to make and steam pitha:

1. Depending on the size of the bowl, spread flour mixture in the small bowl lightly in a way that only half the bowl is covered.

2. Place some coconut and molasses at the center of the bowl.

3. Cover the molasses and coconut by spreading more damp flour.

4. Take one of the muslins, squeeze out water and spread the wet cloth on the bowl of flour.

5. Gather the corners of the cloth with the bowl inside and carefully flip the bowl with the help of the cloth on the holes of the pitha making pan. The bowl should now be upside down on the holes of the pan.

6. Carefully remove the bowl, gather the corners on top of the flour mixture. The piece of cloth will hold the bowl shaped pitha.

7. Steam cook for 6-8 minutes, but be careful not to overcook since it dries out the dish easily.

8. Carefully unwrap the pitha from the cloth and place in a plate with the help of a spatula or spoon.

9. Add the hot cloth back to the water bowl to soak.

10. Using the second piece of cloth repeat the steps for the next pitha. Soak the cloth in water when done.

11. Rinse, squeeze water from the last cloth piece and use for the next pitha after.

Author’s comment: Bhapa pitha is a classic Bengali wintertime breakfast dessert that my mother has made for me since I was young. The dish is a sweet rice cake with a sugary, coconut center. It reminds me of my youth growing up in Chittagong and is beyond comforting.