Well, all of us have a lot of time to think at the moment to look forward and possibly plan future visits to hilly terrains or some of you might have already enlisted ASSAM on your list. The inspiration to explore this region called as the Gateway to the Northeast might be the visual treat compiled of a lush forest, emerald green hills, ever-running streams and myriad of flowers of the gorgeous meadows. However, other than natural scenic beauty, Assam treasures vividity of communities, religions, culture and food. Among the Seven Sisters of North East India, Assam has a lot to be explored too. “Food” is one of the sole factors that will help your choice in this ‘inspiration time’.
STARTER DISHES/ SNACK
Here are some exemplary Assamese cuisine preparations which might get you all mouth-watery and hungry on the sight of these delicacies:
Cuisines of all the communities in Assam have a wide range of Jolpaan i.e. instant breakfast cereals, processed products that don’t need any preparations before serving. ‘Sandaguri‘ (সান্দহ গুড়ি) (Roasted Parboiled Rice flour), a typical roasted cereal served with milk makes it appetizing for all age groups.
‘Kumal Chaul’ (Soft Rice), most relished Jolpaan basically made from a special variety of rice i.e. Chokwa Rice traditionally eaten with sugar or jaggery, milk or curd and also eaten as a savoury item with mashed potato, soaked Bengal gram, groundnut, salt with mustard oil, chopped onion, ginger so on. Pithaguri (roasted rice flour), Bhajachaul, Hurum, Aakhoi, Muri (puffed rice) and Bhat pitha (Extruded Rice flour preparations) etc. are some of the traditional Jolpaans of Assamese cuisine.
This preparation of Jolpaan as the primary dish is served during traditional or religious festivities with varieties of Pithas and coconut or black sesame Ladoos. Any voyage crossing through the grubs of Assam would be incomplete without the infamously famous Assamese snack, “Pitha”, a medley of ground rice with sugar, jaggery or salt which then fried or roasted or prepared within the bamboo stem. My personal favourite is always the sweeter variants like the Ghila Pitha with jaggery or Narikal pithas (coconut stuffed pitha).
For an Assamese, the best breakfast or evening snack ever be imagined will be with Assam tea known as Saah, rich and highly flavoured consumed with milk or as red tea. One must try the exotic variety of natural tea “Phalap“(Smoked tea) brewed exclusively by the Singpho community credits to the discovery of tea in Assam while you visit upper region of the state.
MEALS/ MAIN COURSE
Assamese cuisine is known for the use of simple ingredients, “Bhat Maas” (Rice with Fish) customary dish signifying rice to staple and fish in any form is highly culled food. It’s obvious some resemblance can be seen with Bengali delicacies but our preparations totally vary from theirs.
A traditional meal in Assam cuisine begins with a ‘khar‘ (an alkaline preparation) and ends with ‘tenga‘ (a sour dish).’Khar‘ usually a starter to the main meals cooked with different vegetables and greens such as papaya, ash gourd, radish, leafy veggies, and pulses with soda and alkali made at home from banana peels. In khar, one can get the aroma of natural herbs, sweet and tangy flavors in it.
Coming to Main course of Assamese cuisine, which not only satiates the taste buds but the soul of our community. First and foremost, favourite of all, Pointa Bhat (water rice) especially eaten during summer season i.e. cooked rice soaked overnight for mild fermentation then garnished with mustard oil, onion, chilli, Aaloo pitika (boiled mashed potato) or Poora Maasor Pitika (mashed roasted fish) or Kochu Bhaji (colocasia stir-fry).
Among the many Assamese Cusines, Tupula Bhat (Sticky rice cooked in koupat i.e. Pyrnium leaf) is generally consumed by the Singpho, Ahom, Mising and Deuri tribes with side dishes Mati Mahor dail (Black Gram Dal), Guti aloo fry (baby potatoes fry), Posolar bhaji (Plantain Stem Stir Fry), Gahori Mangsor Jhul (Pork Curry) etc.
Kharisa diya Jiya Maasor Torkari (Fish Curry with Bamboo Shoots) and Sukan Maas Pithaguri jhool (Dry Fish rice flour curry) is a well-liked dish of both the tribal and non-tribal with steamed rice. A special dish- Sewadiya bhat (steamed sticky Bora rice) with Kumuradiya Hanhor mangso (ashgourd and duck meat curry) culinary specialty of the Ahom community. Amroli Paruah Tup fry is one of the authentic dishes. Ahoms love to eat during Bohaag month of the Assamese calendar.
Just like other states, Chicken, Fish and Pork items are a mandate and prepared with traditional cooking methods such as Patotdiya in which vegetables, roots or tubers and meat wrapped in banana or other leaves then grilling or roasting on the fire. Khorikatdiya, another method of cooking is used to barbeque meat in bamboo skewers and served as a side dish in main course platter of Assamese cuisine. One of the famous cuisines of Rabha community is Pona Bhat (Bora Rice) with Than Hamukor Aanja (snail curry). Letar Bhaji (larvae fry) as a side dish also preferred by numerous tribes and its quite crispy crunchy to eat.
Meanwhile, hot-spicy chutneys are commonly used as an accompaniment with the meals by the indie population. Tilor Chutney (Sesame chutney), Maan Dhaniya Pator Chutney prepared with Eryngo, Culantro with coriander leaves, Ou Tengar Chutney (elephant apple chutney) which can also be cooked with Puthi Maas (Ticto Barb fish) as curry served with rice. Crab is also popular among the Rabhas, Bodos, Tiwas, Morans, Muttocks and Sonowal Kacharis, which is prepared into chutney i.e Kekura Podinar Chutney and also cooked to curry.
However, most of us almost out of reflex start hunting for something sweet after every meal, Kola Chaul and Bora Chaulor Payas (Black rice and Bora rice pudding) are the classic desserts served after main course consisting boiled rice with milk added sugar and cardamoms, nuts or raisins to enhance the flavour. Assam, a place which has sweetest desserts ranging from Poka Mithoi (roasted rice-flour ladoos) to Komolar Kheer (orange kheer) or even people and its cultures are profoundly captivating.
8 BEST ETHNIC RESTAURANTS IN GUWAHATI
Some of the finest credible food joints across the Guwahati city you would love to experience these ethnic delicacies of Assamese cuisine are-
1. PARADISE (Casual dining) – GNB Road.
2. GAM’S DELICACY – Ganeshguri.
3. HERITAGE KHORIKAA – GNB Road.
4. MAIHANG ETHNIC RESTAURANT – Hengrabari road.
5. ORDAB, THE BODO KITCHEN – Rajgarh Link Road, Sarania hills.
6. TAI SINGPHO – Bamunimaidan.
7. MISHING KITCHEN– Hengrabari Road.
8. HALANGSHI – Bamunimaidan.
Although, this is not all of the amazing traditional Assamese cuisines mentioned here, but an endless list of items yet to be the talk of the place. So, the next visit to Assam, you should definitely try out these basic delicacies.
I hope my blog has provided imperative information and enlightened you about Assam and its food culture.