INDIGENOUS CUISINES of Assam
The Assamese cuisine is diverse, unique, simple and palatable. The variety of food that the state has to offer is exceptional. The exotic taste of the herbs, rustic feel of the dishes and a distinctive character is what drives the Assamese food. The authentic traditional Assamese food is not just about Pork with Bamboo Shoots, Aloo Pitika, Chira Doi or Masar Tenga. The culinary glory of Assamese traditional cuisine is beyond the stereotypical representation. Much like the geographical diversity of the land, the authentic Assamese dishes are extensive and has its own league in the culinary world.
Doi Chira (Beaten rice, Curd and Jaggery)
The famed Doi Chira is one of the popular breakfast dishes, served traditionally in bell metal utensils, known as Baan Bati. In Assamese, we call it Jolpan. It means a mini meal mostly served in the morning as breakfast. There are a variety of Jolpan versions. Generally, “Bora Saul” (stickyrice), kumol saul (a special type of curated rice which needs no cooking), Chira (beaten rice) are used. A Jolpan platter is accompanied by various “pitha” or rice cakes too, especially during Bihu. The traditional Jolpan is quite filling and energetic as well. Don’t be surprised if you are offered Doi Chira and Pitha in Assamese household during Bihu as it is part of their tradition.
Tekeli pitha and laal Saah (steamed rice cake with red tea)
One of the most loved snacks in Assam is Tekeli Pitha. It is made of rice flour mixed with black sesame and desiccated coconut. The delicious mix is then steamed at the mouth of a pitcher or Tekeli. The spongy white rice cake is served with a bowl of steaming hot red tea. You can’t possibly miss this as it is absolutely delicious.
Maasor Tenga (Tangy Fish Curry)
The classic traditional Assamese tangy fish curry is one highly recommended dish which should not be missed in Assam. Maasor Tenga is one of the top favourite dishes, widely popular among food lovers across the country. This iconic dish is cooked with tomatoes and fresh rohu fish. The Assamese people use different souring elements to cook this dish, like Outenga (elephant apple), Thekera (Garcinia), Tomato, Lemon, different herbs, etc. Maasor Tenga or tangy fish curry is quite soothing in summer months, especially during lunch. The hot bowl of white rice with Maasor Tenga is good enough to satiate your food desire in Assam.
Haah Joha Kumura (Duck Cooked with Ash Gourd)
This is definitely one of the highly celebrated iconic traditional Assamese dishes. No Assamese feast is complete without this exotic dish. Duck meat is generally enjoyed in the winter months. Cooked with a special type of ash gourd called “joha kumura “which smells like Joha rice (Aromatic Rice) when cooked. Only traditional spices like ginger, garlic, green chillies and black pepper are used to cook it. This particular dish is always a part of Uruka feast (A celebratory feast one day before Magh Bihu)
Lai Xaak Gahori/ Murgi (Pork/ chicken with Mustard Greens)
This particular dish is a kind of emotion for Assamese pork/ chicken lovers. Pork/ chicken is cooked with “Lai Xaak “, the crunchy mustard greens. A totally oil-free dish, the pork chunks are either boiled with the greens with ginger, garlic and chillies or stir fried. Adding Bhoot Jolokia or King Chilly takes the dish to another level . With a plate of white rice, it tastes heavenly.
Patot diya maas (Steamed Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaf)
This is a popular dish among non-vegetarians. If you are a fish lover, this is highly recommended. The tiny fresh river fishes are used to prepare this dish. The cleaned fishes are mixed with aromatic herbs like coriander, culantro /sawtooth coriander, chopped onions, chillies, salt and mustard oil. They are wrapped in banana leaves or aromatic turmeric leaves and steamed. After steaming, add a few drops of aromatic lemon to it and Voila, taste it now!!
Til Diya Murgi (Chicken Cooked with Black Sesame)
“Til ” or black sesame is widely used in Assamese cuisine. It substituted oil in earlier days. This particular chicken dish is cooked with grinded paste of black sesame seeds. Minimal oil is used to cook this. Ginger, garlic and raw chillies are the only spices added. This dish goes great
Baah Gaaj Bhoot Jolokia di Gahori/ Murgi (Pork/ chicken with Bamboo Shoots and King Chilli)
This is the signature dish of entire Northeast India. The aroma of fermented bamboo shoots in itself is inviting. Just boil the pork/ chicken with fermented bamboo shoots, king chillies, ginger and garlic. It’s that simple. You will find it everywhere in Northeast India, not just in Assam. This is a highly demanded traditional Assamese dish in any celebration. Pork/ chicken with bamboo shoots and king chilly is widely popular across the country.
Koldil Murgi (Chicken cooked with Banana Flower)
The Assamese people cook chicken with a wide variety of ingredients. The best part is that all those classic ingredients are locally produced and widely available everywhere in Assam. Koldil Murgi is a classic dish. It is very healthy and nutritious. The banana flower, called koldil is rich in iron and dietary fibres. It’s chopped very fine and cooked with chicken with traditional spices like ginger, garlic, black pepper and chillies. The same recipe goes great with pigeon meat too, which is another favourite amongst locals.
Mati Dail Khar (Black Lentils with Alkaline Extract)
“Khar” is a quintessential part of Assamese cuisine. It’s an alkaline extract derived by burning and filtering banana peels. Khar acts as an appetizer, gut purifier and palate cleanser. Any Khar dish is served in the beginning of the main course. This traditional ingredient can be used in various ways. The authentic Khar dish can include pulses, vegetables or even fish or meat.Out of all of these, the Mati Dal khar is one of the favourite among locals. The dal (black lentils) is tempered in pure mustard oil to give it a must needed punch. Adding raw ginger slices enhances the flavour. Mati Dail khar is one of the must have traditional Assamese dishes for sure.