Thursday, February 14, 2008

Assamese Cuisine - - Non Spicy yet Uniquely De-li-ci-ousSSSS !!!

Machor Tenga(Fish Curry) preparation

Til pitha Preparation

Cuisines of Assam

The Cuisine of Assam is a mixture of different indigenous styles with considerable regional variations and some external influences. It is characterized by very little use of spices but strong flavors due mainly to the use of endemic exotic herbs, fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, dried or fermented. Fish is widely used, and birds like duck, pigeon etc. are very popular. Pork dishes are particular favorites. Preparations are rarely elaborate—the practice of Bhuna, the gentle frying of spices before the addition of the main ingredients so common in Indian cooking, is absent in the cuisine of Assam.
The upper classes of Assam were permitted no scale-less or serpent-shaped fish. Certain meats (duck, pigeon, tortoise, wild boar ) were specially condemned, and those of the goat, deer and rhinoceros were permitted. A later historic work called the Kumara Harana, recommended pork cooked with soft roots of the banana. The favorite curry mentioned was an alkaline salty extract of banana roots cooked with certain aquatic green plants, and also with fish. Vegetables mentioned in the Yogini Tantra showed that both tubers and green leaves were important in the early Assamese diet. The usual pulses and spices were made from milk , curds and ghee, and madhumada may have had a honey base. Rice beer was made domestically, and the tribal brewed a liquor called laopani. Bana records that in the 7th century AD the Emperor Harsha received from King Bhaskara of Assam cups of ullaka, which diffused the fragrance of swet wine.
People of Assam eat non-spicy foods and even bland at times. Rice is the staple diet in Assam and is eaten in various forms throughout the day. The Assamese eat a huge variety of rice-based breakfast cereals with milk, yoghurt or thick cream¬akhoi (puffed rice), chira (chura), muri, komal chaul (a specially processed rice which doesn’t require cooking but just an hour’s soak in cold water) and hurum to name but a few. Normally jaggery or sugar is added but for those who prefer savoury items, salt can be added. Also there are the various kinds of pitha that are prepared from rice powder.

Authentic Assamese cuisine is bland and yet very delicious. Very little oil is used and practically no spices. All Assamese people are non-vegetarian. Chicken is taboo in orthodox families and there are some, who may not eat meat. But it’s difficult to find anyone who does not eat fish and duck’s eggs. Mustard oil is used for cooking and occasionally clarified butter or ghee.
Other supplementary food includes lentils, fish curry, meat curry along with herbs and vegetables. The curry is generally seasoned with ginger, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, onions and sometimes lemon.
Sweets made during the festivals are usually made of rice paste. Pitha is a paper-thin pancake stuffed with sweet coconut paste or sweet black sesame seed paste.
A traditional meal in Assam begins with a khar, a class of dishes named after the main ingredient, and ends with a tenga, a sour dish. These two dishes characterize a traditional meal in Assam. The food is usually served in bell metal utensils made by an indigenous community called Mariya. Tamul (betel nut, generally raw) and paan generally concludes the meal.[2]


The cuisine of Assam is strongly influenced by the local ingredients, especially because this cuisine tries to preserve the natural flavors or augment them by processes like drying, fermentation etc.


Rice is the most important ingredient in this cuisine. The large varieties of rice found in the region has led to speculation that the grain was first domesticated in the Assam-Yunnan region.Both the indica as well as the japonica varieties are grown in Assam. The most popular class of rice is the joha. Rice is eaten in many different forms: roasted and ground (xandoh), boiled in its husk and flattened (chira), puffed (akhoi). There also grows a variety of rice that can be just soaked and eaten (Komal Saul).
Rice is a part of all meals in Assam. A traditional breakfast consists of chira with yogurt and jaggery. Farmers eat cooked rice soaked overnight (poita) garnished with mustard oil, onions, etc. Snacks would be xandoh, Komal Saul or bora saul with milk. For other major meals, rice could be boiled, steamed or wrapped in leaves and roasted.
Bora saul is a variety of glutinous rice found in Assam. It has an important role in Assamese traditional occasions like Bihu. It is used both as Jolpan (snacks) and Pitha (rice cake). Soaked and ground bora saul is used in preparing Pitha. Boiled bora saul is served as Jolpan with curd or milk, jaggery or sugar etc. During the Ahom reign in Assam, bora saul with duck-egg was used in constructing buildings because of its sticky quality.
Komal Saul is one kind of rice served as Jolpan in Assam. The rice can be just soaked and eaten with milk or curd, jaggery, yogurt etc.
A special class of rice preparations, called pithas are generally made only on special occasions like the Bihu. Made usually with soaked and ground glutinous rice (bora saul), they could be fried in oil with a sesame filling (xutuli pitha), roasted in young green bamboo over a slow fire (sunga pitha) or baked and rolled over a hot plate with a filling (kholasapori pitha).
Rice is also the primary ingredient for the many rice beers and liquors (lau-pani) made in Assam by different ethnic communities: zou (Bodo), apong (Mishing), xaj (Ahom), hor[4] (Karbi), phatika (Kachari) etc.

Sl No Species Unit price Rs /Kg
1 Aampahi 25
2 Basmati 30
3 Jaha 30
4 Aahu 20
5 Tarabali 25
6 Holpona 28
7 Bora 25
8 Kalamdani 30
9 Bow 18
10 Basanti 30
11 Mala 28
12 Lachit 28


The next most important ingredient is the fish, harvested from the many rivers, ponds and lakes in the region. There is no traditional ethnic community in Assam that does not eat fish. Most traditional rural households have their own ponds for pisciculture. Some of the most popular fishes are the rou (Labeo rohita), the illish ( Tenualosa ilisha) and the chital (Chitala chitala), though the varieties of fish available and eaten is very large.[5] The discerning gourmand would be able to tell which region of Assam is known for which variety of fish.
The most popular dish from Assam, the tenga, is an indispensable part of a proper meal in Assam. The most popular tenga is made with tomatoes, though ones made with kaji lime (thick skinned elongated) and thekera (dried Mangosteen, Garcinia pedunculata) added to other vegetables are also popular. Another favorite is small fish roasted in banana leaves. Hukuti is a special fish dish prepared from dried small fish (puthy mas) pounded with arum stem and dried and stored in bamboo tubes. Xukan masor chutney, popular among the tribal communities of Northeast India in general and Assam in particular, are dried and fermented small fish (puthy mas), three to four in numbers are roasted along with lavishly amounts of green chillies, tomatoes, ginger and garlic (all roasted). The ingredients are then pounded in a mortar to make a coarse paste and served with rice.

Greens and vegetables

The environs of Assam are rich in vegetation, and green leafy vegetables, called xaak, are an important part of the cuisine. Some of them are grown while others like the dhekia (fern) grows wild. There is a bewildering variety that is eaten and according to custom, one has to have a hundred different xaaks (greens) during Rongali Bihu. Locally available green leafy vegetables are: Paleng (spinach), lai (a family of mustard greens), methi (fenugreek greens), khutora (amaranth), moricha, matikaduri, manimuni (asiatic pennywort), podina (mint), tengesi (dichondra), jilmil, tengamora, kolmou (water spinach), brahmi (water hyssop), dhonia (celery or corriander), xukloti, doron, noroxingho (curry leaf), bhedailota, bondhakobi (cabbage). Green vegetables are often boiled with water to form a gravy or sauteed in oil with onions.
Other locally available vegetables are: Fulkobi (cauliflower), beetroot, Olkobi (kohlrabi), curry bananas, koldil (banana flower), banana stem, bell pepper, potol (Pointed gourd), jeeka, toroi, bhol (Ridge gourd), dhunduli (snake gourd), jatilao (bottle gourd), komora (ash gourd), ronga lao (pumpkin), kerela (Bitter gourd), kunduli (Ivy gourd), bhendi (Okra or lady's finger), motor (peanut), tihu or tiyoh (cucumber), mula (radish), gajor (carrot), bilahi (tomato), salgom (Turnip), bengena (eggplant or brinjal), Omita (Papaya), squash, sojina.
Among pulses and beans there are: Mosur mah (lentil), dhoa mogu (white lentil e.g. urad bean with the black skin removed) mogu mah (mung bean), mati mah (urad bean or black lentil), urohi, lesera mah, rohor dail (pigeon pea), but (chickpea) etc.

Assamese terms for vegetables/fruits


English --- Assamese


Apple ===Aapel

Amarnath Leaves ===khutora
Ashgourd / White gourd == Saal Kumura

asiatic pennywort === manimuni
Banana == kol

banana flower ==== koldil
Bitter Gourd == Tita Kerela
Bottle Gourd / Marrow === Jati Lao
Brinjal/Eggplant === Bengena
Broad/Butter Beans === Urahi
Cabbage === Bondhakobi
Capsicum/Bell Pepper === Kashmiri Jalakia
Carrot === Gajor
Cauliflower == Phoolkobi

Chilli === Jalakia
Cow peas === Dangbodi*
Coconut === Narikol
Colocassia === kosu
Corriander/cilantro === Dhania Paat
Corn === Gum-dhaan
Cucumber === Tiyoh

curry leaf===noroxingho
Custard Apple === Aatloss*
Dates === Khejur

dichondra=== tengesi
Drumstick === Sajina
Dry Plums === Sukan Bogori
French Beans === Faras Been
Fenugreek Leaves === Methi Xaak*
Garlic === Naharoo
Ginger === Ada (Kesa)
Goose berry === Aamlokhi*
Grapes ==== Angoor
Green Chillies === Kesa Jalakia
Green Mango (Raw) === Kesa aam
Guava === Madhurium

Ivy gourd ===kunduli
Jackfruit === Kothaal
Jambu Fruit === Jamuk*
Kohlrabi === Ool Kobi*
Lady Finger/Okra === Bhendi
Lemon === Nemu

lentil===Mosur mah
Lettuce === Laipaat
Lime === Gool Nemu*
Lotus stem === Podum-daal
Mango === Aam*
Mint Leaves === Podina
Mulberry === Nuni*

mung bean===mogu mah
Mustard Leaves === Xoriyohor aag
Olive === Jolfai
Onion === Piyaaz
Orange === Sumothira
Papaya === Omita
Parwal === Patol
Parsley === Sugandhi Lota
Pear === Naspoti
Peas === Motormah


pigeon pea===rohor dail
Pineapple === Anarox
Plantain (green) === Kaas-kol
Plantain Flower === Koldil
Pomegranate === Dalim

Pointed gourd=== potol
Potato === Aloo
Pumpkin === Ronga-lau
Radish === Mula
Raw Banana === Kesa kol
Red Chillies === Sukan Jalakia

Ridge gourd===bhol

snake gourd===dhunduli
Spring Onions === Piyaaz Paat*
Spinach === Paleng xaak
Sweet Lime === Mausambi
Star Fruit === Kordoi
Tomato === Bilahi
Turnip === Saalgum*

urad bean or black lentil===mati mah

water hyssop===brahmi
Water Melon === tormuj
Water spinach=== kolmou

white lentil e.g. urad bean with the black skin removed===dhoa mogu

Wood Apple === Kot Bel*
Yam === Kaath Aloo

Exotic foods

Assam has its share of exotic foods. One such delicacy is eri polu, the pupa of the Eri silkworm after it has spun its cocoon. Fermented bamboo shoot (khorisa) is another traditional condiment used in Assam.


Khar: The khar is a signature class of preparations made with a key ingredient, also called khar. The traditional ingredient is made by filtering water through the ashes of a banana tree, which is then called kola khar (black khar). A traditional meal invariably begins with a khar dish, made of raw papaya, pulses or any other main ingredient. Xokota: It’s severely bitter type of preparation. It’s prepared with dry jute leaf, matimah (urad bean) and khar. But the combination of Khar and Tenga is not reccomanded.
Tenga: The tenga is a light and sour fish dish, another signature class of preparations. The souring ingredient could be thekera (mangosteen), kajinemu (lemon), etc., but the most popular is that made with tomatoes. Fish dishes made with fermented bamboo shoot are generally sour, but they are not called tengas.
Fish is fried in mustard oil or curried with bottle gourd or spinach. Meat is curried in spicy gravy. Modern cuisine of Assam has been influenced by east and north Indian cuisine.
Pitika and pickles: Side dishes called pitikas (mashes) are very popular. The most popular is aloo pitika (mashed potatoes) garnished with raw onions, mustard oil, green chilies and sometimes boiled eggs. khorisa tenga is mashed fermented bamboo shoot, sometimes pickled in mustard oil and spices. Kharoli is fermented mashed mustard (Brassica campestris var. toria) seed. Pitikas are also made from roasted or steamed vegetables (tomatoes and eggplants being very popular) and fish. Pickles are there made of aam (mango), amlokhi (amla or indian gooseberry), omora (hog plum), jolpai (olive), kordoi (star fruit), thekera (mangosteen), outenga, bogori etc.
Meat: Pork and beef dishes are particularly favorites in the tribes in Assam although general people also sometimes have pork, but not basically. The basic cooking method is boiling. Onla, of the Bodos, is made with ground rice and special herbs, and constitutes a complete meal in itself. Other meat includes pigeon, duck, chicken, mutton, venison, tortoise althouth venison and tortoise meat are legally prohibited. The combination of duck – ash gourd and pigeon – papaya is very popular.


Appetizers in Assamese cuisine are a real treat. Soups may be commonly used as appetizers. However, there are smaller shies of lentils and pulses that are used as appetizers.
Generally, Assamese cuisine has a tremendous range of fish, rice, pulses and lentils. These are used to make main course meals as well as appetizers.
Some appetizers are made from fish and are indeed delicious. They are full of delight even though they do not have much spice in them. Once you taste them, they leave you with the temptation of trying them again.
Since appetizers can also be in the form of smaller portions of large sized meals, there is an even greater variety you may have. Now, this is considered to be quite a variety considering that you do not chicken and meats used generally.
Indeed, the most stimulating of these appetizers can be chosen. They are not spicy, but are just right for stimulating your gastric juices. At the same time, if you are extremely hungry, you stomach is soothed too.
Assamese cuisine is truly a complete one with these kinds of appetizers and other main course meals.


Indeed, beverages in a cuisine are important, and in Assamese cuisine has the same. It has the well-known ‘chai’ or tea that is popular throughout India. This can be made in various forms, depending on what you may like. This is because tea can be flavored whichever way you want. However, there are particular techniques involved.
Tea may be consumed at any time of the day, and it is also common to have it after meals. It is helpful for washing down your food after a heavy meal. Aside from chai being an important beverage in Assamese cuisine, there is sherbat. This is a very popular sweet drink that is made of a number of ingredients.
Sherbat may be made from ingredients like almonds and coconut with milk added to it or it may even have milk as the base instead of water. Often, to dilute the quantity of sherbat, water may be added to the sherbat. Otherwise it is consumed in its thick form. Also, vermicelli is added to it to make it a little different.
Assamese cuisine like other Indian cuisine has a wide variety to offer you in spite of it lacking dishes in certain areas of the cuisine. Largely, it is a simple cuisine but is a tasty one too. Its beverages are great too and are important parts of a banquet in any celebration.


Soups are versatile portions of any cuisine. They may be used as appetizers in cuisines of any kind including Assamese cuisine. However, in Assamese cuisine, soups are normally had anyway you like. They are considered to be nutritious and there are a lot of people who consume them simply to gain strength.
Among some of the common soups, you will find the popular Vegetable Soup or Lentil Soup – These may be of different kinds, and have a certain degree of spice and salt too.
You will never find chicken soup around commonly. In fact, it is tabooed in traditional Assamese cuisine. Just like you will never find chicken dishes around, the same applies to other portions of this cuisine.
It must be realized that generally Assamese cuisine does not have much meat consumed, and this means that meat is not common in soups either. With its variety of vegetable, pulse and lentil soup, there is already a great tasting variety. Therefore, there hardly is any need for meats in the form of soups.
Soups are well known healthy parts of a cuisine. In Assamese cuisine, there is no shortage of soups. You will also find people creating their own kind as well.


Salads are an important part Assamese cuisine. Without a salad, no food is complete in any cuisine, and this is why there are various kinds of foods that are used as salads in this cuisine. Assamese cuisine is quite Bengali influenced, and this means that the people trend to use a lot of rice and fish in their foods. With these food substances, vegetable salads go well, and there are also a number of other options that could be included. Assamese being influenced densely by Bengali cuisine as well as Indian regional cuisines has a pretty good variety.
Churtney, raita, fresh green salads and pickles are known in Assamese cuisine. It generally depends on how traditional one is when it comes to consuming food, and your choices in salads will depend on that too.
There is a large number of dishes being made from fruits and vegetables too. Salads are of various kinds, and may be a combination of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and radish.
Even though it is simple and has very no meat dishes largely, Assamese cuisine is one of the most appreciated cuisines for its salads and its foods. With the bulk of its dishes being made from rice and fish, salads go best with them. In households where salads are not used commonly, you will find that they fry up masala fish that is quite crisp.
In most households, whether they are traditional or not, you will find salads being most common. There is no shortage of green vegetation in this region that is nearest to Bengal, and this means that vegetables for salads are abundant. It must be asserted that these salads add to the nutritional level of Assamese cuisine as well.
Vegetarian dishes usually fill up a great deal of any cuisine. In some meat dominating cuisine, vegetarian dishes are most important. This helps to create a balance in a banquet as well. However, Assamese cuisine is such that it has mostly vegetarian dishes aside from the use of fish. Beef and mutton are not consumed, and it is indeed difficult to find anyone who consumes meat.
In Assamese cuisine, there are several tasty dishes you can try out to suit your palette.
They are largely made of rice, fish, curry, vegetables, dal, and have salads to accompany them too. This food generally is not very oily or spicy. The best part about these dishes in Assamese cuisine is that they cook very quickly. Indeed, most of them cook in about 20 minutes or so. Some of these stunning dishes include the following:
Kurma is a mild and creamy treat that is sweet and nutty taste.
Rogan Josh is cooked with onions and garlic, and is garnished with tomatoes.
Dansak is cooked with pineapples, coriander and lentils. It is sweet and slightly spicy.
In addition to the above quickly cooked meals, theer are few more that you will find interesting and tasty too. There are Saagwala and Pathia Special.
Though meat dishes are not generally consumed they are as follows:
* Cellar's Tikka Massala
• Jalfrezi Special
• Chicken tikka,
• Lamb
• Vegetables Mixed Jalfrezi Special
• Makhani Mumtaz
• Murgh Keema Massala Special
• Assamee Shazni Special
• Grilled breasts of Chicken, lamb or Lamb chops.

Indeed, it can be asserted the meat dishes above are delicious, but they are difficult to find, as there are hardly any people who consume them in Assamese cuisine.

Assamese cuisine is one of the most vegetarian cuisines you will come across. However, fish is eaten commonly with rice. There are numerous dishes that are made using fish and rice while there must be hardly a handful of dishes that use beef and chicken. Dishes made from chicken are not common at all, and in traditional households it is a taboo. This means that it is simply not acceptable in traditional cuisine. Meat eaters are few to come by, and they perhaps are the reasons for the few existing meat dishes.
Rice is known to be the staple diet in Assam. It is consumed in various forms at any time of the day. Therefore, there are many dishes that have been created for using rice.
Breakfast cereals are usually milk, chira (chura), thick cream¬akhoi (puffed rice), yoghurt and muri, komal chaul (processed rice that is ready to consume after soaking in cold water) and hurum. Also, there are the different kinds of pitha. Thee are made from rice powder.
Generally, it can be said that authentic Assamese cuisine is quite bland but delicious. Oil is used sparingly in this cuisine and so are spices. In fact, some people hardly use any. Generally, most people are vegetarian, and so, meat dishes are hard to find. In contrast to this, it is said that it is difficult to find anyone who does not consume fish and duck’s eggs.


When it comes to snacks, there is no shortage of any of them in most cuisines. This is because main course meals are manipulated in such a way that they can be used as snacks. The same thing is true with Assamese cuisine that has plenty of snacks.
A lot of the Assamese cuisine snacks are gram based, but there are also ones that include vegetables and even rice. Also, there are no restrictions when you can have these snacks.
You will also find several snacks that are a delight. They are capable of drawing you to try out more of this cuisine. Once you taste the snacks in this cuisine, you would want to try more.
Since, people who adhere to Assamese cuisine are mainly rice-eating people, the day may even commence with rice snacks. However, you could say that these snacks are used for breakfast. Pitha is an example, and it is made of rice flour. Pitha may be filled with coconut powder or even have a coating of jaggery.
Some of the snacks might include:
• Rogan Josh
• Dansak
• Saagwala
• Pathia Special
It must be remembered that all snacks in Assamese cuisine are simple and easy to make like their main dishes, as there are no lengthy processes involved. Each of the meals and snacks only take around 20 or 30 minutes to prepare in.


In Assamese cuisine there are a several desserts. As opposed to the lack of meat dishes in Assamese cuisine, sweet dishes are present and are of different types. Many of them are quite sweet and thickened milk confectionery. The use of cardamom and nuts is common in desserts. Yoghurt is popularly used as well.
There are also sweets that are made from wheat flour, lentil flour, cheese and dried nuts. Some of desserts in Assamese cuisine fall into a wide range of "pithas". These are cakes, and are made by different methods.
Desserts like rice kheer is very common. Not surprisingly, there are many desserts made of rice. For those who would like to avoid rice in their diet, a piece of beetle nut and paan is also commonly considered as an alternative.
Assamese desserts certainly have a wide range, and this is because of the fact that it is able to use every ingredient to make sweet dishes that other cuisines make use of. Indeed, there is a great variety that one can have in desserts and sweet dishes in Assamese cuisine. There is no shortage with regard to what you might create as well. Therefore, Assamese cuisine presents considerable room for experimentation. However, rice-based desserts are mostly enjoyed.
Piţhas are a kind of rice cuisine of Assam. They are usually made from rice but there are some preparations which will use wheat.
The pithe preparations have a base made of starch ( either rice or wheat ) and a raw uncooked batter is prepared out of these, which will eventually be used to make a kind pouches where some additional filling will be put ( sweet, vegetable, meat etc ). The pouch is called "khol" (means the container) and the fillings are called "pur" (the filling ).
Pitha is a special class of rice preparation generally made only on special occasions like Bihu in Assam. Made usually with soaked and ground rice, they could be fried in oil, roasted over a slow fire or baked and rolled over a hot plate. Some pithas are- Til Pitha, Ghila Pitha, Xutuli Pitha, Sunga Pitha, Bhapotdiya Pitha, Lakhimi Pitha, Tora Pitha, Tekeli Pitha, Muthiya Pitha, Kholasapori Pitha etc.

People’s views on Assamese food:
According to Purobi Babbar , a prolific writer of cookery books and food columns for major publications
“The cooking practice in Assam is not to bhunao the food. And where rice and fish is the staple diet and green chilli paste the favourite spice. There is a separate monk cuisine in Upper Assam, there being several Vaishov monasteries here, and the cuisine has no onion and garlic. “It is diksha food. Upper Assamese people are like Thai people,” she said. “They are even known as Tais. Whereas Lower Assamese people are migrants from Burma. Their food is spiced by red chilli paste.”
Another revelation is that the Assamese vegetarian eats fish! “We get vegetarian fish in the Brahmaputra,” Purobi explained earnestly. “This is vegetarian fish, it feeds on plants, it has scales on its back and it has a small mouth.” The other variety of fish, of course, are non-vegetarian. And the Brahmaputra is overflowing with fish, there is variety, plus crabs and prawns.

Assamese five course meal described by a foreigner:

First course: Poita Bhat with Mitha Tel and Khorisa (Fermented rice with mustard oil and bamboo shoots).
This is Assamese comfort food. You take some cooked parboiled rice, cover it with water, and soak it overnight in a cool, dark place. The fridge actually works fine. This ferments it, and gives it an interesting sweet/sour flavor. Drain it, and the mix it with mustard oil and salt, and bamboo shoots to taste. Mustard oil is incredibly pungent, and this is definitely not for everyone. Serve the mixture with a hot green chili and raw salt on the side. Bite into the chili, eat a little salt, and then eat a little of the rice mixture. It's a very loud, very ethnic party in your mouth.

Second course: Masor Mur with Bengana (Fish head curry with baby eggplant).
I actually have very little idea what spices went into this to make it so delicious. I know fish heads scare people, but they are delicious. Interesting texture, great flavor. I'm going to guess there was some onion/garlic (but just a little), salt, and sugar.

Third course: Dayal Bhat and Xak Bhaji (Rice and lentils with a side of stir-fried greens).
The X is Xak should be pronounced like an incredibly soft H. I have no good idea how to transliterate this, but this is relatively standard. Dayal = the Assamese word for Dal. This was a nice, simple Dal, just some onions, cumin, cilantro, and turmeric. No cream, no butter. Light, and very flavorful. I'll post an approximate recipe soon.

The stir fried greens are of note because the incredible variety of greens that one can obtain in Assam is just fantastic, and all have subtly different flavors. By cooking them very lightly, you can really appreciate these differences. I know the Assamese name for many of them, but not the English. Some example of the English ones I do know: Mustard greens, radish greens, collard greens, bok choy (ok, not English, but god knows, familiar to this audience), clover (!). Though, to be fair, clover usually goes into soups.

Fourth course: Masor Tenga (Lemon-tomato soup with fish).
I could rhapsodize about Tenga Anja (literally, sour soup) for ever. It is the signature dish in Assamese cuisine, a delicately flavored broth with lemon, tomatoes, and cilantro, that comes in a thousand variations. It's also incredibly easy to make. I will post instructions soon.

The beauty of it is that you can put almost anything in it. People put in potatoes to add body to the thin broth, or greens to add flavor. Squash or zucchini goes well to absorb flavor. Fried lentil dumplings are another traditional favorite (this variation is called bor diya tenga, bor = dumplings).

But my absolute favorite is masor tenga (mas = fish). The heart of Assam is the Brahmaputra river, and the capital city, Guwahati, is right on the river. Thus, each morning, vendors come by house-to-house selling freshly caught river fish. This fish, cut into relatively small (2"x2") bone-in pieces, is lightly shallow-fried with salt and turmeric rubbed in before being immersed in the broth. The result is just incredible.

Fifth course: Doyi Bhat with Gur and Kol (Yogurt rice with jaggery and banana).
yogurt and rice is eaten at the end of each meal.In south India it's eaten with a salty and spicy pickle of some sort, while here, in Assam, it's eaten with gur (basically, brown sugar in big chunks) and bananas, almost as a proto-dessert.

Descriptions from a foreigner:

An academic friend who frequents Guwahati never fails to point out how, and how quickly, food taboos have changed among the Assamese. However, like many of us who live on the edges of the culinary empire of butter chicken and sad versions of Chinese food, his enthusiasm wears thin when it comes to locating a restaurant in Guwahati that actually reflects these radical changes.
Paradise Restaurant in Chandmari is the most popular place to take visitors wanting a taste of Assam. Truth be told, though, it was always a bit embarrassing to explain the various bowls that would be placed before the guest, as the Paradise serves a very watered-down version of upper-caste food. Furthermore, one receives reactions along the lines of, “This is a lot like Bengali/Oriya/mild North Indian food.” Still, one did not give up on the restaurant. Perhaps its beer licence has had something to do with that.
An inquisitive eater needs to leave Guwahati to realise that there is hope for regional food. South of the Paradise on Highway 37, which links Assam to its gastronomic hinterland, a perfect example of the reassertion of regional identity can be found in a restaurant called GAM Delicacy. The décor here is distinctly Southeast Asian, though we call it northeastern. The waiters have all the confidence in the world as they serve up anja, or curry, of smoked pork and bamboo shoot; duck with black pepper and gourd; indigenous bao rice (at least it says so on the menu), and other food that is common in the kitchens of non-Brahmanical households in both the west and east of the Brahmaputra Valley and its adjoining hills.
The self-assurance with which all this is wheeled up on sturdy bamboo trolleys at the GAM Delicacy is reminiscent of the unmatched pride with which Chinese waiters serve their delicate dim-sums in the upmarket eateries of Hong Kong. There is a certain pride one feels in ordering food served with such elegant buoyancy. This is why the place is always full of people elbowing each other for a seat at the table, even though they might have cooked the same meal at home the night before.
It only gets better as one moves east on Highway 37. Barely an hour from Guwahati is Sonapur’s The Wild East (House of Ethnic and Indigenous Food). This is the place mobile people head for over the weekend, to have their share of pork and bamboo shoots, dried fish with chilly paste, and fried silkworm with clams (the last only served on Sundays).
My colleague would have a fit if I did not take this opportunity to mention a couple of other dining finds. The Bamboo Shoot, a Lotha Naga eatery on the Dimapur-Kohima highway in Nagaland, and the Rooftop Restaurant in Diphu in Assam’s Karbi Anglong District are two little places that ought to be institutionalised. The former serves pork in variations that would put Spanish connoisseurs to shame, while the latter does a mean version of chicken with sesame, Karbi style.

A brief about Assamese food, eating culture from An Assamese :::

Laopaani: (Rice Beer)


Rice kept standing in water for a few days turns into beer. It is called lao-pani, or rice beer. In the days of the Ahom (the people who trekked from Southeast Asia and ruled Axam, or Assam, for 600 years), lao-pani was the staple drink and the Ahom had turned producing beer into a fine art. They added a variety of substances like pepper and different kinds of herbs like kapoudhekiya, patixondar, tongloti and jetulipoka to produce lao-panis with varying nuances of taste and colour. Lao-pani made of ripe jackfruits and varieties of banana called athiya kal and bheem kal was made at times. Lao-pani thus made was part of the daily diet. The Mishing, Bodo and other ethnicities have their own drinks indigenously manufactured, with nutritious values to boot. Thus, there are drinks like apong, and ju.

An Ahom custom I'd heard but never managed to establish the veracity of, was that an Ahom baby is dipped in beer immediately after its birth. The nearest food to lao-pani is paita bhat. Paita bhat is soaked rice.

Soaked rice tastes great, especially if mixed with onions and butar guri (powdered gram) or mahor guri (powdered lentils) with it. Some mustard oil and a pinch of salt – the combination of lon-tel – and it is a treat.
But paita bhat is not a regular feature. Mas-bhat is. Fresh river fish with rice. Though fresh river fish is really hard to come by these days, and quite expensive when you do get it, fish still remains central to the Axamiya diet. Rice, a big piece of fish and a little bit of tengar jol, the tangy gravy that gets its taste from the thekera tenga or, in its absence, from the tomatoes added to it, is all it takes to make a feast of the daily meal. A feast most Axamiya people, cannot do without.

And then, there is khar. An Axamiya meal is supposed to start with khar and end with tenga.
'Khar khowa Axamiya ' is a common, supposedly derogatory way of addressing us Axamiya,
The khar most frequently used is kalakhar. It is made by drying the trunk of athiya kal and setting it on fire. The ashes are kept soaked in a coconut shell and the juice that flows out is kalakhar. Not only does it make a cooking ingredient but is also used as an Axamiya substitute for shampoo, with the difference that it is far more beneficial than the artificially manufactured shampoo. The kalakhar so extracted is then added to the vegetable, usually papaya and cucumber, when it is being cooked and the end result is a dish as tasty as it is healthful.

So rice with khar or rice with fish or with both is almost a must. Some padina (mint) or dhaniya (coriander) chutney, a mixed vegetable or mashed potatoes, and dail (lentils) is what makes up the normal diet. While other dishes are being cooked, the potatoes, and sometimes even tomatoes and brinjals and fish are left to roast in the souka (earthen stove where wood is used as the fuel). When they are cooked, everything is mashed together and the pitika is ready. The dail we usually have can be moog, mah, mosur, or but. When the tangy ou-tenga is added to the mahar dail, it becomes a delight to have. The ou-tenga is a small vegetable.

The Ahom added mahar dail, bora saul, eggs and other food materials to make a cement that held their huge monuments together for ages. They stand even today; obviously Axamiya people were never too draught ridden or flood driven to devour their ancient buildings.

Meat, for assamese, is an occasional event. And then too, it is mostly goat meat or chicken. Pork and beef are restricted to certain peoples only. And then, there's pigeon meat – the tastiest of them all. Domesticated pigeon makes ready meat for guests who come by without intimation, especially in the villages.

Venison, it seems, is even tastier than pigeon meat, but we never got to have it. Venison is considered quite a delicacy and I've heard stories of how, in the days when hunting wasn't forbidden, my uncles would go deer hunting in the nearby Orang sanctuary. Even if they regret those killing sprees now, it doesn't help much. Orang is in a sad state today.

Till Sankardeb introduced the Ek Saran Nam Dharma, his brand of Vaishnavism in Axam, it seems there were no restrictions regarding food. One ate almost everything, as long as it wasn't poisonous – even crabs, bats and snakes, all kinds of lichens and ferns and mushrooms and cows and buffaloes and pigs and pigeons and what not. Most of the foodstuff, was first offered to the gods to appease them and then eaten by the people. This was especially true of the indigenous peoples Axam. When Vaishnavism came to Axam, and restrictions were imposed on peoples’ food habits, thanksfully some cults like the Ratikhowa retained these practices.

But by and large, there are many restrictions, and one is not refined enough if one eats anything but the usual stuff. However, I have seen some daredevil guys, cousins and friends, having bats and snakes and wished I could too, if only to find out how they taste. After all, if my ancestors could have it all, why not me? I've had to be satisfied with cooking up stories for ignorant acquaintances in Delhi about how tasty snake meat and toad milk is – they lapped it all up. According to them, if we can have bamboo shoots, we can have anything. I only said, 'O lord, forgive them, they know not what they are missing'. For bamboo shoot, or khorisa as we call it, is just heaven. If you have not had raw, grated bamboo shoot mixed with salt and mustard oil, you do not know what taste is. If you have not had pork cooked in bamboo shoot, you might as well take to eating grass.

Which reminds me, we Axamiya are also said to feed on anything and everything we can lay our hands on, including grass. But of course, it is far from true. We do not eat grass. We have almost everything else that is green and nutritious. Spinach, or paleng as we call it, may be Popeye's favourite green food. Mine is dhekia which is a kind of fern. It grows in abundance by the roadside in villages, so that you only have to go, pick it up and fry it; it tastes great. Then there is also bhedelata which smells icky and doesn't taste too great but is supposed to have a lot of medicinal value. No wonder I never liked to have it. Xak is what we call these green leaves that had so much nutritional value and were to be found everywhere. We can pick manimuni, padina, lai, lafa, nefafu and masandari from our garden. We make pakoras, or phularis as we called them, out of some. Xewali, or the night jasmine is not just a beautiful flower. Its leaves, bitter though they are, make tasty phularis. Dip the leaves in gram flour and fry them and you have mouth-watering phularis as we call them.

Most of these herbs have very pungent tastes; they're either too sour or too bitter; we Axamiya have a penchant for strong tastes, while we are also the people who can be just as happy with bland, boiled mar-bhat and alu, that is, boiled rice and potatoes. We have the bitterest of leaves like nefafu and xewali and we have the tangiest of fruits like the rabab tenga (shaddock) and the Naga tenga – a very politically incorrect name, if I should say so. (For the Axamiya, anything intemperate used to be 'Naga' by virtue of the fact that the Naga were considered a hot-headed race.) But if you have a palate for them, the taste sticks to your tongue for a lifetime. Like they have to mine.

Talking of sticky things reminds me of bora saul. I hated it till I got to know most varieties of lao-pani cannot be made without bora saul. And then, it has a sticky quality by virtue of which it formed an ingredient of the cement used by the Ahom builders. Because of this reason, bora saul was also the rice we used for making those delectable pithas – that typical Axamiya snack more common at Bihu-time. In this avatar, of course, bora saul becomes not just tolerable, but sheer heaven.

There is no Bihu without pitha. Dry, ground rice powder is given a cylindrical shape with sesame or coconut fillings. And accordingly, tilar pitha or narikolar pitha is made. There are also other kinds of pithas – ghila pitha, kakalsinga pitha, sunga pitha, jonai pitha, bakul pitha and so on, named after their shapes and fillings.

Sunga pitha was always my favourite. It is cooked by stuffing the bora saul, whether ground or whole, into bamboo cylinders, and placing the cylinder on fire. It can be had with gur (jaggery) alone, or with doi (curd) and gur. Doi can't taste any better than this, neither with sira (rice flakes) nor with komal saul, that typically Axamiya ready-to-eat rice; soak it in water and it's ready to eat. It is impossible to translate the taste of it into words. It can only be felt.

And then, at the end of every meal, there is the endemic Axamiya addiction – tamol-pan. Tamol is areca and pan is betel leaf. Have them with a dash of sun (lime) and some dhapat (tobacco), and tamol-pan leaves a taste in your mouth that lingers for a long time. Like the lingering taste of a lover's kiss.

In Assam, a traditional full course meal starts with serving Khar which is a class of dishes and ends with a tenga whcich is a sour dish. Just like food is served in a banana leaf traditionally in south India, a meal in Assam is served on a bell metal utensils. Almost everyone ends their meal by chewing on a betel nut known as Paan.
• Vegetarian Delights
• All major preparations are of rice. There are different varieties of rice which are used for different dishes, most widely used being joha, indica and japonica. Rice is eaten in different ways such as roasted, grounded, boiled or just soaked. The soaked rice called kumal saul is an important breakfast meal for many which is generally had with milk. Chira mixed with yogurt and jaggery is also a traditional breakfast. There is a special class of dishes called pithas, that are prepared only on special occasions and on festivals like Bihu. The rice dishes are had with curry that are made by boiling vegetables in water; some are grown while many grow in wild. The green leafy vegetables are called xaak.
• Non Vegetarian Special
• Non Vegetarian seems to be the specialty of Assam Cuisine. Fish dishes form the major part of non vegetarian food. There are different varieties of fishes that are used for cooking. The main are the rou, the illish, and the chital. Different regions are famous for different variety of fish. Tenga is the most important dish in traditional; Assam meal. Dishes of birds such as ducks and pigeons are also prepared. Though pork dishes seem to be the favorite among the young generation.
• Exotic And Side Dishes
• Sides dishes in Assamese are called Pitikas. They are generally made from steamed or roasted vegetables. The most popular among the people is aloo pitika (mashed potatoes). Exotic food caontains a dish called eri polu; it is the pupa of Eri silkworm and fermented bamboo shoot. Both are traditional dishes that have become famous in nearby states as well.
Assamese - Cooking and Food
Overview of Assamese Cuisine History
Assamese cuisine is an adventure on its own even though meat dishes are hard to find in it. With mostly fish and vegetarian dishes, it is still a delicious and convenient cuisine. Historically, Assamese cuisine has brought with it many traditional and simple dishes. Many of these have been known for a long time, and their methods of preparation have hardly changed. In order to cook them, there are simple techniques employed that were practiced many years ago. If you are keen to follow a good diet Assamese cuisine is certainly low on calorie content because fish and rice are the staple foods. Vegetables and lentils are very commonly used in main course meals in addition to fish, but never any chicken. Wide varieties of food including meat dishes may be included at times of celebration at banquets.
Through time, Assamese cuisine has focused on its limited use of spices, and quantities of salt and oil used. It is known Assamese cuisine tends to use a minimum of these in order to produce simple dishes that taste nice. With this practice, you can say that food loaded with spices and salt or for that matter is not really required in order for it taste great. This is in fact a great quality of this food.

Preparation Methods for Assamese Cooking

In order to have a good meal, you need to make sure that food is well prepared. Most cuisines require you to prepare meals extensively. However, in Assamese cuisine, there is little preparation. In fact, this cuisine is known for having the easiest and most convenient meals to cook. Marinating process is almost non-existent. At the most you would find some degree of seasoning. This is normally applied to fish prior to them being cooked.
Seasoning is a type of marinating process, as it the use of spices and salt. However, the process is not for long. At the most it would be around 15 minutes or so. This is because most seasoning is carried out at the time a meal is being cooked in Assamese cuisine. What they usually do is advise you on the seasoning process, and tell you to leave it aside until you heat up the oil and sort out other ingredients on the side. While you do that, the fish gets seasoned, and then when your oil is ready to fry the fish, you dip it in.
Soaking of rice and lentils is common, and there is even rice that you do not need to boil. You simply soak it and it is ready to consume straight away. This is a type of processed rice that is consumable without boiling.
Cooking methods and methods of preparation in are vital in order to influence the end result of a dish. Assamese cooking does not utilize meats like chicken, and fish is most commonly cooked in this cuisine. Lentils, pulses and vegetables are most commonly used too Assamese cuisine is simple, and does not contain too much oil or spices. Yet, it tastes great.

Special Equipment for Assamee Cooking

In Assamese cuisine there are so many utensils that are required in order to cook a meal properly, and these utensils are similar to other cuisine too. In order to cook dishes in Assamese cuisine, you need to know all the necessary steps. With the right kinds of utensils or equipment you can cook more conveniently and get just the right kind of taste. Since rice is an important component in almost every Assamese meal, you need to have at least one or two deep boiling vessels for boiling rice and other foods. Rice should only be boiled in one utensil in order for the taste of your rice to be the same. If you boil anything else in your boiling rice vessel, oily residue from curries for example will be left in the rice utensil. Remove oily residue during the course of you cooking is problematic, and even then sometimes, the taste still changes the next time you boil rice in it.
The same rule applies to boiling fish. If you boil other foods in a utensil in which you have boiled fish, the boiled substance would almost certainly have a fishy taste and odor to it.
You would also need boiling vessels for lentils and pulses. However, with these food substances, since using the same utensil for boiling these foods does not make much difference, you could have one common one.
In addition to these cooking vessels, you need pans for frying. This is because you will fry a lot of fish and other ingredients as well. Strainers stirring spoons are also important to use in Assamese cuisine. Also, a tawa is very important if you need to make chappati. Certainly, as observed above, there are several utensils and cooking equipment that you need when making Assamese cuisine.
Assamee Food Traditions and Festivals
Assamese cuisine is thought to be one of the healthiest cuisines. This is because of the fact that it is almost a vegetarian cuisine. Nearly all the foods ignore meats, and they are mostly made from lentils, pulses and vegetables. This surely makes interesting eating, as there a great number of people who survive with this cuisine, and also enjoy the unique and delicious taste of Assamese food.
Indeed, in Assamese cuisine, there are variations. Many main dishes consist of fish, rice, dal, curry, vegetables, salads, chutney and raita. Assamese food is not very oily or spicy.
One of the main dishes that is considered to be most traditional and would be present at festive occasions is the Assamese non-vegetarian thali. This includes: rice, fish, chicken, as well as dal, vegetables, khar, pitika, chutneys and payas.
Other special dishes in this Assamese cuisine include fish cooked inside plantain leaves, curries of duck and dove. In Assamese cuisine, meals are usually served in stainless steel utensils. However, traditionally, Assamese cuisine will be served in gunmetal utensils.
Another part of tradition in Assamese cuisine is that you eat with your hands. Forks and spoons are not used. You also need to sit on the floor on bamboo mats.
Traditional Assamese style of cooking and consuming food in this cuisine is an adventure in itself and a great treat to experiment.


The Assamese eat a huge variety of rice-based breakfast cereals with milk, yoghurt or thick cream akhoi (puffed rice), chira (chura), muri, komal chaul (a specially processed rice which doesn’t require cooking but just an hour’s soak in cold water) and hurum to name but a few. Normally jaggery or sugar is added but for those who prefer savoury items, salt can be added. Then there are the various kinds of pitha that are prepared from rice powder.

Authentic Assamese cuisine is bland and yet very tasty. Very little oil is used and practically no spices. All Assamese people are non-vegetarian. Chicken is taboo in orthodox households and some may not eat meat. But it’s hard to find anyone who does not eat fish and duck’s eggs. Invariably mustard oil is used for cooking and occasionally clarified butter or ghee.

Being a state of essentially rice-eating people, the day starts with snacks made of rice, the famous pitha, made of rice flour, that reminds one of idli. The pitha comes in more varieties than one cares to remember: pitha filled with coconut powder or having a simple coating of gur or the special one baked within a bamboo piece in an open fire.
A typical Assamese meal starts with a bowl of khar, made from any vegetable, vegetable waste or lentils to which khar has been added (although bicarbonate of soda is sometimes substituted). Raw papaya or matimah (urad dal) are the preferred bases for khar. A dish of boiled vegetables cooked in the ashes of a banana tree, a variety of cooking soda, followed by a dish of titaful, a bitter flower which is available in everyone's kitchen garden. Then comes a tangy curry, made of bamboo shoots, tomatoes or herbs available locally. After consuming the starters with spoonfuls of rice, it is time for dal, seasonal vegetables and fish curry to be followed by a dish of meat or poultry products. The dessert is normally rice kheer though the calorie-conscious people prefer instead to have a piece of beetle nut and paan.
The last course in a typical Assamese meal is tenga, made mostly with fish. It is a sour curry made with vegetables such as tomatoes, bottle gourd, ferns and greens and even potatoes to which something sour such as lemon juice or other local sour fruits are added. This again settles the stomach after a heavy meal. In between the khar and tenga are served the main courses, consisting of kharisa (made from bamboo shoots), the ubiquitous lentils, pitikas (mashed potatoes, brinjals, arum, yam, etc), meat (normally dove, partidge, duck or mutton) and chutneys such as kharoli and kahudi (both made from ground mustard power). Of course, there is the fish preparation, either in the form of a curry or more exotic variations, like roasting the fish over a charcoal fire, or cooked in the embers after being marinated and wrapped in banana leaves. Or roasted inside the hollow of a bamboo.

Certain dishes are cooked on designated, special occasions like Magh Bihu and Bohag Bihu. There is a particular emphasis on food in Magh Bihu, which is celebrated all over the country as Lohri, Pongal or Poush Praban. The festival marks the completion of harvesting. Partaking of the newly harvested rice is a ritual in all rural and many urban households. The newly harvested rice has a lot of starch and as such is fairly sticky even after boiling and straining. The family along with close friends and relatives enjoys a meal of this rice with the usual Assamese preparations. On the eve of Magh Bihu, community feasts are held in the freshly harvested fields and bonfires are lit. The next day, considered the biggest Sankranti, is a complete vegetarian day for all Assamese. The women of the house prepare a variety of pithas. Sesame seeds, coconut and jaggery are liberally used in the preparation of pithas but there is very little frying and no seasoning whatsoever. Preparing til pitha requires a high degree of expertise. The rice powder used is from a very sticky paddy variety (bora), which is soaked in water and ground while wet. The roasted sesame seeds are ground and mixed with molten jaggery or salt and pepper. Ghila pitha is the only fried variety; the rest are either steamed or roasted. Yet these are delicious. People do not eat rice on the first day of Magh Bihu, instead consuming luchi-sabji-dal with chira, komal chaual, hurum, and sandah (roasted and powdered rice) with yoghurt or cream. The evening meal is also vegetarian. It is mandatory to eat sweet potatoes, fried yam and sesame on this day. A very special lunch called Maghi Pantha is eaten on the third day. The meal starts with poita bhat and tel kharoni. Potatoes and brinjals are cooked in the warm ash left over from burning logs or charcoal. These are mashed together after cleaning with a liberal helping of sesame seeds ground with garlic. Fish is roasted over a low fire, deboned and mashed with a paste of ground sesame and garlic. Slices of yam fried in mustard oil and fish curry cooked in ground sesame seeds are an added bonanza.
The final course is payas (kheer) made with jaggery, preferably jaggery obtained from date trees. The rice and milk proportions are quite exacting for a good payas and constant stirring throughout the cooking is a must. Then there is the ubiquitous tamul paan without which Assamese hospitality is incomplete. Tamul is basically betelnut but, unlike the rest of India, the Assamese people do not like it in the dried supari form. They have a very distinct method of maturing the ripe betelnuts. Lime and dhapat (tobacco leaves) are served with tamul paan for those who prefer it that way.

Chaitra Sankranti, the first day of Bohag Bihu, is yet another vegetarian day for the Assamese people. The usual pithas are prepared but Bohag Bihu lays rather more emphasis on merrymaking than food.
Food is normally served in stainless steel utensils, but on specific request, can be served in traditional Assamese gun-metal utensils. Even the manner in which the plates are laid on the table gives an insight into the family hierarchy. Heavier plates made of bell metal spell respect and clout and are reserved for the elders while others get to eat in the normal steel plates. Bone china crockery is reserved for guests. Though outside influences have made an impact on eating customs, marking a shift from eating on bamboo mats to dining tables, the assamese have still clung to old food habits as well as eating on locally produced bell metal plates.
Some Assamese Recipes

: Xoriohor Maasor Jhol (Fish Curry with Mustard)

Ingredients :

1. Fish - 1 lb. cleaned catfish, cut to about 3/4 inch pieces.
(You can use carp, trout etc. also)
2. Half teaspoon turmeric, two green chillies, cumin+corriandar
powder 1 teaspoon, one chopped onion, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds,
corriandar leaves 1/2 bnch, 2 teaspoon yogurt, 2 cloves garlic,
pinch of ginger, 2 tbsp water, salt.
3. 1 tbsp cooking oil.


Mix the ingredients (2) together into a fine paste.
Marinate the fish pieces in this paste for about 30 min.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet or large pan.
Fry the marinated fish pieces for about 5 min.
Add the rest of the paste and cook for another 20 min.

Serve over rice. You can add tomatoes to add volume

Thekera Dia Maasor Tenga (Sour Fish Curry with 'Thekeraa')

Ingredients :

1. Fish - 1 cleaned catfish, cut to about 3/4 inch pieces.
(I use catfish. It is supposed to of the 'Maagur" family.
Other fishes should be ok. Even very small fishes)
2. Half teaspoon turmeric
3. Few green chilies - depending on the strength of the chilli.
cut to small pieces
4. "PansPhoran" - about one teaspoon of the mixture of fenugreek
seeds, black "jeera", fennel seed.
5. Oil - Anything goes, but for authencity use mustard oil!
6. Salt
7. The most important thing - Thekera ( I don't know what it is
called in English. It seems to be an Assamese speciality. Even my
Bengali friends don't know about it). Of course you can always use
lime juice or tomato to give the sourness. But I am picky about my
"Thekeraa diaa Maasar Tenga" :-)


1. Put the "thekera" in a cup of water. Generally one piece of
"Thekera" is good for one cup of water. So depending on how much
gravy you want, use that many pieces. Keep for about 1/2 hour.
2. Mix the turmeric and salt with the fish. If you are using chilli
powder instead of green chilli, you can mix it too.
3. Fry the fish in oil lightly. Remove from pan. If the fish breaks a
little, don't worry, it will add to the gravy
4. In the same pan, heat some more oil and put the "PansPhoran"
mixture. Put green chillies. When fried, put the cup of water with
5. Add extra cups of water (depending on the number of "thekera" used)
6. When the mixture comes to boil, add fried fish and reduce flame
7. Let it simmer for some time (10-15 minutes). Let the juice of "Thekera"
get cooked.
8. Serve with white rice.
Recipe : Masor Jhol (Conventional Fish Curry)


1. Fish - 1 lb. cleaned catfish, cut to about 3/4 inch pieces.
2. Half tsp turmeric, cumin+corriandar powder 1 tsp, salt
3. Two green chillies, chopped, 1 chopped onion, minced garlic+ginger
4. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, chopped green corriander
5. Two tomatoes, sliced.


Coat the fish pieces with the spices in (1).
In a skillet or wide pan heat 1 tbsp oil and fry the fish pieces for
about 2 min. on each side. Remove and drain.
In the remaining oil, saute cumin+mustard seeds, garlic+ginger and onion,
added in that order. Now add sliced tomatoes. Cook for 5 min.
Add the fish pieces and simmer for about 10 min.

Goes well over rice.

Recipe: Kamrupi Biriyani and Vegetable Fry


Rice 3 cups (for 6) long grain, non-stick
Green peas (for 6) 100-200 grams
Yellow turmeric powder 1/2 t.
Green cardamon 6-8 whole cashews 20
Black cardamon 4 garlic 2 whole flower
Whole cloves 10-15 ginger 4 inch piece
Chicken 4 breasts green coriander 1 bunch
Oil vegetable cooking only one onion (big)
Eggplant 5 small broccoli 1 small head
Potato 4 parboiled onion 1 Large, sliced lengthwise

Oil vegetable cooking only

1. Cook the rice in two portions:
(a) 3/4 as plain white rice;
- add a little oil (1-2 t. oil)
- add the green (4) and black (2) cardanoms
(smash green and black cardanoms)
- add whole cashews (make two pieces each)
- add water as appropriate, then flame on
- take the cooked rice off to a plate

(b) 1/4 as yellow rice;
- add a little oil (1 t. oil)
- add 4 whole cloves
- add water as appropriate
- add the 1/4 t. yellow turmeric
- take the cooked rice off to a plate

After the rice is done, mix the two types (a) & (b) together
and divide into two portions (1/4 and 3/4). Put aside.

2. Preparation of ingredients:
(c) take the bunch of green coriander;
- cut into half lengthwise
- one half from root cut into one inch pieces (c)1
- other half cut into one and a half pieces (c)2
- do not mix (c)1 and (c)2

(d) take the ginger;
- use a mortar and pestal to mash
(cut into tiny pieces is other option)

(e) take the garlic;
- use a mortar and pestal to mash
(cut into tiny pieces is other option)

(f) smash green (4) and black (2) cardamom together

Do not mix (d) and (e), and do not mix (f) with (d) (e)

(g) cut the onion into long size

3. Preparation of Peas:
(h) fry 100-200 grams peas in little oil
- no ingredients needed

4. Preparation of Vegetable:
(j) eggplant and small head broccoli;
- cut lengthwise bite size (will be show how)
- cut eggplant into bite size (will be show)

(k) choose medium size potato;
- wash and cut into bite size (lengthwise), boil
and peal the skin (or peal before boil)

Put oil in a frying pan (little more), warm up the oil, put onion,
put five whole cloves, put half (c)1, put 1/4 of (d) 1/2 of (e)
1/2 of (f) fry for a while, (will be shown). Now put (j) stir
and cover until done.

Take (j) off from the frying pan and fry (k) in the same oil.
If oil is not enough, put a little as needed. After (k) is
fried and done add (j) and stir carefully. Cover for a minute
or so in a low flame. Then the fry is ready to serve.

5. Preparation of Kamrupi Biriyani:
(l) choose skin chicken;
- burn the skin (light) over flame (important)
- now cut the chicken into 2 inch pieces
- take half of (d) half of (e) and half of (f) to
coat (or mix) the chicken
- put oil in a frying pan (large) and warm up
- put 1/4 onion and half of (c)1 on oil and fry
until reddish-yellow
- put coated chicken, put five whole cloves, fry accordingly
(need to cover to cook well) at relatively low flame
(important) add salt accordingly before covering
- chicken is about to done, just before 2-3 minutes or so,
add 1/4 of (d), half of (c)2, and fried peas
- low flame and put 3/4 rice on chicken and mix
- cover for a while (this is Kamrupi biriyani, ready to serve

Egg Shoap

2 medium Potatoe boiled and peeled
2 Eggs boiled and peeled
1 onions finely chopped
1 chopped green chillies
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste
bread crumbs and egg
oil for frying

Mash potatoes with the eggs.
In a pan heat some oil and fry chopped onions along with green chillies. Fry till golden brown. Add salt,coriander, cumin and turmeric.
Add the fried onions to mashed eggs and potato mixture.
Make small balls of the egg-potato mixture.
Break the unboiled egg in a bowl.
Coat the balls first with the egg and then with the bread crumbs.In a wok or Kadhai heat some oil and fry the balls till golden brown and serve hot with tea or as any apetizer
Pumpkin Oambal Serves: 4
1 lb./500 gms pumpkin, boiled and mashed
½ cup dilute tamarind water
½ cup grated Jaggery, dissoved
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp raisins
1 cup water
2 dry red chillies, slit
1 tsp mustard oil
salt to taste

Add the tamarind water to the pumpkin and mix well.
Heat the oil add mustard seeds and fry till thay start sizzling, then add chillies and bay leaf. Stir for a minute, add the raisins and stir for another minute.
Add the pumpkin-tamarind mixture and stir-fry for a couple of
Stir in the jaggery mixture and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer
for a couple of minutes and remove from heat. Add the lime juice and stir well.
Remove the bay leaf before serving.
Tomato Oambal or Chutney Serves: 4
1 lb./500 gms plump ripe tomatoes diced
½ cup grated Jaggery, dissoved
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp raisins
1 cup water
2 dry red chillies, slit
1 tsp mustard oil
salt to taste

Heat the oil add mustard seeds and fry till thay start sizzling, then add chillies and bay leaf. Stir for a minute, add the raisins and stir for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and simmer till tomatoes change color.
Stir in the jaggery mixture and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer
for a couple of minutes or till the dish is thick with a rich color. Add the lime juice and stir well.
Remove the bay leaf before serving
Cabbage Kofta Curry
For the Kofta:
1 small cabbage, shredded finely
2 small onions , minced finely
Salt to taste
1 tsp Garam Masala powder
1 tsp Chilli powder
1 cup Besan
For the Curry
1 large onion, sliced finely
2 cloves
1 cinamon stick
1-2 cardammom pods
1 medium onion
5 garlic clovettes
1 small piece ginger
1 tsp jeera
1 tsp Coriander seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp cashewnuts
4-5 green chillies
1 medium tomato
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tablespoon yogurt

Mix all the kofta ingredients together and make a batter. Pour small round lumps of the batter in hot oil, deep fry and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the sliced onion till it turns translucent. Now add the masala paste.
Fry till the oil starts separated from the onions.

Add 1 tablespoon of yogurt and mix well.
Add salt and enough water to make a think gravy and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Add the deep fried koftas and heat through.
Serve hot with chapatis or rice.

WHEN you open the outer layering of a cooked banana leave, a strong aroma assails your nostrils and your mouth waters even before you have glanced at the contents: tiny fishes liberally coated with mustard and onion paste decorated with chillies.

And why not, considering that this dish evokes flavours and smells typical of the exotic land of Assam where eating means much more than just indulging your stomach. Food is sacred and eating is almost a ritual but the cooking process is fuss-free and in sync with nature, a trait that reflects the simple lifestyle of the inhabitants.
Being a state of essentially rice-eating people, the day starts with snacks made of rice, the famous pitha, made of rice flour, that reminds one of idli. The pitha comes in more varieties than one cares to remember: pitha filled with coconut powder or having a simple coating of gur or the special one baked within a bamboo piece in an open fire.
A typical Assamese meal starts with a bowl of khar, a dish of boiled vegetables cooked in the ashes of a banana tree, a variety of cooking soda, followed by a dish of titaful, a bitter flower which is available in everyone's kitchen garden. Then comes a tangy curry, made of bamboo shoots, tomatoes or herbs available locally. After consuming the starters with spoonfuls of rice, it is time for dal, seasonal vegetables and fish curry to be followed by a dish of meat or poultry products. The dessert is normally rice kheer though the calorie-conscious people prefer instead to have a piece of beetle nut and paan.

But there is not much reason to worry about the calorie count because one typical complete Assamese dish contains just about 350- 400 calories. This is generally due to less use of spice or oil. So wedded to health are the people of Assam that after trying out the much-publicised refined cooking oils for while, they have chosen to revert to good old mustard oil because of its curative properties.
It is not just the dishes that are exotic but even the way food is consumed that is of interest. The traditional way to have food is to sit on a floor with hand-woven bamboo mats. Eating with hands is not thought to be bad table manners. Getting your hands dirty is not a deterrent because there is always someone ready with a jug of water and huge bowl to make you wash your hands before and after a meal.
Even the manner in which the plates are laid on the table gives an insight into the family hierarchy. Heavier plates made of bell metal spell respect and clout and are reserved for the elders while others get to eat in the normal steel plates. Bone china crockery is reserved for guests. Though outside influences have made an impact on eating customs, marking a shift from eating on bamboo mats to dining tables, the assamese have still clung to old food habits as well as eating on locally produced bell metal plates.

Spinach khar

Serves 4
Spinach 150gm.
Cooked rice 50 gm
Soda bicarbonate 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard oil 2 tbsp
Ginger 10 gm
Fenugreek seeds 1/4tbsp
Water 500 ml.
Method: Chop the spinach after thoroughly washing it. Chop the ginger. Pour the oil in pan, put the methi and once it is cooked add the chopped spinach, soda, rice and fry a little. Pour the water and add the chopped ginger as a finishing touch.

Roasted fish

Fish is a staple part of the Assamese cuisine
Serves 4
Fish 250 gm
Mustard seeds 2 tbsp
Onion 25 gm
Green chillis 2
Mustard oil 4 tbsp
Salt to taste
Method: Wash the pieces of the fish. Chop onion, chillis and grind the mustard seeds to a fine paste. Add all the ingredients along with salt and oil. Now coat the fish pieces with the paste, wrap it in banana leaf and put it on an open fire. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Rohu fish in curd

Serves 4
Rohu fish 250 gm
Curd 1 cup
Jeera 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Mustard oil 100 ml
Dry red chillis 4
Capsicum 75 gm
Onion 100 gm
Sugar 1 tsp
Water 2 cups
Elaichi, dalchini 1 tsp
Method: Wash the fish pieces and coat with turmeric and salt. Make a paste of jeera and dry chillis. Put oil in a pan and fry the fish. Put the spices, turmeric, chopped capsicum, salt and sugar into the remaining hot oil. Stir the ingredients for a while and then pour the curd into it. Let it cook for a while and then pour water. When it comes to a boil add the fried fish. Top with elaichi and dalchini paste.

Paror Jhol (Wood pigeons Curry)

Among some of the best and unique recipes in Assamese cuisine is Paror Jhol (Wood pigeons Curry). This is something totally different in Indian cuisines because it is quite unusual to cook pigeons for cooking. Below are the ingredients and instructions for making Paror Jhol.
The method for cooking Paror Jhol is as follows:
First, you need to cut the pigeons into small pieces. Next, rub jeera, haldi and salt. While this stands aside, start heating the oil, and then add in the tejpat, garam masala, and onions. Fry them all until they dry up and start getting sticky. Next, put in jeera and jaluk. Fry this up for an additional 3 minutes or so. Once this is done add in the chopped pigeons. Keep frying gently and add in the required amount of salt to taste. Next, add in some water for the mixture to boil. Once this is cooked, garnish the dish with hot ghee, which is of course optional.
Assamese cuisine truly has delights such as Paror Jhol, which are both unique and tasty

A few links to Assamese Cuisine


best links:

Special Note: :I would like to thank Sunita Ba and Labhita Bou for having an exclusive Assamese cuisine related blog each to let others know about the cuisines and delicacies of Assam.I have taken some photographs from their Blogs to showcase the Assamese cuisines as very less amount of photographs are available. For any foreigner these blogs are very informative about Assamese cuisine with beautifully taken photographs and easily comprehensible and well written menus.

Sunita Ba's Blog :
Labhita Bou's Blog:


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sunita said...

Glad to see so many pictures from my blog Sunita's world-life and food (, but not very happy that you didn't bother to ask my permission to post them here, and neither was there any credit or link given. Quite a lot of effort goes into creating a blog post,as you probably know very well, and it would be nice if others appreciated that too.

Bidisha Kalita said...

a well researched and informative piece on assamese cuisine. Can I share it on Facebook?

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Dhiraj Kumar said...

Wonderful Recipe. Pretty much ideal .. Thanks for sharing...
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