Food has been a universal connection between people for a really long time now. The food habit of a region reflects its culture and traditions to quite an extent. The same holds true for the cuisine of Assam as well, which has its own style and pattern, quite distinct from the rest of the country as well as ther north-eastern states. It is said that one can only get the true essence of the place he is visiting by tasting the local cuisine. The Assamese cuisine is one such factor of Awesome Assam that would add another star to the welcome note of Assam Tourism ‘Once you visit Assam, it stays with you forever’. The traditional food of Assam comes across as a blend of many exotic spices, herbs and condiments. With a wide variety of indigenous food to offer, the food of Assam is famous for its distinctive flavoring and influences. The people of Assam are known to have been blessed with the art of cooking and at Assam, men and women both cook with equal proficiency. Men folks of Assam comprise of the workforce that do cooking activities at any celebrations or religious ceremonies of Assam. The delicacies of Assam boast of a unique charm derived from exotic herbs and vegetables that are used in the dishes adding freshness and magnificent taste. Rice and fish are the staple food of Assam and are the main ingredients in Assamese cuisine. Less spicy and less oily are the speciality.
Assamese cuisine is influenced by the majority of the indigenous tribes of the State which is generally a confluence of cooking habits of the hills that favor fermentation and drying as forms of preservation. The Assamese cuisine is characterized with simplicity and variety and is much different from the cuisine of the rest of the country because the cuisine is less spicy. The Assamese cuisine is characterized with health and natural flavor because of the extensive use of herbs and organic vegetables. Assamese cuisine is generally low in oil and spices but the exotic herbs, meat and the Bhut Jolokia (the hottest pepper in the World) impart a strong flavor to the cuisine.
A traditional meal in Assam begins with a Khar (a range of dishes named after its main ingredient) and ends with a Tenga (a sour dish). Food is generally served on bell metal plates and saucers accompanied by Tamul (Betel nut) and Paan. The people of Assam are mostly non-vegetarians with meat and fish being a regular dish accompanied with the staple diet of rice. For vegetarians, the cuisine of Assam serves an assorted meal of various locally grown organic vegetables and Cottage Cheese (Paneer).
The Assamese cuisine sees the use of meat varieties like chicken, duck, pigeon and pork. Fish varieties to fill a major part of the sumptuous Assamese cuisine. The fish curry is typically sour flavoured owing to the use of certain local herbs and vegetables. The meat dish is little spicy because of the use of green chillies and mustard oil often cooked with bamboo shoot called Khorisa. Baked or steamed fish wrapped in plantain leaves with mustard paste is a local delicacy called ‘Patot diya maas’. However, what sets the Assamese cuisine apart is traditional ‘detoxifying’ appetizers cooked in a variety of ways. The most popular being the ‘Khar’ which is prepared by burning the stem of the banana tree and roasting an soaking banana peels. The Assamese cuisine ‘Khar’ has a distinct flavor and is soothing for the stomach. With numerous rivers and wetlands, Assam is also home to the largest variety of fish species in India, and thus many fish recipes like tenga anjaa, sorsori, patot diya, sungat diya, pora, pitika, bhoja, korikat diya, bhapot diya, etc. all depending on the type of fish you are eating here in Assam.
The typical Assamese snacks and meals for breakfast include chira, akhoi, pitha-guri, hurum, sandoh-guri, muri, doi and gur, with a sonda-hol or malbhog kol (local variety of banana) adding to the taste. Sweetmeats include various kinds of pitha made up of different varieties of rice-powder, gur, coconut powder and sesame (til).
In summary, the various ingredients of the Assamese cuisine are ~
- Herbs and Vegetables
- Natural Spices
The Various preparations in the Assamese Cuisine are ~
- Khar (Named after the ingredient Khar)
- Masor Tenga (Sour Fish Curry)
- Narasingh Masor Jul (Fish curry with curry leaves)
- Pura (Roasted meat, fish or vegetables)
- Pitika (mashed potatoes/vegetables with spices)
- Chutney and Salad
- Pokori (fritter made from potato, brinjal, herbs, etc.)
- Rice Beer (locally brewed named variously as Xaas, Laupani, Zudima, Apong, etc.)
A short description of the most famous dishes of Assam is as follows: