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Cuisines of Assam: Straight out of an Assamese Pakghor

26 Sep,2022 05:25 PM, by: Prasanta Nath
3 minute read Total views: 620
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Indian cuisines in general are extremely popular for being high on taste, texture and variety. Think of Indian food, and you’ll probably recall chicken / paneer butter masala, tandoori delights, naan, biriyani, daal makhani, dosa, idli, and the list goes on and on. However, a delicious part of Indian cuisines are tucked away in the exotic Northeastern region, which are still on the list of lesser explored cuisines across the nation (and around the world).

 Traditional Assamese cuisines are among these hidden delights. If you’re from Assam or have been to the Northeastern state, you’ll be familiar with the wide variety of simple yet lip smacking culinary delights, cooked out of a typical Axomiya ‘pakghor’ (kitchen). Unlike popular Indian cuisines that have rich textured gravies and complex flavours, most Assamese cuisines are cooked with minimal ingredients without compromising on the flavours. There is a strong emphasis on minimizing waste in Assamese cuisine.

 For the foodie in you, here’s a compilation of drool-worthy Assamese cuisines (on the meatier side) that are delightfully different from other Indian cuisines -


Khaar

The phrase ‘Khaar khua Axomiya’ is rooted in the indulgence of this primary food component in Assamese cuisines. ‘Khar’ is among the ancient delicacies of Assam that lends alkalinity to a dish, and is a must-have component of an Assamese thali. It is typically made by filtering water through the ashes of sun dried peels of Athiyakol or Bhimkol. Although different elements such as black gram, bark of papaya trees, etc. are also used in making different variations of Khar. The ingredient ‘Khar’ is mostly retained in liquid form and used as additive to vegetable or meat dishes. Interestingly, the dish cooked with the ingredient ‘Khar’ is also called Khar - and that is what you’ll be served as part of your traditional Assamese thali. Khar is both appetising and easily digestible, and contains multiple medicinal properties.


Masor Tenga (Sour Fish)

 A summertime delight, the Assamese take on fish curry is a blend of tangy, savoury and mildly spicy flavours. For this dish, Rahu fish is an ideal choice, but one can replace it with a different fish variant as well. Traditional souring agents that form the ‘tenga’ component of the dish include either one or a select combination of tomatoes, dried mangosteen, lemon, raw mango and elephant apples. It’s a perfect lunch or dinner serving, as well as a Sunday delight. For the best experience, serve it beside a generous portion of steamed white rice. 


Paror Mangxo (Pigeon Meat Curry)

Pigeon meat is regarded as a delicacy in Assam. It is typically consumed during the winters and goes perfectly with koldil (banana flower), a famous side dish in Assamese cuisine. For centuries, this cuisine has been a part of the Assamese tradition, and it is still a popular and traditional Assamese dish. The blend of textures and flavours will have you licking your fingers when served with a steaming bowl of rice.


Patot Diya Maas (Steamed Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaf)

 Another delectable fish preparation from the humble Axomiya pakghor is freshwater river fish wrapped in banana leaf and cooked in steam. Ingredients that go into the flavourful wrap are aromatic herbs like coriander & cilantro, sliced onions, green chilies, salt and mustard oil. It is one of those Assamese cuisines that feature the use of minimal ingredients and spices, but is incredibly delicious. The dish is topped with a dash of lime juice and can be served just as a standalone snack or as a side addition to a hearty Assamese meal. 


Lai Xaak Gahori (Pork with Mustard Greens)

 When in Assam, know that Axomiyas love ‘gahori’ (pork). Majority of the meat-eating Assamese folks will tell you that gahori is an emotion in the land of Assam. One of the popular pork cuisines is the Lai Xaak Gahori, translated to pork with mustard greens. It is also another classic Axomiya delicacy which features the use of minimal ingredients and spices. The dish is prepared using boiled pork, laai xaak, ginger, garlic and green chillies. If you have a high spice tolerance, the addition of bhoot jolokia (king chilly) makes it even more scrumptious. Just like any other typical meat dishes in Assam, it is best enjoyed with a serving of steamed white rice. 


Haah Joha Kumura (Duck and White Gourd Curry)

 Without this exotic winter delicacy, Assamese celebrations are incomplete. Duck, commonly known as 'haa,' is one of the most popular delicacies among the Assamese communities. When prepared with white gourd (or joha kumuar in Assamese), the dish takes on the aromatic flavours of the star ingredient, that is similar to the aromatic profile of Joha rice, found in Assam. The use of kumura in a duck curry also balances the fat content of the dish. It is a staple meal during the Uruka feast, which is celebrated on the eve of Magh Bihu festival in Assam. 


These are some of the popular and traditional Assamese delicacies that fall mostly in the non-vegetarian category. The flavour profiles of Assamese cuisines are simple, yet delicious. Use of local herbs, greens and lesser spices lends to its simplicity. Due to its unique flavour blends and soulful cooking methods, the culinary delights of Assam leave a lasting impression on tourists from outside.  If you love exploring different cuisines, Assam can be a perfect paradise to land on.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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