Food and gastronomy is the quickest and tastiest way to get to know a place or a culture. Assam is no different. Home to different tribes and indo-mangol- burmese mix of immigrants, it boasts of a varied feast for the tongue. We will try and cover a few local must trys for both non- vegetarians as well as a few sides for vegetarians to enjoy too:
Raw papaya, pulses, cassava and meat? This might sound heuristic but the combination is just as opposite as it sounds. Choose between pork, mutton, chicken or even fish head, this dish is simple but elegant. Banana skin ash filtered water is used in the soup, from which its name is derived, has a very uplifting outcome on your taste. The preferred complementary is good old steamed rice.
Bangajor Lagot Kukura (Tender chicken cooked with bamboo-shoot)
Another unique dish to try when in Assam is the Bangajor Lagot Kukura. Chicken on the bone is cooked in lentils. This is a delicacy and has an acquired flavor imparted by the pungent bamboo shoots. The fermented bamboo shoots are more pungent. You can surely try the one made with fresh bamboo (during rains) and enjoy it with hot steamed rice.
For fish lovers, this is the dish to try. This stew is essentially sweet river fish simmered in a refreshing sauce base of tomatoes and made tangy by the addition of lime and the local favourite Ou or elephant apple. Its extremely sour and acidic on its own, but when slow cooked becomes mellow and imparts a characteristic fragrance and taste that delights everybody.
Pigeon or quail meat cooked along with banana flowers is a sort of comfort food found in winters. Known for its warming qualities, this preparation is cooked and eaten by locals in the cold months. Game birds like duck and pigeon are commonly eaten in Assam and can be enjoyed by anyone with a bold appetite.
Cooked rice which is fermented overnight and spiced with mustard oil, chillies, onion and served with side dishes like pitika which is a ubiquitous mash prepared with steamed or roasted potatoes, pulses or even fish is another must have on your culinary experience ride to Assam.
Xaak Aru Bhaji
You will generally see this when ordering traditional thali style food. This is a side dish served with rice typically made with seasonal leaves spiced with garlic, ginger and a spritz of lemon.
This is again another accompaniment for traditional Assamese food and is used as an astringent or palate cleanser after consumption of the rich food. It is essentially a chutney made from the sour fruit called Ou or elephant apple which is boiled, mashed and then tempered with spices and cooked with palm jaggery till it reaches desired consistency. It is served at room temperature and goes will with sweet curd and papads.
From the unique to the bizarre. Polu or silkworm larvae is a tribal delicacy and available only in certain parts of Assam. These are first boiled and then sautéed with spices and are best served with alcoholic drinks. We advise it for the brave-hearts. It is actually said to be delicious if you can get past the idea of having a worm.
Assam has a huge array of sweets to choose from most of whose base is rice, milk, coconut and jiggery. Pithas essentially are rice cakes that can be steamed, roasted, baked, rolled or deep-fried with delicious stuffing made usually from sweetened coconut and jiggery. Do try atleast a few varieties or all if you have a sweet tooth.