In today’s episode of the Community and Food Stories Series, we are exploring the Assamese cuisine in Delhi at the home of our gracious host Ms. Sneha Saikia, who is a popular home chef specializing in Assamese and Northeastern cuisines.
Delhi is home to a good number of Assamese population who are mostly into corporate, teaching, administrative and medical professions. Just like all other communities they too are inclined towards their own traditions and culture.
Coming to the Assamese cuisine, we see that with an exceptional variety of produce, this cuisine is diverse, unique, simple, wholesome and delectable. The diversity can be attributed to the geographical diversity of the state.
As a food enthusiast and a chef, Sneha is on a quest to introduce people to her home state's cuisine in all its scope and soul. And for this she holds regular food pop ups and tables. We too had got introduced to her through one such pop up and since then there has been a special camaraderie.
Over a cup of Laal saah, she gave us a quick detail of her long association with Delhi. She shared how in spite of her long stay in Delhi, her heart still beats for her home state and how the yearning has led her to professionally showcase her food culture to the discerning populace.
Next we went to her balcony garden to check out some of the herbs that are essential to this cuisine. Due to the love for plants and to get fresh supply of some of the indigenous herbs and vegetable , Sneha maintains a flourishing garden.
Soon after we went to the kitchen to begin the meal preparation. Sneha had planned an elaborate rice based spread for us. Due to the time constraint she had already prepared some dishes in advance although the main ones were still to be done. She started with rohor dail an moved on to xandho guru diya kukurar mangxo, ronga laur phoolor bor then maser tenga and aloo bhaat kerela pitika. With effortless ease and elan, Sneha conjured all the five dishes in time. She followed the rustic recipes to retain the traditional taste. Every dish had an interesting side to it. For example the pumpkin flower fritters were prepared with the bright orange flowers from her garden while the unique xandho guri diye kukurara mangxo was prepared with homemade dry roasted rice powder.
Apart from the unique olfactory experience, the other most interesting aspect of the cooking experience was that the recipe details were interspersed with numerous stories and anecdotes.
When the table was set for eating, we realised that there were more than a dozen things in the spread. We started the meal with spiced amla juice. This is believed to whet the appetite so we drank it without complaint. The other things in the spread included rice - the staple grain, one more jute leaves fritter, bhoot jholokia based saatni, radish and sesame seeds saatni, moringa leaves stir fry, no onion garlic pathar mangxo, khar - the indispensable Assamese dish, bhedailota- bor aanja and black rice kheer.
At her guidance we started with the khar and ended with masor tenga. Even though we enjoyed each and every dish, we absolutely loved the shunk vine flavoured curry, then mutton curry, masor tenga and the black rice kheer which we had post meal. The last one was a luscious earthy flavoured dessert that had a gratifying creamy and gooey texture. Overall the meal was a great mix of vegetables, spices, pulses, and the right amount of protein. The use of herbs and indigenous ingredients lends it a very distinctive rustic character. We are grateful to Sneha for treating us to this amazing meal that was much more than the stereotypical representation of this cuisine.