The Assamese cuisine is diverse, unique, simple and palatable. The variety of food that the state has to offer is exceptional. The exotic taste of the herbs, rustic feel of the dishes and a distinctive character is what drives the Assamese food. The authentic traditional Assamese food is not just about Pork with Bamboo Shoots, Aloo Pitika, Chira Doi or Masar Tenga as perceived by most of us.The culinary glory of Assamese traditional cuisine is beyond the stereotypical representation. Much like the geographical diversity of the land, the authentic Assamese dishes are extensive and has its own league in the culinary world.
This article is about Top 20 authentic assamese dishes that one must try in Assam. The traditional Assamese dishes are simple yet exotic in nature. No flamboyant presentation.
This post is co-written by me & the guest Author, Geeta Dutta. She is a renowned culinary expert from Assam.
The best part of Assamese food is that the ingredients of these dishes are locally produced. You will find a variety of xaak (leafy vegetables) in every household, especially in the rural areas. The vegetables like Cherry tomatoes, Coriander, Eggplants, variety of green xaak, Chilli, Mint leaves and many more, are locally produced in the kitchen garden of every household. The organic vegetables from the garden help to enhance the taste of the authentic traditional Assamese dishes.
The delectable local Assamese dishes are neither too spicy nor bland like the food from the hills. It is a great mix of vegetables, spices, pulses, and the right amount of protein. When it comes to variety, the Assamese traditional food offers a wide range.
Whether you are a hard-core non-vegetarian, a pure vegetarian or vegan, there is no dearth of mouth-watering authentic Assamese dishes to satiate your gastronomic cravings.
Whether it is the popular Assamese Mati Dail khar, Duck Curry with Ash Gourd, Poita Bhat or the Bihu speciality, the various Pithas, your taste buds will get the best of the everything in Assam. If you are a foodie or a food enthusiast, sampling the authentic Assamese food should be on your list. Trust me, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of food.
What are the must have authentic traditional Assamese dishes one shouldn’t miss in Assam?
The state offers a scrumptious culinary treasure of mouth-watering traditional dishes. Here I am covering must try authentic traditional Assamese dishes in Assam. This list will give you a fair idea about the food culture of Assam as well as the traditional lifestyle of the Assamese people.
Traditional Assamese Breakfast Dishes
1. Doi Chira (Beaten rice, Curd and Jaggery)
The famed Doi Chira is one of the popular breakfast dishes, served traditionally in bell metal utensils, known as Baan Bati. In Assamese, we call it Jolpan. It means a mini meal mostly served in the morning as breakfast. There are a variety of Jolpan versions. Generally, “Bora Saul” (stickyrice), kumol saul (a special type of curated rice which needs no cooking), Chira (beaten rice) are used. A Jolpan platter is accompanied by various “pitha” or rice cakes too, especially during Bihu. The traditional Jolpan is quite filling and energetic as well. Don’t be surprised if you are offered Doi Chira and Pitha in Assamese household during Bihu as it is part of their tradition.
2. Tekeli Pitha and Laal Saah (Steamed Rice Cake with Red Tea)
One of the most loved snacks in Assam is Tekeli Pitha. It is made of rice flour mixed with black sesame and desiccated coconut. The delicious mix is then steamed at the mouth of a pitcher or Tekeli. The spongy white rice cake is served with a bowl of steaming hot red tea. You can’t possibly miss this as it is absolutely delicious.
3. Khulasaporir Pitha with Laal Saah ( Rice Pancake with Red Tea)
Another must have dish is a common dish “khulasaporir Pitha ” served with Jaggery or “gur “. It is a traditional snack and can be served at breakfast and also with evening tea. This is prepared with a thin batter of rice flour. Some also make a savoury version of it. It is best served with a bowl of red Assam tea. The aroma and the rustic feel makes you have it. Never miss it.
Traditional Assamese Non-Vegetarian Dishes
4. Maasor Tenga (Tangy Fish Curry)
The classic traditional Assamese tangy fish curry is one highly recommended dish which should not be missed in Assam. Maasor Tenga is one of the top favourite dishes, widely popular among food lovers across the country. This iconic dish is cooked with tomatoes and fresh rohu fish. The Assamese people use different souring elements to cook this dish, like Outenga (elephant apple), Thekera (Garcinia), Tomato, Lemon, different herbs, etc. Maasor Tenga or tangy fish curry is quite soothing in summer months, especially during lunch. The hot bowl of white rice with Maasor Tenga is good enough to satiate your food desire in Assam.
5. Haah Joha Kumura (Duck Cooked with Ash Gourd)
This is definitely one of the highly celebrated iconic traditional Assamese dishes. No Assamese feast is complete without this exotic dish. Duck meat is generally enjoyed in the winter months. Cooked with a special type of ash gourd called “joha kumura “which smells like Joha rice (Aromatic Rice) when cooked. Only traditional spices like ginger, garlic, green chillies and black pepper are used to cook it. This particular dish is always a part of Uruka feast (A celebratory feast one day before Magh Bihu)
6. Lai Xaak Gahori (Pork with Mustard Greens)
This particular dish is a kind of emotion for Assamese pork lovers. Pork is cooked with “Lai Xaak “, the crunchy mustard greens. A totally oil free dish, the pork chunks are either boiled with the greens with ginger, garlic and chillies or stir fried. Adding Bhoot Jolokia or King Chilly takes the dish to another level .With a plate of white rice, it tastes heavenly.
7. Patot diya maas (Steamed Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaf)
This is a popular dish among non vegetarians. If you are a fish lover, this is highly recommended. The tiny fresh river fishes are used to prepare this dish. The cleaned fishes are mixed with aromatic herbs like coriander, culantro /sawtooth coriander, chopped onions, chillies, salt and mustard oil. They are wrapped in banana leaves or aromatic turmeric leaves and steamed. After steaming, add a few drops of aromatic lemon to it and Voila, taste it now!!
8. Til Diya Murgi (Chicken Cooked with Black Sesame)
“Til ” or black sesame is widely used in Assamese cuisine. It substituted oil in earlier days. This particular chicken dish is cooked with grinded paste of black sesame seeds. Minimal oil is used to cook this. Ginger, garlic and raw chillies are the only spices added. This dish goes great with rice. Another must try traditional Assamese dish.
9. Baah Gaaj Bhoot Jolokia di Gahori (Pork with Bamboo Shoots and King Chilli)
This is the signature dish of entire Northeast India. The aroma of fermented bamboo shoots in itself is inviting. Just boil the pork with fermented bamboo shoots, king chillies, ginger and garlic. It’s that simple. You will find it everywhere in Northeast India, not just in Assam. This is a highly demanded traditional Assamese dish in any celebration. Pork with bamboo shoots and king chilly is widely popular across the country.
10. Koldil Murgi (Chicken cooked with Banana Flower)
The Assamese people cook chicken with a wide variety of ingredients. The best part is that all those classic ingredients are locally produced and widely available everywhere in Assam. Koldil Murgi is a classic dish. It is very healthy and nutritious. The banana flower, called koldil is rich in iron and dietary fibres. It’s chopped very fine and cooked with chicken with traditional spices like ginger, garlic, black pepper and chillies. The same recipe goes great with pigeon meat too, which is another favourite amongst locals.
Traditional Assamese Vegetarian Dishes
11. Dhekia Bhaji (Stir Fried Fiddlehead Ferns)
This is one of the most common dish, normally served in Assamese household regularly. The Fiddlehead ferns or Dhekia grows in wild after rains. A bunch of these beautiful greens stir fried with baby potatoes or chickpeas are something you can never afford to miss. It goes well with rice and yellow daal.
12. Mati Dail Khar (Black Lentils with Alkaline Extract)
“Khar” is a quintessential part of Assamese cuisine. It’s an alkaline extract derived by burning and filtering banana peels. Khar acts as an appetizer, gut purifier and palate cleanser. Any Khar dish is served in the beginning of the main course. This traditional ingredient can be used in various ways. The authentic Khar dish can include pulses, vegetables or even fish or meat.Out of all of these, the Mati Dal khar is one of the favourite among locals. The dal (black lentils) is tempered in pure mustard oil to give it a must needed punch. Adding raw ginger slices enhances the flavour. Mati Dail khar is one of the must have traditional Assamese dishes for sure.
13. Aloo Pitika (Mashed Potatoes)
Aloo Pitika is a widely popular traditional Assamese dish that everyone seems to be very fond of. It is a side dish, served mainly in traditional Assamese Thali, almost everywhere, whenever you try Assamese cuisine. This is one integral part of the diverse traditional menu.
Aloo Pitika is basically mashed boiled potato, fixed with green chilli, onion, chopped ginger, mustard oil, and coriander leaves. Well, traditional Assamese cuisine offers a variety of mashes, not only restricted to Aloo Pitika. The eggplant, pumpkin, potato, tomato and even fish can be prepared into a Pitika. The pungent aroma of raw mustard oil and spicy chillies, especially if you add tiny slice of Bhut Jolokia (King Chilli), uplifts the taste to another level. This is a comfort food for every Assamese person. It is mainly served with rice, daal and other dishes.
14. Outenga diya dail (Lentils Cooked with Elephant Apple)
This particular dish is very comforting, especially in summers. Outenga or elephant apple has subtle sour flavour. Adding pieces of outenga to regular lentils and just boiling it, results in a mouth-watering dal.
15. Poita Bhat (Fermented Rice)
It is quite interesting to see how the dish like Poita Bhat, which roots its originality from the rural areas of Assam has been getting the spotlight in the culinary world. In earlier times, people never used to discard the leftover rice cooked for dinner. Instead, they used to soak it in water in the same utensil in which rice was cooked. Next morning, they used to have it as breakfast just with chilly, onion, a pinch of salt, raw mustard oil, roasted potato or fried fish. Normally, the farmers used to have it before leaving for paddy fields and daily chores. It is very healthy in nature. Once considered as poor man’s breakfast, it is gradually becoming quite popular among food lovers.
16. Kosuthuri Kon Bilahir Logot (Tender Colocasia Leaves cooked with Cherry Tomatoes)
This is another authentic traditional Assamese must have dish in Assam. This is an iconic rustic dish! The tender buds of colocasia or “kosu thuri” are found almost everywhere after the rain. It’s such a delight to collect them in a woven bamboo basket, along with lovely cherry tomatoes. Normally, you get these in every Assamese household in interior areas. The Tender Colocasia leaves and Cherry Tomatoes are cooked together with basic spices. Sometimes we love to add fish head or fermented fish in it too. It is lip-smacking.
17. Maah Proxador Khar (Split Green Mung Beans and Chickpeas cooked with Alkaline Extract)
Another “Khar” or alkaline extract is “maah proxador khar ” which is common in Assamese homes especially during the Bhado month. The Assamese people, mostly follower of Vaishnava faith, go to Namghar (Temple) for prayers during this period. The maah proxad of split green mung beans and chickpeas is a holy offering. Generally, the leftover are cooked with khar (alkaline extract) the next day.
A bowl of these proxad (moong and chickpeas) is pressure cooked with bay leaves, salt and khar and raw papaya slices. In a wok, add 2 tsp of mustard oil, few pods of crushed garlic and raw chillies. As it splutters, the pressure cooked proxad is added along with ginger slices. It is served as a side dish with main course. Drizzle a spoon of raw mustard oil to it, while serving.
18. Kothalguti Pitika ( Mashed Jackfruit seeds)
Take the name of “kothalguti “(jackfruit seeds); every Assamese will jump with joy. In fact, it’s considered as a prized possession. The seeds are boiled or roasted by putting them in hot ashes, then mashed with chillies, mustard oil, etc.The best one is mashed jackfruit seeds with “khorisa “.The Khorisa is fermented bamboo shoots. There are different types of Khorisa. My favourite is the one with Bhoot jolokia or King chilli. It has a powerful flavour and tastes the best.
Traditional Assamese Sweet Dishes
19. Til Pitha
The variety of rice cakes are specialties of Assam. You can’t miss those delicious traditional pithas especially during Bihu. Among all, Til Pitha is very popular and prepared during Bihu. It is basically rice flour rolls stuffed with a mix of grounded black sesame seeds and jaggery. It is super delicious. This simple traditional Assamese pitha is an indispensable part of the Bihu platter along with a good variety of other sweets. Though it looks simple, one needs the skill to make it in perfect shape. The pitha is best served with a cup of Assam Tea.
Paiyokh is the Assamese version of Kheer or Rice porridge. The aromatic Joha rice, milk and sugar, bay leaves, few pods of cardamom, cashew nuts and raisins are used to make it. Paiyokh is cooked on special occasions only. It also has a religious significance, as it is cooked whenever prayer meetings or “Naam” are arranged. Also, it’s served in celebratory occasions like childbirth, marriage, birthdays, etc. It is a simple dish yet most loved sweet dish for Assamese people. You can taste it at ethnic restaurants in Assam. A small portion of Paiyokh is served as dessert at the end of a main course.
In a world dominated by fast food and global cuisines, the charm of feasting on authentic Assamese cuisine is simply alluring. When in Assam, do not miss out on trying the traditional Assamese food to experience the taste of their culinary heritage.
About Guest Author : Geeta Dutta
Geeta Dutta is a doctor by profession and a culinary expert from Guwahati, Assam. Food is her passion. She has in-depth knowledge of the traditional cuisine of the Northeastern region. Spending time at grandma’s traditional kitchen, traveling to various places in Northeast India, sampling raw and rustic dishes in numerous destinations, and meeting with people to experience the myriad culture has contributed to igniting her love for local food culture across the region. She not only draws inspiration but also cooks those forgotten recipes and presents it to the world on her Facebook and Instagram pages.
The reproduction of any of the content, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.
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