An Assamese Lunch with a twist

Assam, to the northeast of India, is the state I was born. We are a laid back people with simple tastes in life as well as in food. Fish, duck, and all kinds of meat and poultry with a variety of vegetables and herbs cooked with love and simple spices send delectable aromas from the Assamese kitchen. Here is an Assamese lunch but with a twist as some recipes have been tweaked with elements of other cuisines. Surprise your guests. An outdoor buffet works out best. Gardenia (Togor) flowers lend both fragrance and beauty to a dining table. The recipes are for 8-10 people.


Eggplant pitika in papad

Brinjal: 2 thin long ones or 1 big round
Onions: 1-2
Coriander leaves: 1 bunch
Mustard oil: For dressing (about 1-2 tsp)
Green chillies: 2-3
Salt to taste
Papad: 10 papads
Oil to fry

Apply mustard oil on the brinjals, pierce the surface with a knife at a few places, and roast them in the oven or over the gas flame. Keep turning it once in a while. Once roasted, remove skin and main chunk of seeds from centre. Mash the flesh. Add mustard oil, salt, green chillies, onions and coriander leaves, and mix well.

Cut papads into quarters. Put one tablespoon of the brinjal pitika on a papad wedge. Apply water on the edges of the papad. Place another papad on top and press the sides so as to make sure it is sealed well on all three sides. You can either deep fry the papads or microwave at high for 2 minutes. I find the second option neater. It is also oil-free and that’s a second benefit. Serve with dhania or pudina chutney.

Jika and macaroni tenga

Ridge gourd (jika): 2
Macaroni: ¾ cup
Lemon juice: taken from 3 lemons or according to taste
Fenugreek seeds: ½ tsp
Bamboo shoot: 2-3 tbsp, grated
Oil: 2 tbsp
Lemon rind: grated for garnish

Boil macaroni. Drain and keep aside. Finely chop the jika into small cubes. Heat the oil. Add fenugreek seeds. When they splutter, add the jika. Stir for a minute. Add the bamboo shoot. Stir for a minute. Add 6 cups of water. Add lemon juice and salt. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Check seasoning. Serve in individuals bowls, garnished with 1-2 slivers of lemon rind.

Illish grill

Hilsa fish (or any other fish): 750gm–1kg, cut into 1.5” pieces
Lemon juice: for marinating
Mustard oil
Ginger: 2 x 1” pieces
Garlic: 7-10 cloves
Onion: 4 medium sized
Mustard seeds: 10 tbsp
Vinegar to soak mustard seeds

Rub the fish pieces in lemon juice and salt and keep aside for 1-2 hours. Soak the mustard seeds for 1-2 hours in vinegar. Make a paste of the ginger, garlic, onion and soaked mustard seeds. Add green chillies too if you want. Now wash the marinated fish pieces and pat them dry. Rub mustard oil inside an oven-proof dish. Rub the mustard seeds paste over the fish pieces and arrange them on the baking dish. Grill in preheated oven at 250 deg C for 20 minutes. Turn around the fish pieces gently and apply more paste. Sprinkle a tbsp of mustard oil over them and grill for another 20 minutes. Serve garnished with lemon slices and onion rings.

Fish casserole

Colocasia (Kosu) stems
Ginger: 2” piece
Garlic: 10-12 cloves.
Fish: 1.5- 2 kg, cut into pieces
Baby tomatoes (Kan bilahi)
Mustard oil
Salt to taste

Clean the colocasia stems and remove the peel. Cut into 1.5” pieces. Boil them inwater and throw the water away. Take a casserole dish and place the boiled stems at the bottom. Now crush the ginger and garlic roughly and layer it over the colocasia stems. Sprinkle a little salt. Do not overdo the salt. Apply very little turmeric and salt on the fish pieces and fry them till they are half-done. Now place these pieces over the ginger-garlic layer. Next cut the tomatoes into half and layer them over the fish. Next sprinkle about 1-2 tsp of mustard oil on top. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top. Add a little water (about 2 tbsp) and then cover the dish with aluminium foil. Bake in preheated oven at 180 deg C for 30 minutes.

Duck Pati Chapta (Duck stuffed pancakes)
Duck: 1 (cut into small pieces)
Ginger: 1” piece
Garlic: 7-8 cloves
Onion: 2 medium
Bay leaf: 1
Black pepper: 2-3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
Ash gourd (Kumura): 1 small, cut into big pieces.

Rice flour: 50 gm
All-purpose flour (Maida): 150 gm
Milk: 450 ml
Clarified Butter (Ghee): 4 tsp
Salt: a pinch
Pepper: To taste

Onion: 1-2, chopped fine
Tomatoes: 7-8 big ones, chopped fine
Coriander leaves: 1 bunch, chopped fine
Green chillies: 2-3, chopped fine
Salt and turmeric: according to taste

Grind the ginger and garlic into a paste. Slice the onions. Grind the black pepper. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the bay leaf, onion slices, and ginger-garlic paste. Stir for a few seconds and add the duck pieces (Remember, in a duck, the skin shouldn’t be removed). Stir well. Add salt and black pepper. Keep stirring. Add about half cup of water and close the lid. Keep on high flame for one whistle and then lower heat. Keep simmering for 10 minutes. Now open the lid and add the ash gourd pieces. Stir. Close the lid again and simmer for 15 minutes. Open and check for seasoning. Keep aside.

Mix all the ingredients for the pancakes and make a batter. Make thin pancakes on a non-stick pan. Keep aside.

Heat the oil. Add onions and fry till translucent. Add tomatoes. Stir. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Keep stirring till the tomatoes become soft. Add about ¾ cup of water. Simmer for 2 minutes. Keep aside.

Place 1 tbsp of the duck stuffing on one end of a pancake and roll it. Grease a baking dish. Place the rolls side by side. Pour the sauce over the rolls. If you want, you can also sprinkle some cheese on top. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 30 minutes.

Bamboo Shoot Shashlik

Bamboo shoot: 100 gm
Jackfruit (Kothal) seeds: 10-12, blanched, skin removed, and sliced.
Chana dal: 200 gm
Bay leaf: 1
Red chillies: 2
Onions: 2-3, chopped fine.
Dhania powder: 1 tsp
Jeera powder: 1 tsp
Turmeric powder: ½ tsp or according to you
Salt: To taste
Oil: 3-4 tbsp

For rice:
Joha rice or any small grained rice: 5 cups
Garlic: 5-6 cloves, roughly crushed.
Pepper: 2 tbsp
Salt: To taste
Oil: 1-2 tbsp

Soak chana dal overnight. Drain and keep aside. Finely chop or grate the bamboo shoot. Put the chana dal and bamboo shoot in a pressure cooker with a little water and cook it for one whistle. Remove.

Heat oil. Add bay leaf, red chillies, and chopped onions. Stir till onions turn translucent. Add the jackfruit seeds. Stir. Add the bamboo shoot – dal mixture. Add dhania, jeera and red chilli powder, salt and turmeric. Keep stirring till the water dries and the jackfruit is done. You can also use diced potatoes instead of the kothal seeds.

Cook the rice in an open saucepan in plenty of water. When it is just done, drain and rinse with cold water. Keep aside till cooled. Heat the oil. Add the crushed garlic cloves. Now add the rice. Stir well. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Stir well so that it is evenly seasoned.

Now place the rice on a dish and arrange the bamboo shoot curry on top. Your shashlik is ready. Serve hot.


Dhekia and Robab Tenga Salad (Fiddlehead Fern and Grapefruit salad)

Fiddlehead Fern (Dhekia xaak): 1 bunch, chopped fine
Vegetable or Olive oil: ½ tbsp
Fenugreek seeds: ½ tsp
Grapefruit (Robab Tenga): 1 big
Mustard oil: 2-3 tsp
Green chillies: 2-3, sliced fine
Salt and red chilli powder: To taste

Heat the oil. Add fenugreek seeds. When they splutter, add the dhekia. Add salt. Stir and cook covered on low heat till done. If needed, add 2-3 tbsp of water. Uncover and stir till all the water dries. Keep aside

Now remove the peel of the grapefruit, and take just the flesh. Add mustard oil, green chillies, salt and red chilli powder. Add the dhekia. Mix well. You can also add finely chopped onion and coriander leaves if you want. Check seasoning. Keep in refrigerator till serving time. Serve cold.


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