A Fusion Restaurant, Small Fried Fish, Interesting Condiments and Local Delights in a Five Star highlighted my visit to Guwahati after an year. Once again, the fusion of a Five Star breakfast with rustic flavours of countryside made my day. Now that’s a real fusion.This Friday, I was in Guwahati, after a gap of one year, for a short trip. My colleague in the city, Sanjay Debnath, an avid follower of my food write ups, insisted that we go to Uruka, an Assamese Fusion Restaurant for lunch. He said he had heard good about it. Uruka, in Assamese is referred to the evening before the local festival Bihu. This evening, all the local communities eat together.
Lunch at Uruka
Uruka is basically a buffet restaurant having a modern approach to the ethnic set up. The staff and the owner family are quite friendly and give you a personal touch. The place seemed quite hygienic and spacious. In fact, when you leave after the meal, the entire staff would see you off with folded hands and a smile. And, by the way, every guest gets that treatment.
Taking the word fusion literally, the restaurant does some North Indian stuff along with the local Assamese cuisine. So, I had to steer clear of any fusion stuff.
The starters had Fried Chicken (very basic) and Fried Fish. This small, crunchy, fried fish caught my fancy and was ordered repeatedly. The Prawns Fritter was ordinary, rather it tasted more of raw gram flour than the prawn mince. The veg section had Corns and Paneers of the sort which I never touched. Yes, the Baingan Bhaja (eggplant fritter) is my favorite and had two. The Chutney Platter served with the starters was a revelation. The tomato ketchup had chunks of pineapple and the Coconut Chutney look alike was in fact a Chutney made of White Mustard. The Mint Chutney was the regular stuff.
The main course, once again owning to their Fusion allegiance, had Yellow Dal, Black Dal, Paneer Curry, Chicken Curry etc which I avoided.
I settled for the local delicacies. So, my plate had a set of local condiments, one North Indian Pickle (my favourite), two fish curries with rice. If you track the items in the plate above, starting from top left, the golden yellow stuff is a Chutney made from Bhut Jolokiya (the world famous fiery red chilly) and Bamboo Shoot, then the sweet-sour Mango Pickle followed by a chutney made from fried fish. Coming down from right, it’s Khar Fish (an alkaline curry), again a dry side dish made with Fish Eggs, a local green plant based Rohu Fish Curry and Rice.
The wrap up again was a combo of North Indian Dessert and the local one. I was served Sooji Halwa and basic Doi with Gur (Curd & Jaggery). While the Halwa was just ordinary, the Dahi tasted so good with the local jaggery that I ordered two additional refills.
In a way, by sticking to the local version of the dishes, I could do justice to my appetite for the rustic local flavours.
Breakfast At Taj Vivnata
Next day morning, since I had to catch an early flight, I didn’t venture out in search of local breakfast. And I am happy, I didn’t. For, the hotel breakfast compensated more than enough for it.
I had stayed at Vivanta By Taj earlier too and had an experience of Assamese Jolpan, the country side breakfast served in the Coffee Shop by the local Baido (Assamese term for elder sister), Amina Das. She was there this time too, at the back of her counter, dishing out local favourites. I showed her the picture I took of her last year and she blushed. In her broken Hindi she said she was impressed that I still had that picture in my phone.
And then, I discovered that the regular hotel breakfast spread also had some local delights and the regulars too. A fusion of spread, indeed. I was surely in for a delightful breakfast.
Amina Das, this time had additional local items this time. I asked her to serve me all that she had, albeit in small portions. While she started to prepare fresh for me, I ventured out to engage with the other delights in the spread.
Soon my plate had Punugulu (an Andhra snack), perhaps a cousin on Vada . These are deep fried balls made out of rice batter and seasoned with Podi Masala. I ate it with the Sweet & Sour Mango Pickle. Then there was this Assamese Khichri, a flavourful concoction of rice, lentils, veggies done in Ghee. The Khichri was so flavourful and satisfying that I had two servings. Then there was this Aloo Matar Curry (potatoes and peas) which I had with two fluffy Pooris and the very flavourful Veg Ghugnee with minimal spices and yet a flavourful concoction.
By the time I polished off these, Amina Das herself brought me her preparations and patiently explained me about those.
Besides the Tekeli Pitha and Narikol Pitha (read about them here) which I had earlier, she introduced me to Tel Pitha and Poita Bhat. Tel Pitha, is a deep fried Poori shaped flat bread which has a filling of jaggery. It is made with Rice Bater. You bite it and it takes you to Malpua of North India which is in the shape of a Poori with a filling. I bet, if you have a sweet tooth, you can’t stop at one. The Tekeli Pitha, my favourite now, was once again fresh, soft and a set of textures and flavours.
Another new item this time was the Poita Bhat. This was a mixture of fine grain Boiled Rice soaked in water, Aloo Pitha, Chopped Onions, Green Chillies, Mustard Oil and seasoning. This is a local breakfast eaten by villagers. The base of boiled rice and mashed potatoes, crunch of onions, pungency of mustard oil and the heat of green chillies tell you that even basic and earthy dishes could also be flavourful and filling. The variety of textures makes it quite an interesting dish.
The very satisfying breakfast was wrapped with a cup of Assamese Black Tea.
So, this visit was full of fusions. Some good, some very good and quite interesting. My learning, once again, is that fusions are good when you stick to the local authenticity. Fiddling with it is quite a risk with fussy eaters like me. If you have any such experience, do share. Till then…
My earlier stories on experiencing Assamese Food can be read here :