Chittaranjan Park or CR Park in Delhi is a colony dominated by Bengalis. It is like a small Bangla island in the Capital of India where right from markets to residents to groceries to fish etc has an air of Bengal in it. And then, in this island, there is a Center of Excellence on Assamese Food and Culture in that colony. This weekend, I got to enjoy a traditional Assamese Lunch, served to me in the traditional Bell Metal Thali with a Banana Leaf, followed by a detailed explanation of the properties of the ingredients and the culture of Assam. Let me give you a sneak peek into my Lunch Thali.
Even before I start explaining you the dishes, I must share the Menu which was on offer. Well the menu itself set the ball rolling as to what to expect. It was something like this :
🍀 Cold Moringa and Aparajita soup
🍀 Two Lentil & Herb Salad inspired by Assamese Proxaad
🍀 Maati Dalir Bakolir Bor ( fritters with the husk of black lentil )
🍀 Brahmi with Egg
🍀 Poita Bhaat ( fermented rice to have an experience)
🍀 Sojna Phool Aru Omita Khar (alkaline with raw papaya & moringa)
🍀 Aloo Aru Korombola Pitika (mashed potato and karonda)
🍀 Kolmu Xaak Bhaji (sauted morning glory)
🍀 Outenga Xoite Maati Dail (black lentil cooked with elephant apple)
🍀 Tengamora Xoite Gahori Mangxo (pork with Roselle leaves)
🍀 Masor Tenga (tangy fish curry cooked with cherry tomatoes)
🍀 Steamed Rice
🍀 Black Rice Kheer
🍀 Coral Jasmine Tea
First came in a dark pale concoction in a shot glass with a beautiful flower floating atop. This was Moringa & Aprajita Soup made with Moringa (drumstick tree) done in pepper and pink salt. The soup was served at room temperature and gave the aroma of astringent. The first sip itself gave comfort to the throat and contrary to the sharp aroma, it did not even have a hint of that sharpness in the taste. I was told that even that beautiful looking flower was edible which I tasted too. Both Moringa and Aprajita have medicinal properties.
This was followed by a Salad. I was told that this was inspired by the Prasad which as per the belief of a particular sect was served uncooked. It had Chickpeas, Moong Dhuli Dal, Seasonal Fruits, Coconut Shavings, seasoned with Black Salt and garnished with a Tulsi Leave. Again a very refreshing and healthy starter. The best part was that despite the Coconut, its taste did not over power the whole salad.
Then came in the poor man’s breakfast, Poita Bhaat with a Fritter sitting pretty atop. It was basically fermented rice with some chopped Onions, Green Chili and a dash of raw Mustard Oil. You mix it and enjoy it with your hands. The first spoonful in your mouth and the pungency of the Mustard Oil hit me, followed by the sweetness of the onions and the rice. This is a traditional breakfast of farmers and those working in the fields which gives them energy for the day. The Fritter was a sprig of Curry Leaves covered in the batter of lentils. This was a nice condiment to go with the fermented rice.
We also tasted a slice of Brahmi (a leaf with antioxidant properties) infused Egg Omelette done over a base of sliced Potatoes. Also was a fritters made with the husk of Black Lentils (retrieved after washing the dal), mixed with wheat flour and fried. In a way, nothing was discarded while preparing a meal.
Now was the time to start the mains. My Thali started building in the manner the traditional Assamese food is eaten. I also got this tutorial a few years ago. You could also know the composition and the reason for the course by course meal by clicking at the link here.
The system of having the meal is to have a mound of Steamed Rice in the middle of the Thali and eat small portions with various accompaniments.
As per the custom, one has to start with the Khar Dish, an alkaline. So, we had a concoction of Raw Papaya mashed along with Moringa Leaves. This tickled your taste buds.
This was followed by the tasting of the greens Xaak Bhaji, a bitter Saag of Morning Glory done in Mustard Oil. One finds this a lot in traditional Thai and Chinese meals. This one might hit has quite bitter but then one gradually starts relishing the taste.
Now was the time to enjoy the rice with Urad Dal (washed black lentils) with almost zero oil and no spices. It was cooked with Elephant Apple. A basic no nonsense dal where one could actually taste the lentils and enjoyed it with rice.
Wait, the best part is yet to come. Next in the line was an amazing Pork Curry. The runny gravy had chunks of pork meat. The first spoonful and the meat was silken soft and melt in mouth. Never ever had such a tender pork. The gravy has a hint of tanginess while balancing it with the fattiness of the meat and the mild spices.
I could have had repeated servings but had to control myself to leave some space for my favorite Masor Tenga, the tangy fish curry. A slice of fish sat pretty in a runny tangy curry along with two Cherry Tomatoes. The curry had a hint of redness of the tomatoes. The fish was silken soft and full of flavours of the gravy. A great dish to wrap up the main course. I was advised to literally drink the remaining gravy of the dish for it would serve as the palate cleanser and a digestive concoction.
We also had accompaniments like my favrouite Pitika (mashed potatoes with onions, chili and mustard oil), Bhut Jolokia Chutney and a sweet and sour Elephant Apple Chutney (tasted more like Aam Ki Launji of UP).
The great lunch was wrapped up with a bowl of Black Rice Kheer. Grains of the Black Rice (also known as forbidden rice) played hide and seek in a pool of caramelized milky concoction, interspersed with nuts and garnished with an Aprajita flower. This was the best so far I had ever tasted. The nuttiness of the rice, coupled with the nuts and the sweetness of jaggery engulfed with the reduced milk is just an attempt to explain the taste. No words could do justice to the taste. One has to experience it.
The great lunch was wrapped up with a round of Coral Jasmine Tea.
Well, Assamese food is light, tasty, has medicinal properties and above all has zero wastage of anything. All this is available to you as well. Where and How?
I was most kindly invited by my friend Sneha Saikia (also came as a guest on my weekly show Friday Fiesta @ 7 pm; link to the show at the end who hails from Nowgaon in Assam and lives here in CR Park in Delhi. She is a well decorated, accomplished home Chef and an expert in the cuisine of the North East. She does this Table For 6, a luncheon every week in her house.
This week, she did a Private Table for three where she hosted me and Anubhav Sapra. We had a great lunch and great food talks. You could also enjoy this food and the privilege of her company. She could be contacted on her email: firstname.lastname@example.org and her Instagram Handle: https://instagram.com/sneha_lata_saikia?utm_medium=copy_link
If you are fond of Assamese Food, then do not miss this Table For 6. You would love it for Sneha loves to Cook for you, serves you with lots of affection and enjoys explaining each dish. Till then…
Bon Appetite !!
Link To My Live Show on Food Of Assam With Sneha Saikia:
My previous Blog Posts on Food Experience in Assam :