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Assamese cuisine (Assamese: অসমীয়া
ৰন্ধন-শৈলী) is the cuisine of Assam. It is a style
of cooking that is a confluence of cooking habits of the hills that
favor fermentation and drying as forms of preservation and those
from the plains that provide fresh vegetables and an abundance of fish
and meat. Both are centered on the main ingredient — rice. The
confluence of varied cultural influences in the
Assam Valley has led
to the staggering variety and flavours in the Assamese food. It is
characterised by the use of an extremely wide variety of plant as well
as animal products, owing to their abundance in the region. It is a
mixture of indigenous styles with considerable regional variations and
some external influences.
The cuisine is characterized by very little use of spices, little
cooking over fire and strong flavors due mainly to the use of endemic
exotic fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, dried or
Fish is widely used, and birds like duck, squab etc. are
very popular, which are often paired with a main vegetable or
ingredient. Preparations are rarely elaborate. (The practice of bhuna,
the gentle frying of spices before the addition of the main
ingredients so common in Indian cooking, is absent in the cuisine of
Assam.) The preferred oil for cooking is the pungent mustard oil.
Kosu xaak aru madhuxuleng (Colocasia with Polygonum microcephalum)
A traditional meal in
Assam begins with a khar, a class of dishes
named after the main ingredient, and ends with a tenga, a sour dish.
The food is usually served in bell metal utensils made by an
indigenous community called Mariya. The belief is that when food and
water is served in such utensils its good for health and boost up
immunity. Tamul (betel nut, generally raw) and paan generally
concludes the meal.
Though still obscure, this cuisine has seen wider notice in recent
times. The discovery of this cuisine in the popular media
continues, with the presenters yet to settle on the language and the
specific distinctiveness to describe it.
1.4 Greens and vegetables
2.2 Masor Tenga
2.3 Narasingh Masor Jhol
2.6 Pitika - পিটিকা
Chutney and salad
2.10 Pokori (fritter)
2.11 Some other preparations
3 Snacks and cakes
3.5 Some other snacks
7 External links
Rice is the most important ingredient in this cuisine. The large
varieties of rice found in the region has led to speculation that the
grain was first domesticated in the Assam-
Yunnan region. Both the
indica as well as the japonica varieties are grown in Assam. The most
popular class of rice is the joha or scented rice. As a staple, rice
is eaten either steam boiled (ukhua) or sundried (aaroi). Some very
fine quality of rice namely, Karaballam or kauribadam etc., are
Rice is eaten as snack in many forms: roasted and ground (xandoh),
boiled in its husk and flattened (chira), puffed (akhoi). (kumol
saul), a preparation of rice that is precooked, dried and then husked
can be simply soaked in warm water and eaten as a light meal.
Rice is a part of all meals in Assam. A traditional breakfast consists
of chira with yogurt and jaggery. Mostly farmers eat cooked rice
soaked overnight (poita) simply accompanied with salt, mustard oil,
onions, etc. Snacks are xandoh, kumol saul or bora saul, sticky rice,
which can be eaten with sweet or salty accompaniments. For other major
meals, rice could be boiled, steamed or wrapped in leaves and roasted.
'Sunga Saul' is a special preparation in which (sticky) rice (bora
saul) is cooked in bamboo hollows called 'sunga'. 'Sewa diya Bhaat' is
another preparation where sticky rice is steamed over boiling water.
They are generally served with meat or fish.
Sticky rice is also
wrapped in leaves, usually plantain leaves or tora pat, and dropped
into boiling water to prepare 'tupula bhat'.
A special class of rice preparations, called pithas are generally made
only on special occasions like the Bihu. Made usually with soaked and
ground glutinous rice (bora saul), they could be fried in oil with a
sesame filling (xutuli pitha), roasted in young green bamboo over a
slow fire (sunga pitha) or baked and rolled over a hot plate with a
filling (kholasaporia pitha).
The next most important ingredient is fish, harvested from the many
rivers, ponds and lakes in the region. The extremely wet climate and
the large numbers of water bodies has ensured that large varieties of
fresh water fish are available in abundance in the valley. It is a
staple item in the Assamese palate. There is no traditional ethnic
Assam that does not eat fish. Most traditional rural
households have their own ponds for pisciculture. Some of the most
popular big fishes are the Borali (freshwater dhark), rou, and cital
(big), khoria (medium) (Chitala chitala), maagur, Xingi, borali,
bhokua or bahu, Xaal, Xol, etc. The small varieties of fish available
and eaten in
Assam like puthi, Ari (long-whiskered catfish), Goroi
(green snake head/ spotted snake head ), Koi or Kawoi (climbing perch
Anabas testudineus), Kholihona (Indian paradise fish Ctenops nobilis)
borolia, mua, ceniputhi, tengera, lachin, bhangun, pabho, etc.
The discerning gourmet can tell which region of
Assam is known for
which variety of fish.
Puthi maas (Ticto barb)
The mas tenga (sour fish ), which is commonly eaten by most
communities of Assam, has lately turned into a signature dish of
Assamese cuisine. The most popular souring agent for the tenga is
tomatoes, though ones made with kajinemu juice (thick skinned
elongated lemon) and thekera (dried mangosteen,) are also popular.
The most common way of eating fish in traditional Assamese homes is by
preparing a stew with herbs, vegetables and greens as per preference
Fish is also prepared by roasting or char grilling.
A favorite is small fish roasted in banana leaves (paatotdia). Hukoti
is a special fish dish prepared from dried small fish like (puthi
maas) pounded with arum stem and dried and stored in bamboo tubes.
Variations of this exist among the ethnic communities of northeast
India in general and
Assam in particular. Dried and fermented small
fish puthy mas (Ticto barb), three to four in number, are roasted with
lavish amounts of green chilis, tomatoes, ginger and garlic (all
roasted). The ingredients are then pounded in a mortar to make a
coarse paste and served with rice.
Fish eggs and innards are also
cooked and consumed.
Fish of Assam
The Assamese meat and fish dishes are characterized by low amount of
spices and oil, higher quantity of ginger, noroxinghow paat (curry
leaves), Khorisa (fermented bamboo shoot) and lemon juice, and differ
completely in taste from the dishes of neighbouring Bengal. Local
Chicken, Venison, Squab, Mutton,
Pork is very popular among
the indigenous ethnic Assamese communities like Koch, Keot(Kaibartta),
Bodo, Rabha, Dom/Nadiyal etc . Indigenous Upper caste Assamese Hindus,
such as Assamese Brahmins(including Ganaks) and Kayasthas of Assam,
some Kalitas refrain from pork consumption.
Beef is occasionally
consumed by Assamese Muslims, although they traditionally refrain from
consuming pork. The Christians, many ethnic communities, and the non
religious sections consume all types of meat.
The basic cooking methods include cooking, shallow and deep frying.
Onla, of the Bodos, is made with ground rice and special herbs and
constitutes a complete meal in itself. Other meats include squab,
duck, chicken, goat meat, venison, and turtle although venison and
turtle meat are legally prohibited. The combination of duck/white
gourd and squab/papaya or banana flower is very popular. Meat is
generally stewed using limited spices as well as a choice of herbs and
Most communities of
Assam are entomophagous.
Ethnic tribes of certain
areas partake of silkworm, water bugs, grasshoppers, and other
insects. Insects are fried or cooked or roasted in leaves and then
prepared according to the timing of the meal. The red ant egg is
considered a delicacy during the Rongali
Greens and vegetables
Main article: List of vegetables used in Assamese cuisine
The environs of
Assam are rich in vegetation, and green leafy
vegetables, called xaak, are an important part of the cuisine. Some of
them are grown while others like the dhekia (fern) grows wild. There
is a bewildering variety that is eaten and according to custom, one
has to have 101 different xaak (greens) during Rongali Bihu. Herbs,
greens and vegetables are commonly eaten by simply cooking in water
and salt, lightly frying, as a thick soup or by adding to varieties of
lentils. They are also prepared in combination with fish, meat and
Among spices there are ginger, garlic, onion, cumin seed, black cumin,
black pepper, chilli, turmeric, coriander seed, cinnamon, cardamom,
clove, fenugreek seed, white mustard seed, aniseed, Malabar leaf,
Cumin, etc. Some herbs peculiar to
Assam are maan dhaniya, moran Ada,
madhuhulong, bhedai lota, manimuni, masundari etc. An Assamese meal is
incomplete without green chilis, many varieties of which are available
in the region.
Assam is famous for the bhut jolokia or ghost pepper
which was recognized as the hottest chili in the world. Panch-furan
(mixture of 5 spices) is used for adding flavour to Dal.
Although modern cuisine of
Assam has been influenced by east and north
Assam is still rich in traditional dishes.
An Assamese 'khar' recipe preparation with rohu fish head
The khar is a signature class of preparations made with a key
ingredient, also called khar. The traditional ingredient is made by
filtering water through the ashes of the sun-dried skin of a few
varieties of banana , which is then called kola khar (The name derived
from the local term for banana, "kol" or "kola.") A traditional meal
invariably begins with a khar dish, which can be prepared with raw
papaya, mustard leaves, vegetables, pulses, fish or any other main
Xôkôta is a severely bitter type of preparation. It is prepared with
dry jute leaf, urad bean and khar. However, the combination of khar
(alkaline) and tenga (acidic) is not recommended. The liquid khar is
also simply eaten as kharoli with rice which is prepared by adding a
few drops of mustard oil.
Assamese people have a peculiar tradition of
eating a large variety of bitter dishes, many of which are considered
delicacies. Some dishes in this category include, fresh bamboo shoot,
cooked or lightly fried, cane shoot,
Neem leaves fried, titabhekuri,
bitter gourd, Xukuta, Titaphool, Sewali Phool etc.
Dhekiyaxak and outenga
The masor tenga is a light and sour fish dish, another signature class
of preparations. There are numerous ways of preparing the sour fish
curry among Assamese people. The souring ingredient could be
mangosteen, lemon, etc., but the most popular is made with tomatoes.
Fish dishes made with fermented bamboo shoot (khorisa) are generally
sour, but they are not called tenga.
Fish is fried in mustard oil or
stewed with bottle gourd or spinach. Another tenga dish is prepared
with matimah (urad bean) and outenga (elephant apple). Bottle gourd
can be added to it. Tengamora or noltenga and lentil is a distinct
Narasingh Masor Jhol
The narasingh masor jhol is another authentic dish from Assam.The
fishes are cooked in a light gravy of curry leaves which is a common
aromatic herb used in southern and some northern parts of India. The
curry leaves are also known as noro-shingho paat in Assamese. The fish
Assam emphasize on retaining the natural flavors of
the fishes and hence few spices are used.
Pura maas mankho
Pura refers to various forms of grilled and roasted food. Vegetables,
meat and fish are often served in this form. Aalu bengena pura pitika,
pura maas pitika (mashed grilled fish), pura mankho etc. are a few of
the popular dishes.
See also: Panta bhat
Poitabhat is a favourite dish in
Assam during the summer season.
Cooked rice is soaked overnight and left to ferment. It is and served
with mustard oil, onion, chili, pickles, pitika (mashes), etc. The
'poitabhat' preparation is sometimes made alcoholic according to
Pitika - পিটিকা
Side dishes called pitika - পিটিকা (mashes) is a signature
characteristic of this cuisine. The most popular is aloo pitika -
আলু পিটিকা (mashed potatoes) garnished with raw
onions, mustard oil, green chillies and sometimes boiled eggs. Khorisa
tenga is mashed fermented bamboo shoot, sometimes pickled in mustard
oil and spices. Kharoli is fermented mashed mustard (Brassica
campestris var. toria) seed to which a khar has been added, and kahudi
to which an acidic agent (lemon juice, dried mangosteen) has been
added. Pitikas are also made from roasted or steamed vegetables
(tomatoes and eggplants being very popular). Small fish, asiatic
pennywort, matikaduri, tengamora leaves, heartleaf, dôrôn (Leucus
longifolia), etc. are roasted separately wrapped in banana leaves and
mashed into 'pitika'.
Pickles are made of mango, indian gooseberry, hog plum, Indian olive,
Tamarind, star fruit, mangosteen, radish, carrot, elephant apple,
Indian jujube, chili, lime, garlic, etc. Panitenga and kharoli are
signature Assamese pickles made from ground mustard seeds.
Chutney and salad
Chutney is made of coriander, spinach, tomato, heartleaf, curry leaf,
chilli, lentil, chickpea etc. Xukan masor chutney (chutney made of
dried fish) is popular among the tribal communities.
Salad is made of
carrot, radish, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, etc.
'Bor' is fried balls of mashed lentil or gram — it is equivalent to
vada in few other Indian languages. It may contain other green leafy
vegetable locally called 'xaak' within it, and it is best while served
with 'teteli' (tamarind) curry or dip. There is a huge variety of
'bor' preparations in Assamese cuisine. The base ingredients include
greens, vegetables, fruits, flowers, skin, and shoots of various
plants. 'Bor' can also be prepared from fish eggs etc.
Fritter is made of flower and tender leaves of pumpkin, banana, tender
leaves of bottle gourd, eggplant, tender leaves of night-flowering
Some other preparations
Some other preparations in
Assamese cuisine include Kahudi, Panitenga,
Khorikatdiya, Tenga sorsoriya, Posola, etc.
Xaj, a type of rice beer, offered in traditional utensils
Liquor is an integral part of linguistically and culturally diverse
communities in Assamaese society.
Rice is a primary ingredient for the
many rice beers (lao-pani - লাওপানী) and liquors made in
Assam by different ethnic communities: zou (Bodo), aapong
(Mishing),mod(মদ) (Sonowal Kacharis), xaj - সাজ্ (Ahom,
Tiwa), hor (Karbi), photika - ফটিকা (Kachari), etc.
In some places, the Assamese smoke pipe mix includes opium, cannabis,
tobacco, betel nut extracts and others. This has got religious fervour
amongst the people.
Snacks and cakes
Main article: Assamese Jolpan
Jolpan (snacks) in Assamese is what is breakfast although it is not
always served as breakfast in Assamese cuisine. They are eaten as
light meals between main meals and widely served during Bihu,
weddings, Assamese shraadhs or any other kind of special occasions and
gatherings. Some types of jolpan are
Bora saul (varieties of sticky
rice), Komal Saul, Xandoh, Chira, Muri, Akhoi, Sunga saul, etc. eaten
in combination with hot milk, curd, jaggery, yogurt or seasonal ripe
fruits. These are probably some of the earliest forms of "cereals".
Assamese people have been eating them mainly as breakfast for many
Pitha (rice cake) is a special class of rice preparation generally
made only on occasions like
Bihu in Assam. Made usually with soaked
and ground rice, they could be fried in oil, roasted over a slow fire
or baked and rolled over a hot plate. Some pithas are Til Pitha, Ghila
Pitha, Xutuli Pitha, Sunga Pitha, Bhapotdiya Pitha, Lakhimi Pitha,
Tora Pitha, Tekeli Pitha, Deksi Pitha, Muthiya Pitha, Kholasapori
It is made in other areas such as West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa
(Odhisa), Delhi, Punjab, etc.
Larus are sweet balls that are associated with traditional Assamese
food: Laskara, narikolor laru, tilor laru are often seen in Assamese
Tea (Saah in Assamese) is an indispensable part of Assamese cuisine.
It is served in form of Black tea, Milk tea, Spiced tea, Green Tea,
Lemon tea (adding lemon juice to black tea), etc.
Some other snacks
Some other snacks include roti, luchi, and ghugni.
Main article: Areca nut
An Assamese meal is generally concluded with the chewing of Tamol
(Assamese: তামোল). Pieces of
Betel nut (Areca Catechu) are
eaten in eaten in combination with Betel leaf (Piper betle), edible
limestone and tobacco. It is a routine item after every meal.
^ "Meet the Axomiya Sikhs". The Tribune. Chandigarh. 24 March
^ (Das 2012)
^ Babbar, Purobi Queen Bee Of Assamese Cooking Archived June 8, 2007,
at the Wayback Machine.
^ Krich, John (July 6, 2012). "Hot Like Fire: Asia's 5 Spiciest
Cuisines 4.Assamese". time.com. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
^ Janer, Zilkia (December 2012). "Assamese food and the politics of
taste". Seminar (640). Retrieved 22 January 2013.
Fish Species of Assam
^ List of fishes in Kaziranga National Park
Barbora, Sanjay (2006) Who needs butter chicken? The search for (and
the finding of) a proud Assamese tradition of food, Himal Magazine,
Das, A. J; Deka, S. C (2012). "Fermented foods and beverages of the
North-East India" (PDF). International Food Research Journal. 377-392.
19 (2). Retrieved 30 January 2013.
Goswami, Prashanta (2004) Assam: Feast Northeast, Outlook Traveller,
Goswami, Uddipana (2000) Baptism by Beer: Assamese Cuisine, Tehelka.
Saleh, Wahid (2007) A few links to Assamese Cuisine, Indiawijzer
Tamang, Buddhiman; Tamang, Jyoti Prakash (2009). "Traditional
knowledge of biopreservation of perishable vegetables and bamboo
shoots in Northeast India as food resources" (PDF). Indian Journal of
Traditional Knowledge. 8 (1): 89–95. Retrieved 30 January
Various (2007) Axomiya Vyanjon[permanent dead link]
Various (2008) Assamese Cuisine - feel the aromas of Assam, Assamese
Various (2009) Taste of
Assam - The Assamese Cuisine
Various (2017) Vegetarian recipes from Assam
Top 10 Popular Cuisine of Assam
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