10 Commonly Available Immunity booster Herbs and Plants

Immunity is the keyword at this time when the entire world is battling against Covid-19. Over the past one year the thing which we have highly realized is the need to maintain a healthy diet inorder to boost our immunity. Ayurveda or traditional medicine uses herbs and plants which have great medicinal properties, and more people are shifting towards the consumption of these medicinal herbs and plants which are naturally immunity boosters. These herbs, fruits, vegetables or plants are most commonly found in Indian households and are widely used in daily diet. When consumed over a period of time these can boost your immunity and make you healthy which in turn can help reduce and regulate certain diseases and ailments. These are not treatments against any kind of diseases but helps maintain a healthy immune system.

Giloy or Sanguni lata

Giloy juice
Source: onmanorama.com

Giloy is a highly effective plant and its stem, especially, is high in nutrition content because of the alkaloids, glycosides, steroids and other compounds present in it. Giloy is therefore effective in the treatment of fever, neurological problems, cancer, diabetes etc. Giloy is a strong immunity booster, anti-toxic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Giloy boosts your immunity to fight against the infections of fever and facilitate early recovery. Giloy enhances the production of insulin which in turn is responsible to control blood sugar levels. Digestion related problems like diarrhea, colitis, vomiting, hyperacidity can also be regulated with giloy juice.

You can buy Giloy Tulsi juice here: https://clnk.in/pTAO

Raw Turmeric or Kesa halodhi

Turmeric Milk
Source: healthshots.com

Turmeric in the powder form is one of the most common ingredients in Indian household. This is antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory in nature and is used in almost every savory dish. But the root form has several other benefits and should be included in your daily diet to boost immunity. The most effective way to consume the raw root is to extract its juice and mix with milk.

Raw turmeric boosts digestion and provides relief from tummy problems or irritable bowel syndrome. Its anti-inflammatory properties helps in relieving symptoms associated with Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis. In case of cuts and pain, raw turmeric is very effective because of it’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and is an excellent pain reliever. When the paste is applied in affected areas it works best.

Raw turmeric also purifies the blood and regulate blood sugar levels. And it’s very good for skin, both to cure skin problems and provide glowing skin. A glass of turmeric milk before going to bed is a healthy habit one should follow.

Amla or Amlokhi

Amla juice
Source: english.mathrubhumi.com

Amla is considered a superfruit because the antioxidants and vitamins found in it have several health benefits. The soluble fibre in amla dissolves quickly in the body lowering the rate at which your body absorbs sugar thus reducing blood sugar spikes. Amla is very rich in Vitamin C which boosts your immunity and metabolism. It is known to fight both viral and bacterial infections efficiently and reduces the impact of various health problems like cancer and heart related ailments.

Amla also provides relief from cough and cold, bronchitis and other respiratory illness. It aids in the removal of sputum from the respiratory tract and can soothe the inflamed airways. Amla detoxifies the body and is a natural blood purifier.

The anti-inflammatory properties present in Amla helps relieve arthritis, joint aches and painful mouth ulcers. Amla is also extremely good for hair and skin.

Buy Amla juice here: https://clnk.in/pTAS

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha
Source: shethepeople.tv

Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant and the extracts or powder of its roots and leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions. It relieves stress and anxiety, increase energy levels and improves concentration. It is also beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels in both normal and diabetic persons.

Tulsi

Tulsi
Source: food.ndtv.com

Tulsi is a very sacred plant for the Indians and has great medicinal values. It is rich in Vitamin C and Zinc which acts as a natural immunity booster fighting against infections. It is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal in nature which is effective in reducing fever, body ache, cough and cold, bronchitis, influenza, asthma and congestion of the chest. Its anti-inflammatory properties reduces inflammation and blood pressure.

Tulsi is also effective, to a large extent, on prevention of some cardiovascular diseases, and maintain blood glucose levels of diabetic persons. Tulsi leaves is good for curing indigestion and loss of appetite. They are also used for the treatment of flatulence and bloating. Tulsi decreases the level of uric acid formation in the body thus keeping kidney stones at check. Reduction in uric acid in turn provides relief to patients suffering from gout.

Garlic or Nohoru

Garlic
Source: verywellfamily.com

Garlic is another herb with great medicinal values and is grown around the world. Garlic is used in cooking in most cuisines and is commonly available. It should be consumed raw to get the best results, while the other forms like oil or powder are effective as well.

Garlic improves cholesterol levels which lowers the risk of heart diseases. High blood pressure or hypertension which alleviate the risk of such cardiovascular diseases can be reduced by garlic because of the presence of the active compounds in it. Garlic is very effective in common cold and improves liver health for those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease ( NAFLD).

Ginger or Ada

Ginger
Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Ginger, like garlic, is a commonly available plant and its rhizome which is the underground part of the stem is used as a spice. It can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as oil and juice and all forms are equally effective. It contains gingerol which is used in various forms of traditional and alternative medicine. It aids digestion, reduces nausea and help fight the flu and common cold.

Inflammation caused by osteoarthritis can be regulated by eating ginger. Ginger is good for oral health and is effective in calming period cramps. Research also shows that ginger is effective in lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.

Ginger juice and a tablespoon of honey helps relieve cough and sore throat. Ginger crushed in water or tea is equally effective for common cold. Ginger tea with brown sugar eases period pain.

Neem

Neem juice
Source: m.tarladalal.com

Neem has great medicinal properties and the bark, leaves and seeds of the tree are used to make medicines. The root, flower and fruit are also used in some cases. Neem leaf is used for leprosy, eye disorders, bloody nose, intestinal worms, stomach upset, loss of appetite, diseases of the heart and blood vessels, skin ulcers, fever, diabetes, gum disorders and liver problems.

Most people take steam by boiling neem leaves in water which is very effective during cold and cough. Its detox and cleansing properties helps maintain hair, skin and stomach health when consumed in the juice form. This juice is also beneficial for regulating blood sugar levels.

Buy Neem products here: https://clnk.in/pTAH

Triphala

Triphala
Source: vedawellness.com.au

Triphala, literally translated, is a powdered combination of three fruits namely Amla, Bibhitaki and haritaki. It has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects. Oral infections like gingivitis, plaque, sores and fungal infections can be cured with triphala mouthwash. Triphala can treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome and improve overall digestion.

The anti-inflammatory properties of triphala may help treat symptoms of arthritis and reduce related inflammation. Triphala also helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help heal certain skin related issues.

Buy Zandu triphala powder: https://clnk.in/pTAV

Herbal tea or kadha

Kadha or herbal tea

Kadha is basically a kind of drink prepared by mixing a variety of herbs and spices. A little bit of tea leaves, basil leaves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and turmeric are boiled in water to obtain a strong drink which boosts immunity and is a very common home remedy to treat cold and cough.

Kadha has a lot of healing properties like it relaxes your body, boosts immunity, decreases body temperature, improves skin quality, strengthen your stomach health etc. This herbal drink can be prepared using 2-3 of the above ingredients or even by mixing all of them together. The presence of different herbs and spices with their individual medicinal values combine together which we call the magic potion.

Read: 8 Indigenous Medicinal Plants of Assam for good Health and Immunity

Summer Drinks and Food in Assam

Summer is already here and it’s that time of the year when we feel lethargic, dehydrated, dull and everything but fresh. The scorching heat drains out our energy. As such a heavy or spicy meal is something we should all avoid during summer. Our meal should be balanced and loaded with citrus which includes juices, smoothies, milkshakes, salads, boiled vegetables etc.

Summers in Assam are humid with a rising temperature of upto 38°C which makes you sweaty and sticky. But inspite, agricultural and farming has to continue in full swing as well as other daily activities. So a meal rich in nutrients and seasonal fruit juices are preferred by the locals here. Meat and other hot and spicy food are avoided and the focus shifted to vegetables and dishes that keeps us hydrated and is cool for the stomach. Here’s a list of the most sought after food and drinks during summers.

Thekera or Garcinia Pedunculata

The ripe or even raw bor thekera fruit is sliced and sun dried, stored and used in preparing several ethnic Assamese food and drinks. Bor thekera, which is similar to purple mangosteen, has great medicinal properties and is refreshing at the same time. Traditionally it is used in the treatment of many ailments like dysentery, asthma, cough, bronchitis, fever etc. It is very beneficial in digestion and acts as a cooling agent.

Thekera Tenga juice
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  • Thekera juice is a very common summer drink preferred here in Assam. Dried bor thekera, as it is locally called here, is washed and soaked in plain water overnight or for an hour or two. This is then strained and can be consumed after adding salt. Most ethnic restaurants in Assam serve this as a welcome drink to guests.
Thekera tenga maas jhul
Source: https://instagram.com/girl_with_a_pinch_of_salt?igshid=zugdv32ztccc
  • Thekera tenga maas or tangy fish curry is another popular summer delicacy in Assam. This is a wholesome dish which can be served with plain rice. Thekera serves as the souring agent in a regular fish curry. Heat mustard oil in a karhai, add paanch phooran (the five spices) a few green chillies, salt and turmeric. To this add boiled mashed potatoes and cook for about 3 mins. Add soaked thekera, both the fruit and water, to the mixture, add a little water according to your preferred level of thickness of the curry and let it come to a boil. Now add the fried fish pieces and let it cook for another 5 minutes and Thekera Tenga maas anja is ready!
Boror Tenga Anja
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  • Boror Tenga Anja or Lentil fritters curry is another delicacy greatly enjoyed during summers. Soaked red lentils are grinded into a paste, then salt is added as per taste with a little asafoetida or hing. Scoop out small spoonfuls of the paste and deep fry until golden brown. After the bors or fritters are ready, prepare the curry. Heat mustard oil in a karhai, add a bay leaf and paanch phooran. Then add chopped onions and fry till golden brown. Add boiled mashed potatoes, turmeric and salt as per taste, mix well and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the soaked thekera along with a little water and let it come to a boil. Later add the lentil fritters and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Garnish with coriander before serving. Instead of mashed potatoes, bottle gourd can also be used for the curry.

Paanch phooran is a mix of the five basic spices mostly used in Bengali cuisine, and in Assamese cuisine as well. These five spices are fenugreek seed, Nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed, and fennel seed. You can buy it here: https://clnk.in/ptTn

Kaji Nemu or Lemon

Lemon or kaji nemu juice

Kaji Nemu is a local variety of lemon widely consumed in Assam. It is rich in Vitamin C and also aids in digestion, apart from other health benefits. During summers kaji nemu becomes the compulsory accompaniment with meals. Kaji Nemu or lemon juice is the most sought after and readily available summer drink in Assam. Squeeze a few long pieces of lemon, add salt and sugar and the most hydrating summer drink is ready. Mornings or evenings, it keeps you hydrated throughout and satisfies your thirst instantly.

Poita Bhaat

Poita Bhaat
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Another very common summer food is poita bhaat. This is basically leftover rice which is soaked in water overnight. The next day you can have it with a little side dish of fish fry, along with raw onions and green chilly. Aloo pitika, bengena pitika, kon aloo bhoja are some other perfect accompaniments of poita bhaat. This is the most preferred breakfast as it keeps your stomach cool while providing all the necessary nutrients. It is widely believed to be effective during fever because of its cooling nature. On the first day of Assamese New Year, i.e. Bohaag Bihu, this is one of the most important dishes religiously consumed by many here.

Pitika

Bengena bilaahi pitika
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Pitika is the soul food of Assam. Any type of pitika like aloo pitika, kon bilaahi aloo pitika, bengena pitika, xoru maas pitika, etc are greatly enjoyed all year around but especially in summers. In fact, pitika is the perfect side dish with poita bhaat. This is light on the stomach and since it’s either in boil or smoked form, so it’s free of oil. Of course a little amount of raw mustard oil is added for flavor over the pitika. Pitika is the mashed form of vegetables mixed with onions and green chilly, and garnished with coriander and mustard oil.

Read: Best Authentic Assamese Recipes with Banana Tree

Bael or Aegle marmelos

Bael fruit juice
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Bael fruit is another excellent summer fruit because of its cooling properties. This fruit has many medicinal benefits and is effective in treating indigestion, constipation and bloating. Bael tree, especially the fruit and its leaves are considered sacred as it’s associated with Lord Shiva and offered in his worship.

Bael fruit juice is extracted by removing the pulp from the ripe fruit and then mashed. Add a little water and strain the mixture. Add jaggery or sugar as per taste with a sprinkle of black salt. Bael fruit juice is one of the most refreshing summer drink here in Assam too.

Read: Top 10 Most Popular Ethnic Assamese Dish

Doi sira jolpaan

Doi sira jolpaan
Source: https://instagram.com/nong_miii?igshid=n6swfguq177m

Sira is flattened rice and Doi is homemade unsweetened curd which is very light on the stomach and is hydrating too. In Assam doi sira jolpaan is another popular breakfast delicacy and is widely preferred during summers. Sira is soaked in warm water until a little soggy, after which it is served with doi and jaggery. This breakfast is an instant energy booster.

Doi sira jolpaan or any other type of jolpaan is generally served during Bohaag Bihu and Magh Bihu, but mostly in the rural areas this is preferred all year round.

Flattened rice is also called Poha in some parts of India and is easily available in the market. Buy it here: https://clnk.in/ptTz

Kosu tenga or taro leaves curry

Kosu bilaahi maas
Source: https://instagram.com/foodie_appetites?igshid=4s3ponodm78u

Tenga is ideal for summer and therefore widely preferred in any form, either juice or food delicacies. Thekera, Kaji Nemu, Kon bilaahi are easily available ingredients used to add to the tangy flavor in food. Kosu bilaahi tenga anja is one such delicacy you should never miss out. The taro leaves are boiled and the water is strained out to minimize the itchiness due to the presence of calcium oxalate. In fact the souring agent like kon bilaahi is used to balance this effect.

Most hotels in Guwahati have their in-house restaurants which offer ethnic Assamese cuisine. If you are planning a trip to Assam you can book your hotels here: https://clnk.in/ptUy

Also read: Visit these Restaurants in Guwahati for Ethnic Assamese food: My Personal Favorites!

The Unique Blends of Assam Tea

Eti kunhi duti paat

Rattanpur bagichat

Lohpohia haatere

Kune nu singile

O kune nu singile

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Assam’s bard and music maestro Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was a poet of Nature, of the people and a revolutionary poet at the same time. His compositions reflect the true soul of Assam in all its glory. In this song he vividly creates the image of the tea garden workers of Assam plucking the tea leaves in the vast green estates which is a very common sight in Assam. Assam is one of the most prolific tea-producing regions in the world because of its ideal climatic conditions, long growing seasons and generous rainfall. The collective produce of the tea estates of Assam is approximately 680.5 million kg of tea. 

Tea leaves, eti kunhi duti paat

Tea is a major industry in Assam apart from Agriculture, Petroleum and Natural Gas. Assam is the world’s largest tea growing region by production. Assam tea is a black tea manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis variant assamica. Assam tea is known to be brisk and malty with a bright color. 

Assam Tea
Source: thestatesman.com

The history of tea in Assam dates back to the year 1823. Robert Bruce, a Scottish adventurer, discovered this species of plant wildly growing in the region. He was curious about the properties of the plant and in the process was introduced to the chief of the Singpho tribe, Bessa Gam by Maniram Dewan, a nobleman from Jorhat. The chief, in the meanwhile, had already discovered the “wild” plant which had medicinal benefits, and was brewing it to get this flavorful aromatic drink. Later the plant was tested in the laboratory of the Botanical Garden of Calcutta (Kolkata) and identified as a variety of tea. The East India Company then took on the task to develop commercial plantations of tea in Assam. 

Tea garden labourer at work

Maniram Dewan was the first Assamese to start commercial tea plantations in Jorhat and Sivasagar. He was a nobleman and an entrepreneur who worked as the Dewan of the Assam Tea Company. Having acquired the knowledge and experience about the techniques of cultivation, production and marketing of tea, he decided to develop his own tea Estates after resigning from the Company. Cinnamora Tea Estate of Jorhat is the first tea garden which was set up by Maniram Dewan in 1843 and which started functioning in 1850. The Estate is now owned by the Assam Tea Corporation Limited and the heritage bungalow has been turned into a boutique tea garden hotel called Chameli Memsaab Bungalow.

Hand-crafted Assam Tea

Assam Tea is generally harvested twice, in a “first flush” and a “second flush”. The first flush is picked during late March, and the second flush much later. The second flush is the prized “tippy tea” which is much sweeter and full-bodied and hence considered superior to the first flush. The two main types of Assam tea are CTC and orthodox. Orthodox Assam tea can further be divided into many categories depending on the leaf type. Orthodox tea is made using traditional methods and considered of superior quality than its counterpart. CTC or cut-tear-curl tea is a type of black tea where leaves are formed into small pellets. This is usually stronger, maltier, sharper and maybe astringent. 

Phalap tea
Source: https://instagram.com/borkotoky?igshid=37d5dgxvmmoe

The Singpho tribe were the first in Assam to discover and brew the “wild” bush into tea. They produce and preserve tea in a very unique and unconventional way, and the final product is called the Phalap. The Singpho people generally cultivated their tea in their home-grown gardens without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, but only vermicompost. The fine tender tea tips are plucked and then dry roasted in a pan. Then they stuff the tea leaves into a hollow bamboo and close the mouth tightly. This is then left to dry in a bamboo platform (in Assamese called dhuan chang) which is constructed above the traditional wood fired kitchen oven. The smoke from the fire oven dries the tea leaves in a period of around 3 months. The final product is like a cake because the tea leaves get compressed and stick together over time. This organic “handcrafted” tea has a smoky flavour and is very strong and unique.

Hand-crafted Assam green tea

Assam tea, or blends containing Assam tea are often sold as “breakfast” teas because of its strong, malty properties. Apart from black tea, Assam also produces green and white teas in small quantities. The younger generation of small tea growers in Assam are taking on the task to produce and process tea in an organic way. But this task is not easy since the available tea plants inherently contain pesticides. However, efforts are made to gradually evolve into a full fledged organic garden over the years. To achieve this, the tea growers use cow dung, vermicompost, oil cake etc. for controlling pests and ensuring healthy growth. Even the manufacturing process is done using locally available tools like dola, dheki etc. The final product is therefore much less in quantity because it is handmade. 

Buy good quality green tea here : https://clnk.in/pfJw

Tea Plantations
Source: thestatesman.com

Assam, at present, has about 830 large tea gardens with 529 tea factories and almost 66000 small tea growers producing around 1.5 million pounds of tea every year. Assam produces about 54% of India’s tea industry followed by Darjeeling and Kerala.

7 Types of Pithas and Ladoos to Celebrate Magh Bihu

Magh Bihu is one of the most anticipated festivals in Assam celebrated in the month of January. This is a harvest festival marking a lot of feasting and festivities. Magh Bihu is therefore also called the Bhogali Bihu literally meaning “to enjoy”. Magh Bihu festivities in Assam normally lasts for at least a week marked with visits to near and dear ones.

Pitha Ladu Platter
Pitha Platter
Source: https://instagram.com/being_parash?igshid=1k7irgw7z45xc

Read my blog post on Magh Bihu for details on this harvest festival of Assam.

Magh Bihu is celebrated with a feast on the night of the Uruka day, the lighting of the Meji the next morning followed by an extensive meal which includes traditional jolpaan and a variety of pitha. There’s no end to the types of pitha one can prepare but there are a few basic pithas that are prepared during Magh Bihu. Let’s prepare this pitha platter for Magh Bihu by following these simple steps.

#1 Til Pitha

Til Pitha
Til Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/paris_cookbook?igshid=aa0laswt2t7o

The ingredients required are bora saul (sticky bora rice), gur (jaggery), and til (black sesame). The rice is soaked for about 2 hours, drained and left out to dry a little. Finely powdered rice flour is made by pounding the bora rice in a dheki (pic included) or khundona (pic included), strained, and kept aside covered with a lid. The filling is prepared by roasting the black sesame first and then grinding it to obtain a coarse powder. Then add jaggery and mix properly.

Dheki
Dheki
Source: https://instagram.com/hrittick_rajkhowa_?igshid=1sa2svnhoiv99

Next start by heating an iron tawa (preferable). Add a big spoonful of rice flour on the pan and spread it out in an oval or round shape. Put a little bit of the black sesame mixture in the centre of the pitha. Now slowly roll up the pitha from one side and allow it to steam on the tawa for a while. Flip the sides and let it turn crisp.

Pointers:

1. Don’t let the rice flour moisten, therefore cover properly with a lid.

2. Timing is everything in preparing crispy til pitha, so don’t be too slow nor too fast in rolling the sides.

#2 Narikol Pitha

Narikol Pitha
Narikol Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/dolee_talukdar?igshid=1o83obmjkwzr9

Narikol Pitha is prepared in the same manner as til pitha except for the fact that the filling here is that of coconut (narikol). For the filling grated coconut is roasted and a little sugar is added to obtain a sticky mixture.

#3 Ghila Pitha

Ghila Pitha made with sticky bora rice

Ghila pitha or tel pitha is made in quite a few different ways. Some make it with only sticky bora rice which makes them chewy, some prefer using normal rice flour while some mix both the variety of rice flour. You can choose according to the availability and your preference.

Rukoni
Rukoni

Wash and soak the rice for about 2 hours, drain the water and let it dry for another hour or so. Now pound the rice to obtain a coarse powder. Add a little water to the jaggery to dissolve it, and a pinch of baking soda. Add this to the rice flour and make a dough. For flavors you can add orange zest, grated coconut also according to your preference or even black sesame which are all optional. Now make small balls out of the dough and flatten them. In a deep pan add mustard oil and allow to heat, now add the flattened rice balls and deep fry in high flame. Flip both sides to cook evenly.

#4 Narikol Ladoo

Narikol Ladoo
Source: https://instagram.com/flavors.hometown?igshid=13qqa768r1009

Start by grating a coconut in a mixer. Traditionally we used to grate it in an iron rukoni which literally looked like a bird (pic included). Add sugar (about one-third of the quantity of grated coconut) and cardamom powder for flavour. Mix it well and fry the mixture on medium flame while stirring continuously. After about 15 mins check the mixture to see if it binds properly, then put off the flame and start making the laddoo immediately. If the mixture cools down then it will turn hard and binding won’t be possible.

#5 Til Ladoo

Til Ladu
Til Ladoo
Source: https://instagram.com/thefamishedbachelor?igshid=1jjmwsbhm1xr

Start by dry roasting the washed and dried black sesame on a pan for about 5-6 mins while stirring continuously and then keep it aside. Add almost equal amount of jaggery on the pan, add half cup of water and allow it to dissolve while cooking in low flame. After about 6 mins check the mixture by dropping a few drops in water. If it does not dissolve then your jaggery mixture is ready. Turn off the gas, pour the roasted black sesame and mix properly and immediately start making the ladus.

#6 Hutuli Pitha

Hutuli Pitha
Hutuli Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/gitashree_homecook?igshid=x7dgwt6gda41

Wash and dry the black sesame first. Then dry roast the sesame on a pan with cardamom until they splutter and leave an aroma. Grind the sesame to obtain a coarse powder, add jaggery and mix properly. Keep this mixture aside. This is the same mixture like the one we use for til pitha.

Khundona
Khundona

Mix equal quantities of joha rice flour and sticky bora rice flour, add a pinch of baking powder and mix. On a pan add jaggery and little water and allow it to dissolve. Strain the water and add it to the rice mixture slowly to knead a dough. Make small balls from the dough , flatten it and add a little of the jaggery sesame mixture prepared earlier and wrap it up in the form of a hutuli (a musical instrument of Assam which is like the shape of the crescent moon). Prepare all the balls in the similar manner. Now heat mustard oil in a pan and deep fry the pithas on medium flame by flipping sides and cooking evenly.

#7 Tekeli/Ketli Pitha

Tekeli Pitha
Tekeli Pitha
Source: https://instagram.com/foo_dprints?igshid=8mn1vznjis2f

Start by mixing little quantities of water to the rice flour to moisten the mixture. You can use milk also in place of water. Mix this properly without allowing it to stick. Strain the mixture in a saloni or strainer with bigger holes. Now take a little amount of this rice mix and put it on the inside lid of a kettle, add little jaggery and grated coconut and again pour a little of the rice mixture. Now cover the mixture and the lid with a clean thin cotton cloth. In a kettle bring about two-third water to boil, now put the lid with the pitha on the inside and steam for 5-6 mins. Take the lid out, remove the cloth and take the steamed pitha out of the lid.

Ketli or Tekeli Pitha making process
Ketli or Tekeli Pitha making process
Source: https://instagram.com/shouvik_dhar?igshid=5l431tk9d09e

These are the most basic varieties of pitha you can make for Magh Bihu. However the list goes on if you want to create more. As you can see there are also a few basic ingredients which are sticky and normal rice flour/ powder, jaggery, black sesame and coconut. You can create a variety with these ingredients by either steaming or frying. Try preparing these at home and happy eating!

Best Authentic Assamese Recipes with Banana Tree

Assamese cuisine is gradually making a mark in the world culinary scene. It is becoming one of the many reasons Assam is attracting tourists worldwide. Assam has great scope in culinary tourism as it is home to many ethnic groups. Each of these ethnic groups has a variety of unique and authentic delicacies to offer. Authentic Assamese cuisine is less about spices and more about natural flavors. Assamese people love to cook dishes from natural or homegrown vegetables and fruits. The cooking involves firewood to get the smoky flavor and minimal use of oil.

Authentic Assamese Thaali
An Assamese thali
Source: https://instagram.com/neemyskitchen?igshid=u6cc55yw7oh9

One such tree or fruit which grows abundantly here in Assam is the Banana tree. In Assam, all parts of the banana tree are used in preparing delicacies which are authentic. In this article, I will take you on a special culinary tour featuring banana trees, along with recipes.

I hope you enjoy this delicious and authentic Assamese platter.

1. Tupula bhaat (steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf)

Rice is the staple food here in Assam and the most important element in an Assamese thali or platter. Our first item is Tupula bhaat or rice wrapped in banana leaf. The aroma of the banana leaf gets infused with the steamed rice giving altogether a different taste to the otherwise simple rice. For this, we need steamed rice (preferably sticky rice) and banana leaf.

tupula bhaat - Steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf
Steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf #tupulabhaat
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First we need to steam the rice instead of pressure cooking. Put water in a big bowl, place washed rice on a steamer above the bowl, cover it with a lid. Bring the water to boil and let the rice cook. Heat the banana leaf over fire to make it tender so that when wrapped the leaf doesn’t tear. A portion of the steamed rice is immediately transferred to the leaf, wrapped and tied with a banana string. Our tupula bhaat is ready! Alternatively you can simply transfer cooked rice to a banana leaf and wrap it while hot.

2. Xoru maas kol patot diya (steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaf)

Our second dish is small fish steamed in banana leaf. For this we prefer mua maas, which is a variety of small fish. But other varieties are good as well.

Small fish steamed over fire
Small fish steamed over fire
Source: https://instagram.com/thenortheastfood2020?igshid=4fi6qq8vxn53

To marinate the cleaned small fish we need to add roughly pound ginger and garlic, split green chillies, turmeric, salt and mustard oil. This mixture is then transferred to a banana leaf. Wrap the banana leaf properly and tie it with a banana string. Barbeque the tied mixture over firewood while flipping sides. Make sure not to keep it for too long else it might burn. (Alternatively you can place the mixture on a tawa and cover it with a lid. Steam it on low flame for about 20 mins while cooking both sides of the wrap).

Steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaf
Steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaf Source: https://instagram.com/hearty_.meals?igshid=1eyvf72683otu

Once the wrap is done let it sit for a few minutes. Add freshly chopped coriander and little lime juice to the steamed fish, mix it properly and you are ready to relish this flavoursome dish infused with the aroma of smoked banana leaf.

3. Kol posola boot anja (banana stem with brown chickpeas)

Kol posola is the stem of the banana tree. We peel off the outer hard layers and eat the tender, moist inner part. The cooking style differs from person to person but what matters is the flavour of the dish.

Banana stem
Banana stem
Source: deccanherald.com

Pour mustard oil into a pan and heat it. Add a bay leaf or two, one whole dry red chilly, finely chopped onions, ginger garlic paste, some green chillies and fry. Add a little cumin powder for taste. After the mixture turns golden brown, add soaked/ boiled brown chickpeas, salt and turmeric and let it cook. After the peas are half cooked add the finely cut banana stem, mix well and cook again in medium flame. Add a little water and allow it to evaporate and moisten the mixture. Your third dish of the platter is ready!

Banana stem with brown chickpeas
Banana stem with brown chickpeas
Source:https://instagram.com/eeh_mojaah?igshid=igdg8uv50ap1

I remember eating the most delicious posola bhaji at our community feasts of Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha. The dish always turned out so hot my tongue used to literally stick out. Why, because the cooks added tons of green chillies inorder to add zing to the all vegetarian meal. But nobody held back from eating this extremely hot and delicious banana stem dish.

4. Kaskol masor anja (fish cooked with raw banana)

Kaskol or raw banana is mostly consumed as chips, or simple fry. Fish with raw banana is also a common dish but what’s authentic about it being Assamese is in cooking style and flavors. And Assamese cooking is mostly about less oil and less spices.

Raw banana
Raw banana
Source: specialtyproduce.com

Start by peeling off the bananas and then cut it into pieces of your choice. Heat mustard oil in a pan, add bay leaf, dry red chilly, paanchphuran ( five basic spices ), onions and ginger garlic paste. After the onion turns golden brown add the raw banana and one potato cut into pieces, add salt and turmeric, mix well and cook on medium flame. Simultaneously, fry a few pieces of fish, any variety you want, and keep aside. Check the mixture, and once it’s cooked add warm water and let it come to boil. Add the fried pieces of fish and let it cook for a few minutes. Mash a few pieces of the raw banana and potato to make the gravy thicker and garnish with freshly chopped coriander.

Raw banana fish curry
Raw banana fish curry
Source: https://instagram.com/ankitakalitacreations?igshid=17vheyozcyi7v

5. Koldil murgi manxho (banana flower with country chicken)

The fifth dish on our plate is the much hyped banana flower with country chicken. Rich in minerals like phosphorus, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium and iron banana flower is indeed a super food. Let’s learn how to make this dish.

Banana flower
Banana flower
Source: indianexpress.com

After cutting the banana flower, wash in salt water and drain. Heat mustard oil in a pan, add a bay leaf and dry red chilly, a little cumin seeds. Then add the chopped onions and fry, later add the ginger garlic paste, cumin and coriander powder. After a while add the chicken pieces, turmeric, salt and cook for about 3-4 mins in medium flame. Now add the banana flower, mix well and cook in low flame while stirring occasionally. Country chicken takes time to cook and hence you have to keep checking from time to time. You can opt to add water or leave it dry based on your preference.

Banana flower with country chicken
Banana flower with country chicken
Source: traveldiaryparnashree.com

6. Kol khaar

Kol khaar is actually a kind of alkali prepared from the banana peel of the variety called musa bulbisina or bheem kol in Assamese If this variety is not available then you can make use of any other variety. First dry the banana peels properly in sunlight, then burn the peels and soak them in water. Mix properly and then drain the water through a cloth or strainer to strain the ash. The water thus obtained is the alkali khaar. Kol khaar is the organic version of sodium bicarbonate.

Musa bulbisina or Bhim kol
Musa bulbisina or Bhim kol
Source: oluit.com

Let’s learn how to use this kol khaar in cooking. The dish is called omita khaar or raw papaya khaar. Heat mustard oil, then add bay leaf, dry red chilly and paanch phuran or five whole spices ( cumin, fennel, kalonji, mustard and methi). Add the cut pieces of raw papaya, salt and cook. We normally do not use turmeric in khaar. When the papaya is soft and almost cooked add about 2-3 spoonfuls of liquid kol khaar with a little water. Allow the mixture to soak in the khaar and water, omita khaar is ready to serve!

Raw papaya khaar
Raw papaya khaar
Source: recipes18.com

7. Bhapot diya Kol pitha (steamed banana pancake)

The dessert on the platter is steamed banana pitha which is the most simple, healthy and tastiest dessert ever. Mash about 2-3 ripe bananas, add rice flour and jaggery and knead it into a batter. Take banana leaves, cut into pieces and heat it to make it tender. Put a little of the batter into the banana leaves, wrap the leaf and flatten the batter. Tie the wrap and steam it on a pan covering the lid while flipping sides. The flame should be medium. This tastes best with a cup of Asssm black tea alongside jaggery. But this serves as our dessert in our platter featuring banana tree.

Steamed banana pancake
Steamed banana pancake
Source: https://instagram.com/deboshri_rajbongshi?igshid=f9uzzkj66trs

8. Koldil bor (banana blossom fritters)

All the dishes mentioned above have been tried and tasted, and banana flower fritters was the only dish which I had never tasted. But as I started writing this post I knew for sure that I have to taste it before I recommend it to you all. So a few days back I made them and trust me when I say, this snack is “finger licking good”.

Banana blossom fritters
Banana blossom fritters
Source: https://instagram.com/foodstories94?igshid=1bzmi48uom6la

All you need to do is separate the banana flowers but try not to break them. Then boil them in water while adding a little salt. Drain and keep them aside. I had soaked masoor dal for about 5-6 hours and later made a paste out of it. I added salt and chilly powder to the paste and mixed properly. To get the consistency perfect for making fritters I added a little water to the paste. Next I heated mustard oil in a pan, dipped the boiled banana flower into the mixture and deep fried it. Voila! Deep fried banana blossom fritters is the perfect starter to this platter.

Visit these Restaurants in Guwahati for Ethnic Assamese food: My personal favorites!

Assamese cuisine is a burst of different rich flavors which is light on your palate at the same time. For many of you gahori manxho, xhar, aloo pitika might be synonymous to ethnic Assamese cuisine. But the variety which Assamese cuisine offers is unimaginable unless you see and savour it yourself. From locally grown herbs to local produce, local variety of fish and unique cooking techniques, ethnic Assamese cuisine is too good to resist. If you want to taste the flavors of Assam then visit these restaurants in Guwahati which gives you the perfect taste of ethnic Assamese cuisine.

To know more about the popular ethnic Assamese delicacies read my blog post Top 10 most popular ethnic Assamese dish.

Parampara Paradise

This is one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Guwahati serving authentic ethnic Assamese cuisine. Located in Silpukhuri, the restaurant has a very cozy ambience with great seating arrangements. It can accommodate large groups comfortably, and satisfy your taste buds giving you the best experience of Assamese flavors.

A typical thali in Parampara Paradise
Source: tripadvisor.in

Parampara thali is their meal speciality served in bell metal dishes. You will be served a welcome drink which depends on the seasonal availability of fruits or vegetables. Gooseberry or local lime soft drink is served as a welcome drink with this thali along with 13 other food items which includes Assamese speciality like khar, pitika, kharoli, khorisa, kuhudi, fish tenga, steamed fish, pigeon or duck curry, dal, rice, mixed vegetables, mahor guri and traditional dessert of hurum (puffed rice) with thick cream and jaggery.

The restaurant offers not only thali or meal but also a-la-carte menu. The ethnic Assamese menu ranges from duck, pork, chicken and pigeon to a variety of locally available fish and a variety of vegetarian options as well.

Parampara Paradise
Source: tripadvisor.in

The restaurant is currently following all protocols as directed by the government. While maintaining social distancing the restaurant is temporarily offering self-service and food is being served in disposable plates. Tables are being set 6 feet apart, staff is properly equipped with masks, face shields and sanitizers, the premise is sanitized everyday before opening and after closing.

The address of this restaurant is:

Parampara Paradise, Maniram Dewan Road, Krishna Nagar, Silpukhuri, Guwahati- 781003, Assam.

Mising Kitchen

Located in the heart of the city at Hengerabari, Mising Kitchen offers ethnic Assamese cuisine along with Mising cuisine. The restaurant is not very spacious but certainly is guest-friendly and homely. In fact, this is my personal favourite when it comes to taste and value for money.

Interior of Mising Kitchen
Source: magicpin.in

The few times I went there to dine I have witnessed full house of diners who come hungry and leave content. The restaurant offers ethnic Assamese as well as Mising cuisine which gives food lovers different options to choose from. They even serve thali specially for kids catering to their small appetite and choice of food.

The restaurant offers Normal thali with a choice of chicken, pork, duck, fish and even paneer. Like all Assamese thalis, the platter includes a variety of dishes from khar, pitika to curry and dessert.

Mising Kitchen
Source: justdial.com

The address of this restaurant is:

Mising Kitchen, House no. 24, 1st floor, Near Public Health Chariali, Hengrabari Road, Ganeshguri, Guwahati, Assam.

Gam’s Delicacy

Talk about beautiful interiors, spacious dining, awesome flavors, Gam’s Delicacy has it all. The first thing that caught my eyes on entering this restaurant for the first time was their unique furniture and bamboo decor. Located just below the Ganeshguri flyover in the heart of the city, this restaurant attracts a lot of customers. They also operate another unit located just opposite the ISBT and Balaji temple in Garchuk, Guwahati. One can easily arrange any kind of family functions or social meetings here given the space the restaurant offers.

Gam’s Delicacy, Garchuk unit
Source: tripadvisor.in

The restaurant offers Fish, Pork and Chicken thali with a variety of 14 items. For example, a typical pork thali will include Joha rice, yellow dal, Green veg/herbs fry, Pork curry, Pork with black dal, Pork boil, Pork patot diya (wrapped in banana or Tora leaf), Pork khorika, aloo pitika ( mashed potatoes), kheer, green salad, pickle, mint chutney and lentil chutney served in brass metal dishes and bowls.

Duck, pigeon and mutton varieties are available as part of their a-la-carte menu along with a variety of other ethnic Assamese dishes. Local varieties of fish and vegetables are available cooked with different local ingredients and herbs.

Gam’s Delicacy city unit
Source: sentinelassam.com

The addresses of the 2 units of this restaurant are:

Gam’s Delicacy, Krishna Market, GMC ward no. 44, G.S.Road, Ganeshguri, Guwahati, Assam.

Gam’s Delicacy Restaurant, Betkuchi, Opposite Maniram Dewan Trade Centre, NH 37, Garchuk, Guwahati, Assam.

Heritage Khorikaa

Heritage Khorikaa is the brainchild of Assam’s celebrity chef Atul Lahkar. He is a self-made and self-taught man, learning authentic cuisines directly from the locals over the years. He is a curious mind, always experimenting with ingredients and flavors. His restaurant is very popular because of his proud association with celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Sanjeev Kapoor among others as well as for his great culinary skills.

Chef Atul Lahkar and Chef Sanjeev Kapoor in front of Heritage Khorikaa
Source: quicklisting.in

Located at Chandmari, the restaurant serves flavoursome authentic ethnic Assamese food. The restaurant offers a Vegetarian thali or meal with around 10 to 12 items and a choice of different meat and fish to choose from. Pork, Duck, Pigeon, Chicken and different varieties of fish are available on the menu. Khorikaa meaning barbeque, among other popular dishes, is their speciality as the name suggests.

The only time I tasted their flavoursome food left me craving for more. Their highlight seems to be the a-la-carte menu rather than the thali, which leaves a lingering taste on your palate of that special dish you savoured. I hope to visit this restaurant soon for another gastronomic experience.

Interiors of Heritage Khorikaa
Source: justdial.com

The address of this restaurant is:

Heritage Khorikaa, GNB Road, Behind Goswami Service Station HP petrol pump, Chandmari, Guwahati, Assam

Maihang

Maihang, I guess, is the largest operating restaurant chain in Assam with two branches in the city, and a few are outside Guwahati. The new outlet of Maihang was recently opened in Hengerabari in the city, which gives a very traditional vibe on entering because of their unique decor and plush interiors.

The table with Maihang, the traditional serving dish on display.
Source: maihang.in

The restaurant offers 2 thali or meal options- Maihang veg thali and Maihang non-veg thali. The rest are in their a-la-carte menu. The vegetarian meal includes 11 items like Joha rice, yellow dal, black dal, aloo pitika/bengena pitika, seasonal mixed vegetables, green vegetables fry, xhar/bor tenga, green veg boil, kharoli, baby potato fry, herbal chutney. In the non-veg thali a few of the veg items have been replaced by the non-veg varieties. For example, if you choose a fish thali you will get fish pitika, murighonto, fish tenga curry and fish fry.

The usual delicacies of duck, fish, pigeon and pork are available cooked with a variety of different ingredients and different styles. The restaurant gives utmost importance to healthy food and hygiene. They boast of their til chicken ( chicken cooked with black sesame seeds) as their signature and most popular dish.

The interior of Maihang
Source: maihang.in

The address of this restaurant is:

Maihang, Public Health tiniali, Lichubagan, Hengerabari Road, Guwahati, Assam

8 Indigenous medicinal plants of Assam for good Health and Immunity

Assam situated on the northeast of India is a state rich in flora and fauna. There are a different varieties of vegetables and herbs found in abundance here mainly because of the climatic conditions. These proves effective in the treatment of different diseases and ailments according to research. In fact natives here consume these not only for their medicinal properties but also as seasonal vegetables. Here’s a list of 8 most popular indigenous medicinal plants good for health and immunity.

1. Manimuni or Indian pennywort : This plant is native to the wetlands in Asia and is found in abundance in Assam. Its scientific name is Centella Asiatica and grows in gardens or damp uncultivated areas.

Manimuni, as we call it in Assamese, has many health benefits but the one which we widely believe is that it helps cure dysentery when consumed raw after pound crushing, especially the juice.

Pennywort or manimuni
Pennywort or manimuni

Apart from this manimuni has other health benefits too. It helps improve memory and is best taken early morning by extracting the juice. Mix it with a little honey or salt according to your taste. It is a blood purifier and helps relieve menstrual pain, it heals wounds, is effective in hair growth, promotes flow of urine and is helpful in Gonorrhea too. It is generally consumed raw like chutney or after extracting the juice.

2. Dupor bon tenga or Goethe plant : Bryophyllum Pinnatum is the scientific name of the Goethe plant which is a succulent. Its Assamese name is dupor bon tenga. This plant has great medicinal values for which it is also called the miracle leaf or leaf of life.

Dupor tenga is believed to be greatly effective in treating kidney stones. Consumption of 4-5 raw leaves with a glass of water first thing in the morning for about 2 months proves effective.

Dupor bon or Goethe plant
Dupor bon or Goethe plant
Source: bangaloreagrico.in

Bryophyllum Pinnatum is used in ethno medicine for treatment of earache, burns, abscesses, ulcers, insect bites, diarrhea and Lithiasis. The paste of this plant if applied on the head kills lice and is also effective in healing piles when applied on affected areas. The miracle leaf also prevents gastric ulcers, increases urination and lowers cholesterol.

3. Doron bon or Leucas : The scientific name of this plant is Leucas aspera and is commonly used as an insecticide. In Assamese we call it Doron bon. This plant is also used as an edible vegetable and herbal remedy as well. In many parts of India people plant this weed in front of their homes to repel snakes and other venomous animals. It is, in fact, most commonly used in the treatment of snakebites.

Duron bon or Leucas plant
Duron bon or Leucas plant
Source: thehindu.com

The flowers of this plant are administered in the form of a syrup as a domestic remedy for cough and cold, and for the treatment of intestinal worm infections in children. It is a valuable homeopathic drug and used in the treatment of chronic malaria and asthma. The juice extracted from the leaves cures skin problems since it is antibacterial. It also strengthens the liver and the lungs. Sinusitis, pharyngitis, decay of tooth, loss of appetite, headache, body ache, influenza are some other medical conditions which may be cured by the use of this plant.

4. Jilmil saak or White goosefoot : The scientific name of this plant is Chenopodium album and is consumed as a leafy vegetable. Jilmil saak, as we call it in Assamese, has a high level of oxalic acid for which it should be eaten in moderation. Its seeds are high in Protein, Vitamin A, Calcium, Phosphorus and Potassium.

Jilmil or White goosefoot plant
Jilmil or White goosefoot plant
Source: world-crops.com

This plant helps increase haemoglobin levels in the body, and helps cure constipation, arthritis, rheumatism, enlargement of the spleen and bile related diseases.

5. Tengesi tenga or Indian sorrel : Also known as creeping wood sorrel it’s scientific name is Oxalis corniculata. Tengesi tenga is rich in Vitamin C and the leaves have a tangy taste.

Tengesi or Indian sorrel plant
Tengesi or Indian sorrel plant
Source: theayurveda.org

The paste of the leaves cures eczema and soothes painful insect bites. It also improves memory and strengthens the nervous system. It is helpful for the cure of lower back pain, urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, dysentery, fever, headache and loss of appetite.

6. Brahmi saak or Water hyssop : The scientific name of this plant is Bacopa Monnieri and is native to the wetlands of eastern and southern India. The plant is bitter in taste but with great medicinal properties. This plant is used in Ayurvedic traditional medicine to improve memory and treat various ailments. Preliminary clinical research found that Bacopa Monnieri may improve cognition. If taken for a long term it helps in improving concentration level and attention span.

Brahmi plant
Brahmi plant
Source: indiamart.com

The high anti-oxidant content in the plant helps reduce depression and anxiety. Because of this property it also lowers the risk of diabetes. It can also stabilize asthma and improve liver health. Bacopa Monnieri is currently being studied for its possible neuroprotective properties.

7. Musondori saak or Himalayan spinach : Hottuynia cordata is the scientific name of this plant which is a perennial ground creeper. In Assam it is consumed as a leafy vegetable also or used as a herb for the cure of certain ailments.

Musondori or Chameleon plant
Musondori or Chameleon plant
Source: southernliving.com

This plant is very useful in the treatment of stomach related problems and particularly very effective for curing dysentery. In countries like Japan and Korea the dried leaves of this plant is used to make tea because of its detoxifying properties. It increases blood in the body, prevents heart diseases and strengthens muscles.

8. Mati Kanduri or Dwarf copperleaf : This is an aquatic plant and its scientific name is Alternanthera sessilis. As a herbal medicine the plant has diuretic, cooling, tonic and laxative properties. Its stem and leaves are normally consumed as vegetables here in Assam.

Mati kanduri or dwarf copperleaf plant
Mati kanduri or dwarf copperleaf plant
Source: gramho.com

The juice of the leaves increases milk production and hence is good for lactating mothers, it increases milk production in cows also. It helps in skin related diseases like leprosy and minor itching. It is very beneficial for treating loose bowels, helpful in curing night blindness and fever.

These plants mentioned above are native not only to Assam but certain other places too. The manner in which they are consumed however differs from places to places. In Assam these are consumed as vegetables on quite a regular basis. Some go as accompaniments with fish as curry, or consumed raw as chutneys and salad dressings, some as juice after extraction. For common ailments like dysentery, stomach pain, cuts and bruises, cough and cold these plants tend to be very effective too and form an integral part of Ayurvedic traditional medicine.

Read: 10 Commonly Available Immunity booster Herbs and Plants

pork with mustard greens

Top 10 Most Popular Ethnic Assamese Dish

Assam is an ethnically diverse state, multi-cultural and multi-lingual due to which the food culture here is also diverse.

Assamese cuisine has so much to offer that you need to spend quite a few days to satisfy your gastronomic appetite, if you have one. But trust me when I say that there’s literally no end to this food marathon.

However, there are a few signature ethnic delicacies which you should never miss while in Assam.

Assamese Cooking Style

Assamese cuisine is characterised by less oil, no added spices, cooking over fire and to a great extent fermentation. The only spices used are ginger and garlic, and some local wild herbs. So basically Assamese food is a straight out of home kitchen kind of experience, with a zest of raw smoky flavours.

Prepare yourself for a mouthwatering read about the top 10 Assamese delicacies.

Top 10 Assam’s favourite dishes

Haah Mankho Kumura

Duck with ash gourd
Duck with ash gourd
Source

Haah mankho kumura or duck with ash gourd is a quintessentially Assamese delicacy you should never miss.

The meat tastes best when cooked over firewood as it gives a smoky flavour to the tender juicy meat. The ash gourd melts making the gravy extra rich.

Duck meat tastes best around December- January because it becomes more fatty during this time.

Gahori Bah Gaj

Gahori bah gaj or pork with bamboo shoot will give you the typical ethnic feeling. This is a purely boil dish with loads of flavour.

Like every other ethnic Assamese dish this too sounds simple but the taste is definitely something to pay for.

Aamlori-Tup aru Koni

Aamlori-tup aru koni or larvae of weaver ant fried with eggs is an exotic Assamese delicacy consumed during Bohaag Bihu by many ethnic communities.

This is usually consumed on Goru bihu day along with poita bhaat (leftover rice kept overnight in water) and 101 xaak (101 types of vegetables cooked like a hot pot).

Kukura Mankho Til diya

Country chicken with black sesame seeds
Country chicken with black sesame seeds
Source

Kukura mankho til diya or country chicken cooked with black sesame seeds is another very rich dish in terms of flavour.

Essentially ethnic, this is not a very common dish but prepared by few tribal and ethnic groups in Assam.

Khar

Khar is actually a kind of alkali/potash obtained from bhimkol, which is a variety of banana.

The banana peel is stored over months, then burnt in fire and water is then added to this burnt mixture. After leaving it for a while the mixture is strained and what we get is called khar.

This is added in small quantity with either black gram or mustard greens or raw papaya which gives you a very unique taste that will linger on your tongue for a long time.

So the potash is called khaar and taking into account what it has been added to we call it accordingly. Like amita khar if added to raw papaya, lai xaak khar if added to mustard greens, etc.

Gahori Lai Xaak

Pork with mustard greens on the platter with pork dry fry and fish fry
Pork with mustard greens on the platter with pork dry fry and fish fry

Gahori laixaak or pork with mustard greens is a hot favourite here in Assam.

This is a lot easier to cook because the meat is pre-boiled, so it all comes down to proper seasoning and adding the greens at the right time.

Pork is fattening and so little to no oil is used in this dish.

Ou-Tenga Borali Mas

Ou tenga borali mas or fish cooked in tangy elephant apple is a very refreshing dish.

The highlight of the dish is, undoubtedly, the elephant apple with its sour element, not too sour but sweet too.

Mati Dal aru Kath Aloo

Mati dal aru kath aloo or yam cooked with black gram is a compulsory dish consumed during Bhogali Bihu and/or Na-khua mainly because it’s seasonal.

The dish might sound simple to you but trust me you cannot resist it once you taste it!

Leta Polu bhoja

Silkworm pupae fry
Silkworm pupae fry
Source

Leta polu bhoja or silkworm pupae fry is also a very popular dish consumed widely during Bohaag Bihu.

This is more of a snack and tastes best with xajpani.

The silkworm is first boiled and then the cocoon is removed. The pupae is then fried with onions, green chillies and garlic.

Kosu Bilaahi

Kosu bilaahi or taro (colocasia stems) with tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes or kon bilaahi, is my personal favourite.

The calcium oxalate present in taro plants is uncomfortably itchy for which you need to boil it first. Tomatoes are used to balance this itchiness. This is a mushy dish, perfectly balanced in flavours.

Conclusion

The best accompaniment with any kind of Assamese food is our very own xajpani which gives you that extra zing.

Honestly, Assamese cuisine has so much to offer that it’s impossible to cover everything in a single article. Moreover you have to taste it to believe it!

Learn more about Xajpani

As I have previously mentioned, the best time to visit Assam, especially for a food lover, is around Bohaag Bihu and Bhogali Bihu because of the availability of a variety of food items.

These two are officially the festivals of feasting and merriment and therefore have much to offer including pithas and doi-jolpaan.

So come and experience Assam’s amazing food served with unbound love!

The Na-Khua tradition – Thanksgiving in Assamese culture

O mur dharitri ai,

soronote diba thai

Khetiokor nistar nai,

mati bin oxohai

Doya kora doyaxila ai

……..

……..

Mati ke xaboti dhori

Mati ke sarothi kori

Matir bukut sunit dhalu

Jironi pahori

Dhoritri ai mur

Amak tumi neriba

Tumar seneh bine ai

Ami nirupai

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Assam is mainly an agriculture based economy and the farmers consider this land as their mother, the one who nurtures them. They forget all pain and toil incessantly to nurture the land which is their only source of livelihood. They pray to her to keep blessing them with good crop every year and thus nurture them. In the above song composed by our very own Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, this plight of the farmers is highlighted.

Since agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Assam so naturally a good crop is the reward for all farmers. And as thanksgiving to Mother Nature the Na- khua festival is organised. It is a lesser known tradition in Assam followed religiously by a few ethnic communities and a certain section of the society. It is like a community feast organised to celebrate the first meal of the fresh new harvest. The winter crop starts coming in by the month of Aghun ( mid-November to mid-December) according to the Assamese calendar and Na- khua is organised in this month.

A traditional Assamese platter
Source: Kaberi Gogoi Deka

Na-khua is a combination of two Assamese words, Na means new and khua means the act of eating. This is an extensive meal prepared in the traditional way with local ingredients from the local markets. Sometimes these ingredients are home grown in our own little farms. There’s a lot to learn and taste in such community feasts and is a good opportunity for those who would like to learn about Assamese food. The best part is that these dishes are cooked in firewood which gives a different flavour to the dish.

The dishes prepared in Na-khua are very elaborate and so I thought it better to discuss about the same with someone who has good knowledge of it. I got in contact with a home chef based in Guwahati, Kaberi Gogoi Deka who is very passionate about cooking and has won quite a few cooking competitions here in Guwahati. Her food related posts in social media are very interesting. She cooks the perfect pithas ( rice cakes) and has in depth knowledge of Assamese cuisine. She told me that Na- khua is actually synonymous with a few signature dishes like Haah manxho kumura ( duck with ash gourd), mati mah kath alu ( black gram and yam) , bora saul tora patot diya ( sticky rice wrapped in tora leaf) etc. These, in fact, are compulsory cooks apart from a variety of other dishes which may vary. Other typical ethnic dishes include gahori manxho khorikat diya ( pork barbecue), borolia maas khorikat diya ( fish barbecue), lai xaak bhaji ( mustard green), alu bilahi pitika ( mashed potato and baby tomato) and the list goes on.

Sticky rice wrapped in Tora leaf
Source: Kaberi Gogoi Deka

Na-khua, however, is organised in a different manner at my in- law’s place which was very novel to me. I witnessed a proper Na-khua ceremony of the Deodhai class of the Ahom community with elaborate rituals after my marriage. Na-khua is also called Mritokor hokaam by them because the food is first offered to the ancestors (grihadam) with full rituals as a kind of Thanksgiving to them. Xajpani is the most important requirement for every occasion in the Ahom Deodhai community. So about two weeks ahead of the set date ( in the month of Aghun) the mixture for xajpani is prepared and kept aside for fermentation. Another requirement for the ceremony is red hens which are also offered to the ancestors. The number of hens depended on the number of expired members of the family. A special kind of plate was made from bamboo for offering the food which is called the mehenga.

The food for the offering is prepared in the kitchen and it is very unique. The compulsory dishes are : bhapot diya bora saul ( steamed sticky rice), mati mah kath alu ( black gram and yam), gahori laixaak ( pork with mustard greens), ou-tenga borali maas ( a fish variety with elephant apple), goroi maas pura ( a variety of fish roasted over fire), kukura pura ( chicken roasted over fire) and our indispensable Xajpani.

The offering for ancestors on Na-khua

The Deodhai purohits perform the rituals uttering prayers in Tai language. They invoke the ancestors, express gratitude and seek blessings on behalf of all the family members. After the rituals a part of the offering is handed to the family members for them to share and eat. It is only after the rituals are over that the purohits and other guests present sit down for the meal. Xajpani is also served to everyone present. Along with all the dishes already mentioned there are few others which are very popular like haah kumura ( duck with ash gourd), masor petu (fish intestines), kukura petu ( chicken intestines), haah petu ( duck intestines), kol posola ( banana shoot).

Na-khua basically is a fun tradition but certain ethnic communities do have set rules or rituals. It is all about eating a hearty meal after the toil at the agricultural fields bear fruit and farmers are blessed with a good crop.