Culinary or Food tourism is the exploration of food as the purpose of tourism. The purpose of travel can be different for all, depending on that person’s personal choices. While most of us travel to experience the beaches, the mountains, the treks, the culture etc. , some prefer to travel simply for the gastronomic experience. Countries like Thailand and South Korea attract tourists for their food culture apart from their serene Islands, beaches, Pop culture and the likes. Who doesn’t want to taste the much hyped tteokbokki, bibimbap, jjajangmyeon with shots of soju directly from an authentic Korean restaurant. And is a vacation to Thailand complete without having tasted their Pad Thai, Som Tam, Tom Kha Gai or Tom Yum Goong. These are just a few basic names off the menu, but once to decide to eat there’s literally no end to it.
Food and the cuisines of different nations and states are taking the entire world in its grasp, be it Gourmet or Street Food. It is wise, therefore, to invest equally on the cuisines of a place to boost tourism, which many countries and states have already initiated. Assamese Cuisine is also attracting a lot of national and international tourists of late, and therefore it is advisable to work more in this field to boost tourism. Assamese Cuisine has a lot of similarly with the cooking style of the other South-East Asian countries, but the flavors are distinctly authentic.
Food or Culinary Tourism generally includes activities like:
- Taking cooking classes
- Going on food tours
- Attending food and drink festivals
- Specialty dining experiences
- Shopping at specialty stores
- Visiting farms, markets and producers
Let’s explore about Assamese Cuisine based on these very requirements to assess the prospects of Culinary Tourism in Assam.
What is Assamese Cuisine?
Assam is a confluence of many ethnic communities and tribes who have settled in this region since many years. This assimilation of different cultures has made the food of this region far varied and interesting. Assamese cuisine has evolved over time and today has been able to attract many food lovers and critics.
Assamese cuisine is more of flavors but less of spices and oil, characterised by cooking over firewood, or even fermentation. Garlic, ginger and local wild herbs are used for flavoring as well. Rice is the staple here and the accompanied dishes range between locally grown vegetables, different varieties of meat and locally available fishes.
How to Boost Culinary Tourism in Assam
1. Local village and food tours
Local village tours conducted by travel agencies, or local travel agents are an integral part of tourism in Assam. Tourists are equally interested to explore the culture and food of the indigenous communities residing here. The greatest advantage of Assam is its multi-ethnicity as you get to taste different flavors belonging to the different indigenous communities residing here. And moreover, almost each of these communities have their own traditional drink or rice beer which makes any food tour complete.
2. Exposure of the Traditional Rice Beer varieties of Assam
The Ahom, Deori, Karbi, Rabha, Mishing, Bodo, Dimasa ethnic communities have their own traditional rice beer which goes by different names. The ingredients used are different varieties of rice fermented with a locally found mixture of herbs, but the process involved varies with communities. This drink has great religious and cultural connotation and especially made during their respective main festivals. It is served religiously to every guest that visits during these festivals.
The Ahoms call it Xaj or Lao-Pani, the Mishings call it Apong, the Bodos call it Jou Bishi, the Dimasas call it Judima, the Deoris call it Sujen, the Karbis call it Hor-alank and the Rabhas call it Zu. The entire North-East, and especially Assam is home to some of the finest home brewed rice beer. And rice beer is an integral part of the culinary experience in Assam.
Read : Xajpani- The Drink of Assam
3. Ethnic food of different Communities
Each of the indigenous communities mentioned earlier have their own distinctive food which differs in flavors, cooking style, and to a great extent ingredients too. There’s extensive use of locally grown vegetables and herbs, along with different types of meat and fishes. The combination of these varies with each community and the flavoring ingredients too.
Assamese cuisine has been inspired by these styles and there are many authentic dishes which we call essentially Assamese. A traditional Assamese platter served across the state consists of patot diya bhat, xaar, kharoli, khorisa, pitika, masor tenga anja, haah kumura, gahori laixaak, kukura koldil, kol posola, a variety of fish or chicken khorika. Even the pitika varieties are many like kon bilaahi pitika, bengena pitika, maas pitika, etc.
4. Specialty Dining Experiences
Assam has many ethnic restaurants which serves authentic Assamese food and some of the elite Hotels also hosts specialty Assamese dining events on certain occasions. During these events the elaborate spread includes the traditional breakfast or jolpaan, and a variety of pithas and Assam tea. For the main menu all traditional dishes are available with some live counters. Tourists who visit during these times can experience this buffet or can even choose from their a-la-carte menu.
A place worth mentioning is Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park located near Kaziranga National Park. This place hosts a one of its kind dining experience all throughout the year in the most authentic manner. Traditional music and dances are performed live to give visitors a lifetime experience. The traditional platter served here includes a wide variety of dishes with seasonal vegetables, fishes and meat.
5. Local Farm visit
Over the last few years agriculture and farming has been adopted professionally by many technically qualified professionals who have turned them into successful businesses. With the expertise and knowledge they have been able to implement large scale production of rice, wheat, vegetables or even fishery, piggery or the likes. These farms should be developed from a commercial point of view to boost tourism.
Just like most foreign countries have wineries and breweries with dining facilities, efforts should be made to present these local farms to the national and national tourists. The raw, first hand experience of farming along with the village life attracts a lot of international tourists which should be used to the best of advantage to attract more tourists.
Sale counters of fresh farm vegetables and fruits, self picked can be set up for the mere thrill of it.
6. Food and Drink festivals
Music, food and drink festivals are organized from time to time around different parts of the State. Even if it’s a cultural event, food and drinks fair are definitely set up. Such festivals and events are a good way to boost tourism in general, and culinary tourism in particular.
The Brahmaputra Beach Festival, Majuli Raas Mahotsav, Chandubi Festival, Junbeel Mela, Dehing-Patkai Festival etc. are events which has and will keep attracting visitors. So it is important that such festivals are timely organised to promote culture and tourism.
Assam has a lot of potential in culinary tourism and if certain areas are focused, and efforts made accordingly then chances are that Assam can be the next food destination of the country.
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