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 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 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 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.
Kaji Nemu or Lemon
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.
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 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.
Bael or Aegle marmelos
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.
Doi sira jolpaan
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.
Kosu tenga or taro leaves curry
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.