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
Source: https://instagram.com/rajsree.rajkonwar?igshid=1k42iw8r5f2j5

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

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.

Xaj Pani – The Drink of Assam

What is Xaj Pani?

Xaj Pani is a name known to almost everyone from Assam, a culturally rich state from Northeastern part of India. But for those who have no idea what it is, do read further. Also, if you already know what it is, how about a little revision?

Xaj Pani is Rice Beer made of fermented rice and a mix of rare species of herbs. However, the process and ingredients to make it differ from household to household.

Xaj is known to be the drink of the Ahoms and plays an important role in their socio-cultural lives. But nowadays Xaj is not distinctive of the Ahoms people only. People from other ethnicity and community also relish and even prepare this at their homes irrespective of it being an Ahom dish. Xaj has become more like the “Drink of Assam”.

Xaj Pani offered in a bowl
Xaj Pani – Drink of Assam

Source – assamtribune.com

When and where do you drink Xaj Pani?

Xaj Pani is offered by the Ahom and Deodhai communities to their forefathers to please them and seek their blessings. Special ceremonies are held during childbirth, marriage, and even funeral. These are called Na- Purushor Hokaam or Mritakar Hokaam meaning ceremonial offering to the forefathers. Since Xaj is the main element in these ceremonies, we also call them Xajor Hokaam. It is believed that such rituals ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the family with the blessings of the forefathers.

Apart from these ceremonies, Xaj is also prepared during Bhogali Bihu, the harvest festival, and during Rongali Bihu as well by people of these communities. This is offered as a welcome drink to guests during Bihu along with other varieties of mouth-watering delicacies.

First experience with Xaj Pani

From a personal standpoint, I have been a part of quite a few of these ceremonies, and in my opinion, these ceremonies are very elaborate.

My first experience as I remember was during Na- khua which is basically the meal after the first batch of harvest comes in. Normally during Na-khua, people get together to organize a feast with the fresh harvest of paddy. People arrange such feasts according to their convenience after the harvest is done.

Xajpani offering
Source: Runjun Konwar Gogoi

My experience with Na- khua was a little different. Our Na- khua was organized at home and guests were invited along with Tai Ahom purohits.

Around two weeks prior to the set date, my late father-in-law made arrangements to ferment the rice adding some seeds (unknown to me). He chose the Bara chawoul, a sticky variety of rice, steamed it and added the secret ingredient. He then left the mixture to ferment for a few days. I saw that he added little water after 3 – 4 days without touching the mixture. This I believe is done to keep the mixture moist.

On the day of Na- khua, he strained the mixture at first and then added water to the mixture. The initial liquid obtained is called Rohiand the final product after adding water is called Xaj. We then gave some offerings to our forefathers. Among many other special items/offering made was Xaj. Prayers were offered and rituals were performed, after which the purohits drink Xaj. Only after the rituals were complete, others sat for their feast. Xaj was later served to everyone present.

Why Xaj Pani is so important?

Xaj is one of the most favorite drinks in Assam. It is naturally loaded with a variety of probiotics and has great therapeutic values.

Till now Xaj Pani was a household drink, but very soon this will hit the market as Heritage Alcoholic Beverage. Some reliable official sources say that an MoU has been signed for this purpose between Assam Agriculture University and a private organization giving production rights to the latter. A pilot project has already been initiated to mass-produce Xaj Pani with standardized ingredients and process.

Great! When should I visit Assam to taste this awesome drink?

If you are planning for a trip to Assam, do visit during Rongali Bihu, which falls around mid-April, as it would be the best time to visit and personally witness the rich culture of Assam. People of Assam will always welcome you with open arms and warm hearts.

The scintillating song of the cuckoo, the gorgeous green nature, the reverberation of the traditional Dhol in the distance, the mesmerizingly beautiful dancing muses will make your heart flutter.

The warm hospitality that you will receive here would make you feel at home. And what more than a glass of our heritage Xaj to cheer you up.

Cheers to this unique TASTE OF ASSAM!