Thursday, March 15, 2018

Assamese Food Festival. Part Two

During my growing up days, going to a restaurant was a treat, most days we ate at home, a traditional Sindhi meal- Curry Chawal, Sai Bhajji or simple vegetables (fried or stewed). Snacks and salads were made on special occasions. A simple curd and Papad was always served at the meals. When we visited our friends, we ate their speciality,Gujarati cuisine at Guju friend’s house, idli-dosa at south indian friend’s house, heavy ghee laden paratha in our Punjabi friend’s house. We never shared recipes, we hardly talked about food..eating food was sheer enjoyment and we came back satiated.

We have come a long way now. We hardly find sindhi food made regularly at Sindhi homes, it is more frequently made in my non-Sindhi friend’s home. We have become international. Pastas and sandwiches are more common now and eating out on week-ends is so very fashionable.

So now we have food festivals to bring back the culture of a certain place. Many restaurants have adopted this food festival  trends to boost their business. People have begun to enjoy different regional cuisine. 

Its fun more topic to discuss besides the juicy topics of who is dating whom and who is the better sinner. You go to a friend’s house for lunch and you dissect the food, inquiring about the recipe and how it is different from your traditional one. You click pictures instead of saying prayers, with oily hands you jot down notes on ingredients and cooking method (if you don’t trust your memory) and have to discover new words to describe a dish..a boring words like “tasty” or “delicious” is so very childish.

So while you are chewing, you are learning…same vegetables but cooked differently in different parts of the world. A humble potato, when boiled and mashed becomes a side dish.

Recently, I attended Assamese Food Festival at Special School at Belapur. I stood side-by-side with children to learn about this cuisine. I have never before tasted meal from that part of India, so naturally I was curious. Assamese Chef Mamoni Gogoi and her daughter were invited to cook in our school kitchen and a great variety of food was cooked.

Mamoni had brought few raw vegetables that are available in her part of the world. We discussed in great details about the use of Elephant Apple, lime and those red hot chilis

Be careful, don’t touch the red chili, your hand will burn” 

she warned me when I tried to inspect Bhut Jolokia chili. You can imagine its effects on your tummy lining then… (I am used to hot and spicy food..but for delicate people, it is compulsory NO)

The smallest morsels can flavour a sauce so intensely it's barely edible. Eating a raw sliver causes watering eyes and a runny nose. An entire chilli is an all-out assault on the senses, akin to swigging a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.

I asked her to cut the Elephant Apple because I wanted to taste it. But she said that it cannot be eaten raw. It is boiled or cooked to make sauces or jams. It can be used to aromatimize curry.

Preparing elephant apple isn’t an intuitive process: if eating the fruit raw and out of hand, the edible portion is the gelatinous flesh surrounding the pistons, as well as the crunchy “petals.” These may be cut lengthwise into strips, pressure cooked with a pinch of turmeric to soften, and then sautéed and stewed as a curry fry.

Not sure if she used these ingredients in her cooking, but the fragrance from school kitchen was heady.

There were soft hunger pangs that were beginning to knot my tummy but I am not allowed to be greedy, (children should be fed first, no?) so I diverted my attention to clicking pictures.

Masoor Bor

Mati Dhal


Aloo Pitika

Labra (Assamese style mix vegetables)

Tomato Tok

Papaya Khar

I have blogged in great detail about this event on my other blog for school. … read HERE

Many of our students were aware of the food that they were served on that day, because they were shown flash cards of the dishes many days in advance and some of the dishes were discussed in great details,

Every child had grasped the subject according to his ability but all enjoyed the real food.

Do read ‘Assamese Food Festival – Part One on my other blog.

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