Like I mentioned in my post of Arunachal Pradesh, researching for the North Eastern (NE) states of India during the BM was a crash course and today’s post is from Assam.
Recently I discovered I had a childhood friend who was posted in Shillong. We had lost touch after our primary school, and he called me after about 20 years upon obtaining my number from a mutual friend. After the initial shock-melts-down-to-surprise greetings, he told me he was in the Airforce posted at Shillong. So I said “Ok, Shillong ! That’s in Assam.” Silence from the other end. I knew I was wrong, but didn’t know how to salvage the situation. So he said “No, it’s the wrong state.” I said “Nagaland”, and then bit my tongue !! He must have guessed by then that my geography was pretty rusty. And mentioned Shilong was the capital of Meghalaya ! Wow, I thought – that’s a new lesson for me.
So, thanks to Valli’s Indian Odyssey (States Blogging Marathon) , I now know that Assam’s capital is Dispur.
And the word "Assam" very much resembles the Sanskrit word 'Asam' meaning unequal or undulating. It characterizes the undulating topography of Assam consisting of the Brahmaputra Valley, the Barak Valley, Cachar Hills, world's largest river island -Majuli, Dibrugarh plains with a very wide (i.e., 10+ km) Brahmaputra River flowing through it, Kaziranga National Park [known worldwide for the one-horned rhinos] etc. In the classical period and up to the 12th century the region east of the Karatoya river, largely congruent to present-day Assam, was called Kamarupa, and alternatively, Pragjyotisha
Furthermore, Typically, an Assamese plate would contain bhaat (rice) with dal (lentils), masor jool (fish curry), with mangso (meat curry) or xaak and bhaji (herbs and vegetables).
Rice is one of the main dish in Assam, and variety of different rice are grown and eaten in different ways, roasted, grounded, boiled or just soaked.Fish curries made of rou, illish, or chitol are the most favorite. If not a curry, simply fried fish. Birds like ducks and pigeon are also used in dishes. Pork and Mutton dishes are mainly popular among the younger generation.Another favourite combination can be looci (puffed bread), a curry which can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian, and asar (pickle).Two main characteristic of a traditional meal in Assam are Khar and Tenga. A class of dishes named after the main ingredient Khar and a sour dish is a Tenga.Khorisa (bamboo shoot) are used at times for flavours in curries. They also can be preserved and made into pickles. Koldil (Banana Flower) and Squash are also cooked into delicious sabji's.
The food is usually served in bell metal utensils. (Source : Wiki)
Now when I have such wonderful info assimilated, next came the search for Vegetarian Assamese Cuisine, which led to Sunita’s space and her recipe with Bhindi / Okra (lady’s finger) was truly delicious. It also helped that my family loves Bhindi. So presenting an authentic Assamese dish with Okra – Bhendir Sorsori (or Okra with mustard paste).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------BM : 39 ~ Indian State : Assam
Recipe : Bhendir Sorsori
Dish type : Side dish / Accompaniment
Spice Level : Medium
Prep Time : 15-20 mins, Cooking time : 20 ; Serves : 2
Source : Sunita’s recipe
- Tender Okra – 10 to 12 (approx. 150 gms) – washed, wiped and cut into ½ or 1/3
- Oil – 3 TBSP
- Paanch Phoron (Bengali Masala) – ½ tsp
- Turmeric Powder – 1/3 tsp
- Whole red chilli – halved
- Bay leaf – 1 no.
- Salt to taste
- Green chillies – 2 nos (I skipped this)
- Mustard seeds (you may used black or yellow) – 2 tsp
- Ginger paste – ½ tsp (I used 1 inch fresh ginger)
- Tumeric Powder- a pinch
(When I made this the first time, my family didnt like the taste of the mustard paste, so the 2nd time I made a powder of roasted mustard and added diced ginger. Also substituted green with red chillies - thats the dish you see in the picture).
- For the paste, soak the mustard seeds in warm water for 20 mins, and grind to a thick paste with other ingredients. Dilute with one cup water and keep aside.
- Heat the oil, add the bay leaf, red chilli and panch poron (pronounced in assamese as “Paas Puron”)
- Once the chilli sizzles a bit, add the okra and turmeric powder. Saute well to coat the veggies with oil. Ensure Okra is not slimy at all. Cover and cook for 6 mins.
- When the Okra is about 2/3 done, tip in the mustard- spice paste. Cook over low-medium heat and now add salt once the gravy begins to thicken and coats the okra with the masala paste.
- Cover for further 2 mins without cover.
- Serve hot with dal and rice / Roti
- Use the freshest and tender okra you can lay your hands on. I used baby Okra so just cut it into half.
- Unlike most other Okra curries, the colour of the Okra must be retained as it is. If you want an authentic taste, use Mustard oil. I used sunflower oil