Guwahati is a very sensitive town in terms of security. The hotel owners are very strict about the identification process. You have to give them a valid ID proof or they’ll kick you out. I went to a hotel, got a room and decided to take a powernap after freshening up when someone knocked on my door. A staff from the hotel stood outside with my PAN card refusing to accept it as a valid ID proof. I told them that I don’t have any other identification but they didn’t listen (fun fact, I had my driving license but I was very interested to know what would happen if I don’t show one).
They kicked me out of the hotel.
I was fresh, I had rested a little bit, I realized that I don’t need a hotel. I can either take a jeep to Shillong or explore Paltan Bazar. After researching on my mobile Internet I found this restaurant called Khorika popular for its Assamese Cuisine.
Khorika is not one of those restaurants where you walk into and get a seat. There is a huge line standing before you. After waiting for 20 minutes, I got to enter inside. The setup is not so high in terms of the ambience but you could see that thalis lying on individual tables and guests were eating with delight.
This was probably the first time I saw duck in a restaurant’s menu, but my past experience with ducks stopped me from ordering it and I decided to go for the thali instead.
The food culture of The North East India is very unique. They use a lot of leafy vegetables in their food preparation. Even the non-vegetarian dishes contain a lot of vegetables. Like Bengali cuisine, the food in Assam is prepared in pure mustard oil.
The traditional Assamese cuisine is a mixture of a number of indigenous cultures. The non vegetarian dishes come from the tribal parts of Assam that can be clearly noticed in the roasted and fried items. My plate contained a bowl of rice in the center encircled by a number of small bowls of daals, vegetables, chicken and all kinds of delicious stuff.
Rice is the staple food of Assam. It is prepared with a lot of lentils & herbs. My chicken curry was seasoned with onion, garlic, cardamom & cinnamon. My tastebuds got engulfed in an explosion of flavors with each bite. Khaar bhaat is one of the traditional meals of Assam. Khaar means Alkaline in English and it is usually prepared by roasting parts of a banana tree. This roasted mass is then mixed in boiling water. This Khaar is not only used in the preparation of curries but also for a number of authentic side dishes. Since Khaar maintains acid-alkali balance in check, hence is a popular & healthy dish in Assamese households.
Talking about the non-vegetarian cusiine, the food is mind blowing. The majority of Assamese community is non-vegetarian (sounds like a perfect place for me to settle down). My plate was filled with live examples of how people in Assam loved their non vegetarian food. The star of the lunch was the grilled fish prepared & served on a stick. This fish was roasted exactly in the way fishermen and hunters make their food when they are away from their home.
The chicken curry was prepared using a number of spices. The waiter told me that it was boiled with chilly, ginger, garlic, and leafy vegetables. Each bite of the soft slices of chicken left a fine flavor upon my tastebuds.
Assamese call their kitchen Akhol Ghor. They are very keen on using different spices and without the aroma and the fine flavors, their food preparation is incomplete. The kitchen setting has two parts, the larger part is used for the food preparations, while a smaller area is left to prepare tea and snacks. The Assamese snacks contains of rice flakes (murhi) and Chira.
Their thali is incomplete without sweet dish. I was served with Payesh and Pitha. Pitha is sort of a pancake prepared using rice powder. By the time my meal ended, I was stuffed to my throat and had no idea how I would travel to Shillong. I was sleepy and if given a chance, I would have lied down on the floor and taken a nap.
The Assamese food is still very indigenous. Their way of life is reflected in their food preparation. The food for sure, leaves a mark on your heart, mind and taste buds for a long time.