Cuisines of Assam
Cuisine of Assam is probably the most different type of cuisine you would have ever tasted. You cannot say that cuisine of Assam has not at all been influenced by external factors. New dishes have become famous and the traditional dishes have undergone a slight variation, but the change is ever so slight. The delicacies still have the same aroma and taste that made the Assam cuisine a household name in India. The cuisine is distinguished by on the basis of the exotic herbs and vegetables added to the dishes that lend a magnificent taste to the dishes. Rice is the main dish and finds a place in the ingredient list of almost all preparations. In non veg, fish curries and pork dishes are the favorite most of Assamese people. Birds like ducks and pigeon are also used in dishes.
Rice is the most important ingredient in this cuisine. The large varieties of rice found in the region has led to speculation that the grain was first domesticated in the Assam-Yunnan region. Both the indica as well as the japonica varieties are grown in Assam. The most popular class of rice is the joha. Rice is eaten in many different forms: roasted and ground (xandoh), boiled in its husk and flattened (chira), puffed (akhoi). There also grows a variety of rice that can be just soaked and eaten (kumal saul).
All major preparations are of rice. There are different varieties of rice which are used for different dishes, most widely used being joha, indica and japonica. Rice is eaten in different ways such as roasted, grounded, boiled or just soaked. The soaked rice called kumal saul is an important breakfast meal for many which is generally had with milk. Chira mixed with yogurt and jaggery is also a traditional breakfast. There is a special class of dishes called pithas, that are prepared only on special occasions and on festivals like Bihu.
The next most important ingredient is the fish, harvested from the many rivers, ponds and lakes in the region. There is no traditional ethnic community in Assam that does not eat fish. Most traditional rural households have their own ponds for pisciculture. Some of the most popular fishes are the rou (Labeo rohita), the illish ( Tenualosa ilisha) and the chital (Chitala chitala), though the varieties of fish available and eaten is very large. The discerning gourmand would be able to tell which region of Assam is known for which variety of fish.
Non Vegetarian Special
Non Vegetarian seems to be the specialty of Assam Cuisine. Fish dishes form the major part of non vegetarian food. There are different varieties of fishes that are used for cooking. The main are the rou, the illish, and the chital. Different regions are famous for different variety of fish. Tenga is the most important dish in traditional; Assam meal. Dishes of birds such as ducks and pigeons are also prepared. Though pork dishes seem to be the favorite among the young generation.
Greens and vegetables
The environs of Assam are rich in vegetation, and green leafy vegetables, called xaak, are an important part of the cuisine. Some of them are grown while others like the fern dhekia grows wild. There is a bewildering variety that is eaten and according to custom, one has to have a hundred different xaaks during Rongali Bihu. Locally available green leafy vegetables are: spinach, lai (a family of mustard greens), fenugreek greens, khutora (amaranth), moricha, mati kaduri, mani moni (dichondra), mint, cabbage. Green vegetables are often boiled with water to form a gravy or sauteed in oil with onions.