Monsoon Feast at House Of Tales on 22nd August 2015

Gitika’s PakGhor went underground for 1.5 months, but needed the time to rejuvenate as well as explore new areas, rather dishes and menus. And we were back …. with a lot of tales, yes a pop-up at the House of Tales, Kalaghoda. The place is very aesthetically designed and was a fine background to our exotic cuisine. 

Days of planning is involved for an event like this. Factor in the heart wrenching nightmare of couriers getting delayed (most ingredients come from Assam); as well as that this is my first event at SoBo, and there is a lot of adrenaline to be burnt. Will the SoBo crowd like it, or will they pan me is something that goes continuously through my mind.

The event went off well. I had a large attendance of some 37 happy folks. Special thanks to my friend Viji Mishra who helped us, and ChefToss’s lens for capturing lovely pics of the event.
 

A Tradiditional Welcome – Japi , Gamosa aaand Junbiri Mala (Assamese jewellery)

 
 

Let’s raise a toast! with Haaj (Rice Beer)
 
The Menu, Xaaj and Pickles in the background
  

 

The Platter – Dhekia Xaak aru Guti Alu (Fiddleheadad Fern with Red Baby Potatoes)
 
Posing with Guests…post event
 

And it was a full house feast!

Keep watching this space for more such event updates or write to us: gitikaspakghor@gmail.com

Pura Gahori Chutney (Smoked Pork Salad)

You call it chutney or salad, the taste is not going to change. I would rather say, forget its description, just dig in the smokiness of the pork with the crush of fresh onions while the raw mustard oil flirts with your taste buds.

This simple side dish has an interesting story behind. In olden days, villagers such as our tribal families reared pigs at home to eat at home and sell in the market. Pigs are mostly eaten during religious festivals and other social gatherings. And, what happens, when there is extra meat. No refrigerators or chillers to store? And the meat cannot be allowed to get spoilt. So, what our forefathers did is suspend them over the ‘Chulha’ in a skewer and let it smoke, dry and get fermented. Now, this has led to an amazing discovery which allowed the meat to stay edible enough for 6 – 8 months, sometime 12 months…that’s how we got smoked pork.

Method:
250 gms of Smoked Pork
1 medium sized fresh onions chopped
Salt
1 tea spoon mustard oil
Chopped coriander
1 Bhut Jolokia or 2 green chilies

Make a paste of the green chillies. Now, mix all the ingredients togeother and the chutney is ready to be served. Make sure that the salad is served a bit warm. You can even add a boiled potato to it.

Serve it as an entree or side dish with sticky rice.

Ali Aii Ligang – Celebrating Mising Tribe’s Festival

This is a series collected from my last year’s trip to Assam when I got a chance to experience and live the life of a rural belly.

It was a sunny morning with clear blue skies and a nip in the air, it being October. I was sun bathing and watching our cows, kittens and piglets. I knew it will be another beautiful lazy day visiting relatives and stuffing myself with the delicious rural food made by my mum-in-law, an excellent lady who cooks exotic and yummy dishes.

And then, my mum-in-law announces that my uncle-in-law is getting ready to visit the Ronagajan market, a rural haat and asked if I would like to join him. I sprung and was all set to accompany him at the speed of a rocket. While we were checking out the lovely, fresh, pork and vegetables he mentioned Bookajan, a small Mising village nearby. Mising or Mishing is one of the larger tribal groups in Assam. I cajoled him and we set sail again, along the eucalyptus dotted highway till we reached a non-descript lane which welcomed us with broken dusty roads. After a minutes’ drive inside the village, the picturesque changed – the mud roads were evenly levelled, houses had clean courtyards and then I saw a signboard saying ‘Awarded Cleanest Village by the Assam State Government’. It all made sense.

And the story grew more interesting – this village was apparently visited by Aamir Khan, the Bollywood actor while he was vacationing in Assam. We were visiting the family who had hosted and treated him to rural tribal food. Wow…i could hardly stop showing my excitement. The lady of the house filled me with stories from the tribe, their festivals, customs and more. She spoke to me of the Mising Spring festival ‘Ali Ai Ligang‘ which marks the sowing of fresh crops and the rituals. Held in the Assamese month of Phagun, and on the 1st Wednesday of February, the entire village adorns a festive look and everyone gathers in the village field to celebrate. The Mising Community offers prayers to Doni Polo whom they consider as ‘Easto Devata’ or ‘Main God’ to reap a fat harvest. Red is the primary color of the community, and you can see intricate designs of black and yellow woven in Red. The name of the dance during Ali Ai Ligang is distinct and is known as Gumra which means crowd. The traditional dress is known as Gale (pronounced as Galey).

Originally, the Mising tribe used to reside on the banks of rivers and therefore, fish is predominantly eaten in meals apart from Pork, Chicken and other vegetables. Namsing or sopa also known as dry and smoked river fish is one of the main ingredient. Sakuntala Mili, the lady of the house treated me with some Mising delicacies and gave me her homemade and powdered Namsing and Kotil made of pounded black sesame, red chillies, salt and a few drops of lime juice. Kotil is eaten as an accompaniment to spice up a simple meal comprising Plain Rice, Boiled Lai Xaak and fried fish.

One such dish that is prepared during Ali Ai Ligang is “Pork with Notke or Misika leaves”. Huge chunks of pork are cooked with Misika leaves and are served in the community feast. Here goes my version of Pork with Misika leaves

  1. Pork – 1/2 kg
  2. Misika Leaves – 2 cups boiled
  3. Onion – 1
  4. Ginger Garlic – 2 tea spoons
  5. Green chillies – 2
  6. Salt, Turmeric and Mustard Oil

Saute onion, ginger and garlic in mustard oil. Add pork and rest of the spices. Cook till pork releases fat. Add the mildly fragrant misika leaves and let it cook for another 15 mins.

The dish is ready to be eaten with Apong or Rice Beer and rice.

The lady of the house was very generous to pose for my shutterbug in her traditional attire, open her closets to me and then change into multiple dresses.

Finally, we bid adieu to them and I came back with lots of memories from this non-descript Mising village, untouched by urbanisation. As I sat down to write this piece today, she will be busy preparing for Ali Ai Ligang, oblivious this piece being dedicated to her. I hope to visit Bookajan during the famous Ali Ai Ligang next year.

Chicken with Pumpkin and Tender Bamboo Shoots (Murgi Hoite Ronga Lau aru Baanh Gaaz)

Assam, the land of rains, where it rains through the year and yes, it rains during the winters too. And winters are when you would sit with family, around a warm fire and talk of old family stories into the night. Someday, will blog about them too.

Anyways, here I am in Mumbai enjoying the monsoons. And the season reminds me of a time a few years back when I went home in July. Needless to say, it was raining. I reached home in the evening. My mother in law rustled up this unique chicken dish with bamboo shoots and pumpkin, one of those dishes which I still remember very fondly.

The dish was an explosion of different textures – the softness of pumpkin, the crunchiness of tender bamboo shoots and the not-so-soft desi (country) chicken, with the subtle hint of onion, ginger, garlic and freshly ground pepper powder. The dish had a slight smokey flavor as it was cooked over wood fire. All together it culminated into a great dish, the flavors which make my tongue tingly with excitement… I recreated this magical dish in my kitchen today, having got a tender bamboo shoot from home.

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients

  • 100 gms of bamboo shoot (finely chopped and half boiled)

  • 150 gms pumpkin

  • 200 gms of chicken (chopped small)

  • Onion – 1 medium; ginger and garlic paste – 1 tea spoon
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • Salt and turmeric
  • Mustard oil

Method

Heat oil in a kadhai. Add chopped onions and after it becomes a wee bit brown, put the ginger and garlic. Allow the spices to cook for another minute or so. Throw in the chicken and let it cook for around 5 mins, till when the juices start coming out. Now add the pumpkin and the bamboo shoots together. Cover the lid and continue to cook in low flame till the chicken gets cooked. Don’t forget to stir occasionally. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper just before the cooking is complete.

Serve the dish with rice and some daal, preferably masoor daal with paanch foran tadka.

Note: I added some boiled bamboo shoots in the end as garnish.

Fish steamed in bamboo hollow (Sungat dia maas)

My fish pond at home Walking up the banks of the fish pond

I am a bit partial when it comes to fish compared to meats. The very word ‘fish’ kind of gives me an orgasmic delight which transports me back to my quaint little village home in Tezpur – my legal home since last 9 years. Interestingly, it turns out that both me and my mother-in-law cannot eat any meals without fish. I reached nirvana when I visited my husband’s home for the first time before marriage. I jumped at the very sight of the fish pond next to the house, set in a rural background surrounded by paddy fields, trees, cows grazing on the grass and primary school filled with school children whose rhythmic narrations wake me up from my slumber each morning.

Fresh catch from fish pond Fried fish

Whenever we go home, fishing definitely tops my itinerary – 1 whole day is dedicated to fishing. This day, I get up as early as 5.30 am to finish my household chores or whatever little is left for me to finish. The day zooms at rocket speed – the fishermen arrive around 7ish and we set sail for our fish pond with a net, bucket to hold the priced catch, weighing scale and an umbrella and a chair for myself.  After the fishes are caught, we keep a few (6 – 8 kgs) for home consumption while the rest are taken away by the fishermen to sell in the nearby markets. More than the big fishes, my favourite ones are puthi, boriola, mirika, botiya, misa maas etc. because I find them more tasty – be it fried crisp or smoked or steamed. I join the domestic help to clean the fish and it is washed by pulling water from our well (this is another interesting rural story saved for some other day).

 

Oops, let me come back to where I am – Mumbai. Today, I bought some small and fresh river fish from the Versova market in Andheri and the only dish that came to my mind is to make a light broth – Sunga’t Diya Maas. Sunga is the tender banana stem / hollow couriered by my folks to steam fish or cook sticky rice. The recipe is very simple and all you need is –

  • 200 gms of river fish
  • 3 pods of crushed garlic
  • Salt add to taste
  • Mosundari (a herb)
  • 2 green chillies

Steamed fish Fish steamingMix all of these ingredients and stuff it into the bamboo hollow with half a cup of water. Close the open end with a cloth or banana leaf so that the flavors get trapped inside.  I steam it in a vessel filled with water at low fire for 2 hours. Voila, your broth is ready and you can devour it with steamed rice or have it as a soup. The light flavors of bamboo, garlic and herbs get infused with each other and the end result is a heady aromatic dish.

 

 

And here is the final outcome. mmmm

Steamed fish

 

Assamese food evangelist and a lover of health food