The Indian food preferences are expanding in all directions, on one hand, they are becoming more experimental and outward-looking with modern cuisines and fusions from across the globe and on the other it is looking inward with sub-regional cuisine and people trying to trace the historical significance of something more simple.
Assamese is one such cuisine that has taken up the substantial shape and earned a certain liking with the NCR pallet, quiet recently a 1-day Assamese food pop-up/exhibit was arranged by Sarwar Borah with his mother Shabnam Borah and friend Rupamudra Kataki at Matchbox, Hauz Khas Village on the occasion of Magh Bihu by the name of “A taste of Assam” where 2 separate sub-cuisines were bought under a roof. Where Shabnam Borah represented the upper-Assamese Muslim food and Rupamudra took care of lower-Assamese Hindu food.
The Spread was bigger than usual, the noteworthy dishes from Muslim end were Shami Kawab, Fish Korma, Korma Pulao and Rezala where Korma Pulao wins hands down as the best dish for me, It is same as the yakhni Pulao done in most of northern India with a rich broth of meat which is later on used to cook the rice and served together. The Fish Korma was done with a dash of vinegar, sumptuous amount of poppy seeds and even potatoes.
The Rezala slightly different from the Bengali one with more Yogurt and some vinegar was to be consumed with a paratha as Assam does not have any other predominant bread and mostly relies on rice. The Shami Kawab was unlike north Indian one with lot more pulse in it vis-a-vis the minced meat quantity.
From Rupamudra’s side, it was Bilahi Di Masor Tenga which was a tangy curry of tomato to drape the fish and mixed alkaline vegetables. The Alkaline part is very integral Assamese thing where a specific breed of banana(known as Bheem Kol in Assam) peel is dried, powdered and stored in water to get the alkaline levels shooting of any food it is added to.
Similarly the Muslim influence of Assam also has an interesting history to it, where Mughal emperors tried to evade this land 13 times in all but somehow the Great Tsang-Po or the Brahmaputra river always acted as a major barrier for them and worked in favour of Ahom dynasty of Assam. Most of the present-day Muslim residents from that region are families of prisoners or from the Khilji clan that came to the region in 1205.
The overwhelming experience and demand for the Assamese Muslim cuisine have forced the Borah family to come up with a small kitchen where they at present take small orders and target a much bigger audience in times to come.