Skip to main content

Ten things you should know about an Assamese Thali



What is a Thali 



Thali is an Indian word which means "a large plate used for the purpose of serving lunch or dinner" . However the word 'thali' is also used to refer an Indian style of meal served in a thali or a big platter (or sometimes a banana leaf) along with some small bowls used to serve vegetables,  curries and curd. Thali culture is very popular in India and every community or every corner of the country has their own and unique display of the thali through their popular and indigenous recipes. Thali is a delicious meal available in many restaurants throughout the country which is at the same time inexpensive too. So to know the different parts of India and their varied cultures, eating a thali is a simple and easy way.

What is Assamese Thali 


Priyanka Chopra with an Assamese Thali served in bell metal utensils/ p.c. internet 

Assam is a state in the northeast part of India. It is the heart of northeast India. In Assam there are many tribes living, having their own language,  culture,  customs, traditions and of course own cuisines.  So Assamese cuisine is the cuisine of Assam and its different communities and tribes living in different parts of Assam and Assamese Thali is a display of  Assamese cuisine. Like many other Indian thalis, in Assamese thali also the rice sits in the center of the plate and is traditionally eaten with the fingers of the right hand. Unlike every other Indian thalis  Assamese thali also have some specialities which makes it different from other thalis.

An Assamese thali by Binita Borpatragohain

Ten things you should know about an Assamese Thali 


1• An Assamese thali is served in bell metal utensils. Bell metal is an alloy of copper and tin. Bell metal utensils are used by Assamese communities for domestic and religious purposes. In an Assamese thali bell metal plate,  bowls,  glass etc are used which makes Assamese thali unique from other Indian thalis. 

2• An Assamese meal begin with khar. 
Khar is an alkali prepared from sun dried skin of some varieties of banana.  It is prepared by filtering the water from the burn ashes of the skin of the banana Therefore it is also called kolkhar (kol means banana). It is preserved in bottles and can be used for months. It sounds bizarre but Assamese people are using khar as a cooking ingredient since time immemorial when salt was not discovered. It is believed that khar cleanses the stomach.

 A traditional Assamese meal begin with khar recipe.  A khar recipe can be prepared with raw papaya, bottle gourd, dry Jasmin flower,  doron bon xaak, fish head etc. In a khar recipe khar is the key ingredient.  One or two tablespoons is enough to prepare khar recipe.  Khar can also be consumed as raw by just adding chopped garlic,  few drops of mustard oil and salt.

So khar makes an Assamese thali unique from other Indian thalis .

3• Pitika is an essential part of Assamese thali. Pitika is an Assamese word which means mashed. Pitika dishes are very popular in Assam. It is a side dish and a signature recipe of Assamese cuisine. Its taste is very pure and yummy. Sometimes raw onion is used and sometimes fried onion is used in these recepies. Assamese people use mustard oil for all purposes as it can also be consumed  as raw. Pickled chilli or pickled bhut jolokia adds more taste to these dishes. Assamese people used to make pitika from almost all the vegetables but among them alu pitika or mashed potatoes is the favorite one. 


An Assamese thali by Taru Phukan 

4• One must dish of an Assamese thali is Kahudi or pain tenga (black mustard chutney) . Black mustard seeds' chutney or kahudi is an unique dish of its kind. Because of its strong flavour it is good for sneezing or runny nose. Assamese love to have kahudi with rice which makes Assamese thali unique from other Indian thalis .

5• Mati mahor dail /urad dal or split black gram is a traditional gram of Assam.  An Assamese thali without mati mahor dal is incomplete.  Split black gram is cooked with or without khar and served in bell metal bowls.

6• Different herbs and medicinal plants and leafy vegetables (xaak) are available in this part of India such an fiddlehead ferns,  skunk vine,  colocasia leaves,  modhuxulung etc. These herbs,  greens and vegetables are generally eaten by simple frying, adding into different lentils, fish or meat. One such dish must be present in an Assamese thali without which an Assamese thali is incomplete.

7• Every Thali has pickles and chutneys. Assamese thalis also has pickles and chutneys. Pickles and chutneys add flavour to a thali and in Assamese thali one green chutney  and bhut jolokia pickle or bamboo shoots and bhut jolokia pickle are must items.

An Assamese thali by Nitumoni Das Sarmah

8• Local chicken, squab, mutton, duck and pork are very popular among indigenous people of Assam but when it comes to the non-vegetarian Assamese thali , duck is in the first preference.

9• Masor tenga / sour fish curry is a signature dish of Assamese cuisine.  There are many souring agents used to make sour fish curries such as elephant apple, modhuxulung,  thekera, tomatoes, lemon etc. In every non-vegetarian Assamese thali one dish of sour fish curry must include.

10. Dessert is a western concept which don't exist in Assamese cuisine. Curd is generally served with thali which is consumed at the end of the meal. An Assamese meal concludes with the shewing of tamul paan (betel nut and leaf) which is served in a bell metal utensil called bota.  Pieces of betel nuts are served with pieces of betel leaves together with edible limestone and tobacco. The reason behind shewing tamul paan at the end of a meal is to freshen the breath and to hasten the process of digestion.  But in restaurants tamul paan is not served with Assamese thali but in many Assamese household it is a routine item after every meal. Instead of tamul paan,  saunf (fennel seeds) is served in restaurants.

P. C. Binita Borpatragohain,  Taru Phukan,  Nitumoni Das Sarmah

Comments

  1. Yaa rumi very testy our thali....actually assamese culture is very rich...we fell proud to be an assamese

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Bhoot Jolokia Pickle / Ghost Chilli Pickle

Bhoot jolokia/Bhut jolokia (ভোট জলকীয়া) or Ghost chilli is one of the hottest chilli on earth cultivated basically in Assam and some other parts of northeast India. The bhoot jolokias are two or three inches long and starts out green in colour.  It turns red only when ripened.  This ripened ghost chilli in the first bite gives an intense sweet chilli flavor.  The heat doesn't kick at the beginning. As you started chewing it, the heat kicks in and your mouth started burning together starts sweating and watery eyes.

Don't touch ghost chilli with bare hands after cutting.  But as we Assamese people do not use spoon and fork and eat our meal with our fingers, we have the practice of touching this red hot chili with our bare hands. Do you remember the Indian chilli queen Anandita Dutta Tamuly.  She is know for eating and rubbing bhoot jolokia on her bare eyes. But you don't try this and don't even touch bhoot jolokia with bare hands if you don't have practice.  Today I m…

Chef's Knife : The Most Essential Kitchen Tool

Every cook has their favorite pieces of kitchen tools. Knife is the most important tool of every cook's life. A cook can use his favorite knife in his desired way. Choosing a good knife may be sometimes very difficult.  Sometimes a knife may look good but it may be not good in use. The most important thing while choosing a good knife is that you must feel comfortable while using it. It needs to be sharp and easy to be sharpen. 
Chef's Knife is a kitchen tool used to prepare food. A chef's knife is a large knife, usually about 8-10 inches long mostly made of good quality stainless steel. Chef's knife is considered to be the most important kitchen tool. Chef's knife is a western cooking tool.  We Indian generally use locally made iron knives at home. Indians don't even use cutting board. But once if you have tasted a chef's knife, you will know the importance of a chef's knife in the kitchen. I was also using locally made Indian knives in my kitchen fo…

Dry Fruits Custard Recipe

Custard is a variety of  dessert preparations generally based on milk. Milk is thickened by adding either egg yolks, corn flour or gelatin etc. and at last fruits and nuts are added to it.  Kids love to eat custard and it's very easy to prepare. Dry fruits custard is also a very simple recipe to prepare where rich dry fruits are added in sweet creamy custard.

Try similar recipe of Fruit Custard
Dry Fruits Custard Recipe  📎Course : Dessert  📎Cuisine : World  🔪Preparation Time : 10 minutes ♨Cooking Time : 10 minutes  🕞Total : 20 minutes
🍴Servings : 2


INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of milk2/3 tbsp custard powder2-4 tbsp of sugar1/2 cup of dry fruits cut into pieces (dates, cashews, raisins, cheery etc.)METHOD: Heat milk in a saucepan on medium heat.  In a bowl take custard powder.  Add some milk and mix thoroughly. Now add this custard and milk mixture into the  boiling milk , stir continuously. Add sugar,  stir continuously. When the liquid becomes thicker,  remove from heat.  Let it cool .Add d…

Easy Fish Curry Recipe

This recipe is for my those blog followers (specially from US)  who has a temptation for Indian fish curry. This recipe need not much afford and can easily prepare with simple ingredients. Indian recipes needs much afford as it requires different spices to prepare and US people hardly store so many Indian spices in their kitchen. This recipe may also useful for beginners and bachelors.  And off course this recipe is for busy and lazy people like me too.

In this recipe I'm using tomato based pizza or pasta sauce together with mustard seeds' paste.  You can use any ready made pizza sauce and mustard paste or if you like you can make it yourself. Here I'm using ready-made pizza sauce but I made mustard seeds' paste myself . For mustard seeds' paste I'm using yellow mustard seeds. Yellow mustard seeds are less bitter than black mustard seeds. Soak yellow mustard seeds in warm water for few minutes and then make a fine paste. Here you can use any ready-made mustard…

Peanut and Curry Leaves Chutney

An Indian meal is incomplete without a chutney. Chutney is a type of sauce basically a dry base sauce originating from India. There are varieties of chutney recipes which are served with the main course as a side dish or as a dip with fritters, samosa, pakora, idli, dosa etc. 

Chutney recipes are very easy to prepare.  Most of the chutney recipes are prepared by grinding and are basically made from raw vegetables. Today I'm going to share a Peanut and Curry Leaves Chutney recipe which don't required any cooking. Serve this recipe at lunch or dinner with main course or with samosa or pakora in the evening with tea. 

Peanut and Curry Leaves Chutney  📎Course : Side dish
📎Cuisine : Indian 🔪Preparation Time : 15 minutes
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup peanuts1 bunch of curry leaves 5-6 green chillies 4-5 long coriander leaves Salt to taste water if required
METHOD: Wash curry leaves under running water. Soak peanuts in lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Drain and keep aside. In a small Chutney making ja…